The Scout Report -- Volume 13, Number 44

November 16, 2007

A Publication of Internet Scout
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sponsored by University of Wisconsin - Madison Libraries.

Research and Education

General Interest

Network Tools

In The News

Research and Education

Interactives: Dynamic Earth [Macromedia Flash Player]

Conveying the dynamism of various geologic processes can be hard in the classroom or on the web, but this interactive feature from the Annenberg Media's site does quite a fine job of introducing students to plate tectonics, plate boundaries, and such perennial favorites as earthquakes and volcanoes. In the "Earth's Structure" section, visitors can roll the mouse over such features as the crust, the mantle, and the outer core of the Earth to learn about each feature. Moving on, the "Plate Tectonics" area includes the "Continents Over Time" interactive feature which asks visitors to place images of the continents in the correct geologic order. Perhaps the most dynamic area of the site (with good reason) is the "Slip, Slide & Collide" area. Here visitors will learn about what happens at different types of plate boundaries through the use of colorful graphics and explanations that are easy to understand. Overall, the site is a great overview of some basic principles of geology, and one that can be used with students of different ages. [KMG]

The Unique Effects of Including History in College Algebra

Does knowing about Descartes help students understand the Cartesian coordinate system? Will teaching students the origin of the term parabola help them understand the mathematical importance of parabolas and other related matters? A team of mathematicians at Black Hills State University were curious about such matters, so they decided to investigate what the effects of including historical modules in college algebra might be in regards to students' understanding and mathematical communication. The results of their study can be found within this helpful article which was added as part of the online magazine, Convergence. Visitors to the site can read through the entire article, which includes information on the modules themselves and a summary of the team's findings. [KMG]

Stanford Institute for Higher Education [pdf]

Founded in 1989, the Stanford Institute for Higher Education (SIHER) provides and supports research on a wide range of topics affecting higher education planning and policy, including the dynamics of systemic change, productivity, and the effectiveness of higher education organizations. For people interested in such matters, their website presents a cornucopia of research reports, compelling weblogs, and information about upcoming conferences and symposia that they are sponsoring in conjunction with other like-minded institutes. The research reports include titles such as "Higher Education Research Priorities: Perspectives from Selected Foundations" and "Outsourcing of Instruction at Community Colleges". The site is rounded out by the "Resources" area, which features links to partner organizations and related government resources dealing with higher education. [KMG]

The University of Texas School of Nursing: Center For Teaching Excellence [Windows Media Player]

Nursing schools have always been committed to providing a high-quality educational experience, and many nursing schools have teaching centers to help keep educators abreast of new technologies, pedagogical strategies, and other tools. First-time visitors to this site can look over the mission statement and take a look at the "Goals & Activities" area. Perhaps the most useful section for educators will be the "Brownbag Seminars" section. Here visitors can view over twelve full-length seminars that cover topics such as "Fostering Mentoring Relationships", "Using Graphics to Enhance Online Learning", and "Test Construction and Evaluation". While some of the presentations are focused on the health sciences, many of them contain helpful hints and suggestions that can be utilized across a wide range of disciplines. [KMG]

Blueprint for American Prosperity [pdf]

More than four out five Americans reside in a metropolitan area, and the importance of these regions to the nation's economy is hard to overstate. The Brookings Institution is well aware of the problems and opportunities facing metropolitan areas and they have created this site as a gathering place for policy analysts, planners, and the general public to learn more about metropolitan areas. Along the right-hand side of the homepage, visitors will find sections that answer questions that include: "What is a metro area?" "Why are metro areas important?" and "What is the blueprint?" Moving on, the site also includes research reports, a press room, and a place where visitors can sign up to receive "Metro Update", which is the bi-monthly newsletter of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. The site is rounded out by webcasts and video clips of recent metropolitan policy events and commentaries by experts at the Institution. [KMG]

Royal Historical Society Bibliography

Keeping up with historical writings on Britain and Ireland can be a difficult matter. After all, the two nations have several thousand years of this type of written material, dating back to the Roman period. While those who work in British or Irish history may already know about this fine resource, others will be delighted to learn about the online Royal Historical Society bibliography website. Hosted by the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London, this online bibliography contains over 430,000 entries and the archive draws on hundreds of sources, including the British National Bibliography and the well-regarded "inside" article database. First-time visitors can start their search by indicating which area of the database they wish to start and then move to create a more detailed search that fits their specific needs. Overall, it's a formidable resource and one that covers everything from steel production in Sheffield to the life of Disraeli. [KMG]

Physics Applets

Created as part of the Museum Informatics Project at the University of California, Berkeley, this website serves as a clearinghouse of high-quality physics applets that can be used in a variety of settings. The site is divided into a few basic topical areas, such as mechanics, waves, properties of heat and matter, and optics. While a search engine isn't provided, visitors can use the "Find" function provided by most browsers to look for specific items of interest. It is worth noting that the applets dealing with various fields of optics are quite strong, and visitors will no doubt locate at least a handful of applets here that they can use in the classroom or just to increase their own understanding of physics. [KMG]

