The Scout Report -- Volume 14, Number 4

February 1, 2008

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

Rock Cycle Animations [Macromedia Flash Player]

Many people might know about the life cycle of a rock, but it can be a process that is hard to understand without a handy visual aid. Just such a series of aids can be found right here, courtesy of Mark Francek of Central Michigan University. These rock cycle animations display some of the most common rock-forming processes, including the crystallization of magma to form igneous rock, rock erosion to create sediment, and several others. That's not all, as visitors can also examine a comprehensive Flash animation which contains three separate movies, each of which looks at the formation of igneous rocks in environments that include a deep magma chamber and rocks forming from a pyroclastic flow. The site is rounded out by an interactive igneous rocks classification chart, arranged by texture and chemical composition. [KMG]

Ice Stories: Dispatches from Polar Scientists [Real Player, Windows Media Player]

The Exploratorium recently decided to celebrate International Polar Year 2007-2008 by giving cameras to a group of penguin biologists, glaciologists, cosmologists, geologists, and marine scientists working in Antarctica and the Arctic. The results of this interesting idea can be found on this site, and visitors will enjoy learning about the thoughts and experiences of the scientists working in these two regions. Visitors can get started by clicking on the "Check out the dispatches" button. Visitors can learn how penguins function as barometers of climate change, get up close and personal with a smattering of charismatic marine mammals, and learn about the fascinating South Pole Telescope. Visitors can also browse through archived materials and they should definitely revisit the site, as they will be adding posts from scientists in the Arctic over the coming months. [KMG]

Radiology Education

Created and maintained by Dr. Michael P. D'Alessandro, this site provides visitors with a host of links related to radiology education. The site is organized quite simply, as it consists of several hundred links vetted by Dr. Alessandro, all of which are related to radiology. At the top of the homepage, visitors will find the links organized into categories which include radiology textbooks, radiology teaching files, continuing education, and podcasts. The links are also organized for use by different groups of professionals, including medical students, residents, and patients. The anatomy and embryology atlases area is quite strong, as is the one dedicated to radiology textbooks. [KMG]

Physics Education Technology [Macromedia Flash Player]

Funded by grants from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the National Science Foundation, the Physics Education Technology (PhET) site features many well-designed and engaging physics and chemistry simulations for use in the classroom. Currently, the site offers fifteen simulations, which cover projectile motion, salts & solubility, wave interference, and other related areas. Visitors can run the simulations from their computer, or they can also elect to download them individually. The simulations are all interactive, full of color, and very engaging. Of course, they have also provided a "Teachers Ideas & Activities" area. Here visitor can browse through activities created by educators across the country which are based on these simulations. Visitor can look over the activities by type or grade level, and they can also submit their own activities for inclusion. The site is rounded out by a list of FAQ's and a troubleshooting section. [KMG]

Essentials of Geology [Macromedia Flash Player]

From subduction to the world of hot spot volcanoes, this online resource for students and teachers of geology will please users with its fun and useful animations, crossword puzzles, and well-written articles. The site was designed to complement a textbook created by W.W. Norton, but many of the materials can be used as stand-alone exercises. Visitors will want to begin by looking through the visually enticing animations, which cover the Earth's magnetic field, the spread of the sea floor, and the formation of ocean crust. All told, there are over sixty animations, and teachers may wish to recommend them to students. Additionally, visitors should note that they can also browse through the materials offered on the site by clicking on the chapter listings located near the top of the screen. It's hard to pass up a crossword puzzle, and visitors may find themselves spending more time there than at any other part of the site. [KMG]

Internet's Broader Role in Campaign 2008 [pdf]

Many pundits and political scientists have wondered where Americans are getting their information about political campaigns as of late. Some have said that the internet continues to grow in popularity, while others contend that nightly news programs remain popular sources of information. This 32-page report, from The Pew Research Center for the People & The Press, takes a close look at this very subject. Released in January 2008, the report is based on a survey conducted with 1430 adults near the end of December 2007. The report notes that a quarter of Americans say they regularly learn something about the current presidential campaign through the internet, which is almost double the percentage of those polled during the 2004 campaign. Interestingly enough, 42% of those ages 18 to 29 say they regularly learn about the campaign from the internet. [KMG]