National Institute of Child Health & Human Development [pdf]

As part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) was created "to investigate the broad aspects of human development as a means of understanding developmental disabilities." Today, NICHD conducts and supports research on all the stages of human development. Their homepage is a model of accessibility, as the information available here is presented in a way that is both easy to navigate and visually stimulating. Visitors can make their way through sections that include "Health Information", "Research", and "Funding". The "Health Information" section features an A to Z guide to health and human development topics, along with information on ongoing clinical research and a publications area that includes documents for everyone from concerned parents to health care professionals. Moving on, the site also contains materials on funding for training, research, and career development. While the site doesn't currently offer RSS feeds, visitors can email any page of note to friends or colleagues. [KMG]

General Interest

Maps: Finding Our Place in the World [Macromedia Flash Player]

How do we find our way through the world, geographically speaking? Do we all carry around a type of "mental map" in our head, formed through experience and repetition? Some would say yes, some would beg to differ. Maps remain a powerful way to represent the world in all its spatial glory, and this online exhibit from The Field Museum explores the history of maps and their history over the millennia. Designed to complement an ongoing exhibition at the Museum, the site includes a photo gallery, information about the participating institutions, and about researchers at the Museum who use maps and mapping technology in their own work. The interactive feature is definitely worth a look, as visitors can examine two dozen different maps in detail from Chicago to the Marshall Islands. One can imagine that this remarkable site could also be used in classrooms to expose students to the wide variety of maps that have been created by human hands. [KMG]

The Gertrude Bell Project

In Victorian England, it was not common for women to attend university. Of course, Gertrude Bell was no usual woman, and after reading history at Oxford she went on to travel the globe, with extended stays in Persia and other locales. She was also fascinated by the Arab world and she spent time learning Arabic and later in life she was given the title of Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq. After she passed away, her papers were given to the University of Newcastle, and over the past few years they have been digitizing her works and placing them in this online archive. The materials are divided into three primary sections: "Photos", "Diaries", and "Letters". The photo section should not be missed, as visitors can travel across late-19th century Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Syria, and the West Bank through Bell's camera lens and her acutely trained eye. Of course, the diaries are a real find as well and the fifty-year record of her personal letters are quite revealing. [KMG]

Latin American Travelogues

The John Hay Library at Brown University has an impressive array of collections related to Latin America and the Caribbean. These collections include the Schirmer Collection on Anti-Imperialism and the Paul R. Dupee Mexican History Collection. Recently, Professor James Green and Patricia Figueroa, the librarian and subject specialist for Iberia and Latin America worked together to create this compelling digital library of Latin American travel accounts which span the 16th through 19th centuries. Visitors can browse through these accounts at their leisure, and they will find everything from Louis Aggasiz's "A Journey in Brazil" to Johann Baptist von Spix's "Travels in Brazil in the Years 1817-1820". Additionally, visitors can also read some rather thoughtful essays offered by Professor Green's students that draw on these travel narratives for academic inspiration and contemplation. [KMG]

Catalonia Maps

As an autonomous community within the kingdom of Spain, Catalonia has a rich and diverse history. It includes the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona and also has a rather diverse agricultural base that includes crops like maize, potatoes, and olives. Maps of this lovely region of Spain may be found in abundance on this site, which is provided courtesy of the Institut Cartografica de Catalunya. Visitors can search the collection by place name or they can also search the collection through an interactive map of the entire region which will return individual geological and topographic maps. Finally, it is worth noting that the site is also available in Spanish and Catalan. [KMG]

The World Bank, Mapped [Macromedia Flash Player]

Upon entering The World Bank's homepage, even the most experienced researcher can feel a bit intimidated. The site contains thousands of documents, and even though they offer a nice search engine, it can be difficult at times to get to specific items quickly. Recently, the World bank teamed up with Google maps to create a very nice "mash-up" that serves as a visual entry point for visitors looking for projects, news, and statistics. Using the Google map directional arrows and zoom functions, visitors can scroll around to look for different resources. The site also contains a legend which tracks low to high income areas, along with active projects sponsored by the World Bank. Finally, visitors can also toggle the map's "satellite" and "hybrid" views on and off as they see fit. Overall, this is a tremendous resource and one that will warrant several return visits. [KMG]

Transformations Journal [Macromedia Flash Player]

Different forms of communication have always had a tendency to transform interactions and everyday life in ways that have surprised people from many different backgrounds. Academics have long been interested in such dynamic transformations, and this electronic journal represents one of the responses to such processes. As their site notes, this journal is "dedicated to the exploration of ideas, issues and debates emerging out of contemporary global culture." Visitors to the site can read the complete version of every issue on the site, and they will be pleased to find such intriguing titles as "Rethinking Regionality", "Accidental Environments", and "Fleeing the City". Interested parties can also consult the site to learn about the journal's editorial board, their calls for papers, submission guidelines, and related links. [KMG]

Mark Twain Project [pdf]

Mark Twain knew plenty about crafting a great narrative, but things like metadata encoding and primary user functionality were a bit before his time. Fortunately, all of these important tools of modern digital archive work and information science are put to their best use within this very comprehensive site. Dedicated to providing access to more than four decades' worth of archival research by editors at the Mark Twain Project, this site provides access to thousands of his letters and other writings. The ultimate goal of the Project is to produce a digital critical edition, fully annotated, of everything Twain wrote. It's a very ambitious goal, and one that draws on the collaborative strengths of the California Digital Library, the University of California Press, and The Bancroft Project. What is equally impressive is the Project's user guide, which walks users through all of the many search options available to them. Additionally, visitors can also use the "My Citations" option to automatically generate standardized citations for future reference. Over the coming months and years, additional works will be added to the archive, including "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Roughing It". [KMG]

Martin Puryear [Adobe Flash Player]

If you're worried that there won't be enough to do on a trip the big city while the stagehands are on strike, skip the trip and visit New York MoMA's Martin Puryear exhibition online instead. While it's probably true that viewing sculpture online reduces its 3-dimensional qualities somewhat, MoMA has designed the web exhibition to faithfully recreate some of the feel of the physical show. Wander through 47 of Puryear's works, viewing them at full size on your computer screen, zooming in occasionally to read label texts just as you would in the museum. Additional views of several pieces are included; one of these, C.F.A.O., made from a wheelbarrow topped with an oversized, abstract, African mask, looks vastly different on the two sides depicted. Excerpts from essays in the exhibition catalog are included at the site, as well as several still images showing 5 of Puryears's largest sculptures in the Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, one of which, 63-foot tall Ad Astra, was created especially for this space. There is also an amusing video of Puryear and MoMA staff putting the artwork in place. [DC]

Network Tools

Glide 2.0

There are a number of helpful web suites out there, and Glide is certainly one of the better options available to interested parties. This version of Glide includes a word processor, a site builder, and a photo editor. Perhaps the most novel aspect of Glide is that it can effectively synchronize data from any local computer so that it can be accessed from mobile phones or other devices with web access. This version of Glide is compatible with computers running Windows 98 and newer. [KMG]

Quicksilver 1.0b53

For persons with hundreds of documents or files on their computer, searching around for a little-used (yet important) file can be very time consuming. Quicksilver can help users out with that problem as it creates a catalog of applications and a number of frequently used folders and documents. Each search is adaptive, so Quicksilver will be able to recognize which items a user is looking for based on previous experience. This version is compatible with computers running Mac OS X 10.3. [KMG]

In The News

As oil prices rise, many grow concerned about the coming months

NPR: High Oil Prices Affect Many Products [Real Player]

Is $100 Oil As Lethal As It Looks?

In Maine, 'a lot of fear out there' as heating oil prices keep rising

Over a barrel, cruise lines boost ticket costs

USA National Gas Temperatures Map

Mud, Sweat and Tears

The rising cost of oil has caused a great deal of concern in many quarters, and everyone from industrialists to the average consumer can be greatly affected by such shifts. As the price of oil approached $100 this past week, economists and analysts began to wonder if the impact on the U.S. economy would be as great as had previously been predicted. Of course, some price increases have occurred, and the price of gas remains high in much of the country. Others, such as Federal Reserve Governor Alice Rivlin have commented that the economy has survived price increases for another reason: "We don't depend on energy as much because we don't depend on manufacturing as much. Services are less energy intensive." All of this information might still not console residents of Maine, where 80 percent of the homes rely on either oil or kerosene for heat. Additionally, Maine happens to be one of the coldest states in the country, and this has many Mainers deeply concerned about the coming months. John Kerry, the director of the state's Office of Energy Independence and Security, had this to say about the situation: "It's not just low-income people who are fearful. It's the working couple or families who are now going to have to choose between heating, literally eating, and of course driving." [KMG]

The first link will take users to an audio story on high oil prices from National Public Radio's Jim Zarroli. The second link leads to a bit of commentary from this week's Business Week on the psychological and real-world effects that a $100 barrel of oil might have on different sectors of the country's economy. Moving on, the third link whisks users away to a good article from the Portland Press Herald about the effects that rising heating oil prices will have in Maine. The fourth link leads to a piece from MSNBC which comments on how the cruise line industry is responding to the rising price of oil. For those who are interested of the price of gasoline in Cheyenne or Charleston, the fifth link will be a welcome find. It leads directly to the USA National Gas Temperature Map, which tracks the current price of gas across the entire country. Finally, the last link leads to a very fine piece of investigative reporting by The Guardian's Aida Edemariam. In the piece, Edemariam reports from the tar sands of Alberta as she looks into the promises (and pitfalls) offered by these massive stores of natural resources. [KMG]

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