Visual Arts Data Service

Online visual arts collections can be used to enhance an art history lecture, give students a refresher on various types of architecture, and for community history projects. The Visual Arts Data Service (VADS) offers up just those types of collections, and it's one that users will definitely want to bookmark for future reference. The VADS is based at the Farnham Campus of The University College for the Creative Arts and currently they have over 100,000 images available for use. First-time users may wish to get their feet wet by clicking on the "Search" tab on the left-hand side of the homepage. From this page, they can take a look at the "Image of the Day", browse through popular searches, and also browse the materials offered by theme. Clicking on the "Collections" section gives visitors a sense of the broad coverage offered on the site, as they will find links to digital archives of Romanesque sculpture, war posters, a massive photo archive of East London, and a diverse set of textile collections. Finally, the site also has a list of case studies and a guide to good practice for those who might be working on digital projects in art education. [KMG]

National Education Writers Association

Founded in 1947, the National Education Writers Association (EWA) was created in order to improve education reporting to the public. Currently the EWA has over 1000 members, and their number includes those who work in a variety of media, including broadcast news and print publications. Visitors to their homepage can take a look at their new weblog, "Education Reform", which reports on what various political candidates are saying about education on the campaign trail. Also, they should browse through the "Reporter Stories" area. Here they can find news articles which cover topics such as school voucher debates, urban school system reform, and developments within higher education. Moving on, the "Resource Center" includes high-quality online materials on all aspects of education, including funding and access, curriculum, school funding, and violence in schools. [KMG]

General Interest

Sacred Contexts [Macromedia Flash Player]

Helping understand the shared traditions among the world's major religious traditions is a tall order for a website, but this lovely online gallery from the British Library does the job quite admirably. The site was designed to complement a recent exhibition at the Library, and visitors can start by viewing an interactive slideshow of those materials. Moving on, visitors will want to make their way through 78 various sacred texts, which include the Codex Sinaiticus, an Islamic marriage contract, and the Tyndale New Testament. The "Interactive" section of the site is delightful, and visitors can listen to different faith leaders and everyday citizens talk about their religious beliefs. The site is rounded out by a selection of videos that feature weddings in three faiths, an exploration of several sacred texts, and a scribe at work. [KMG]

University of Michigan Collections

The University of Michigan has been developing online digital collections for well over a decade, and their image collections cover everything from architecture to zoology. On this site, visitors can browse through the various collections at their leisure. They are arranged alphabetically, and first-time users would do well just to look over the "Art/Art History" section. Here they will find art images that can be used in the college classroom, tremendous holdings from their textiles collections, and a special section dedicated to Egyptian amulets. Also included here are collections from the University of Michigan's Herbarium Fungus Image Database and field notes. Not every site can say they have "something for everyone", but just about anyone with an interest in the visual arts, science, or the humanities in general will find something to pique their interest. [KMG]

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Auschwitz Through the Lens of the SS [Macromedia Flash Player]

In January 2007, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives received a very unique and important donation. The donation came in the form of a photo album inscribed "Auschwitz 21.6.1944". To be sure, it was an unusual item, as there are few wartime photographs of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. Museum archivists determined that the album's owner was almost certainly SS-Obersturmfuhrer Karl Hocker. The album contains photographs of Hocker with other SS officers in the summer and fall of 1944 and taken together they provide scholars and others with a new understanding of their lives and activities in the camp. Recently, the Museum decided to digitize the album and place it online here for the public. On the site visitors can read a series of interpretive essays about the album, view a documentary about the album, and also look through the album in its entirety. Overall, it's an utterly fascinating and troubling document, and one that will be appreciated by a wide range of people interested in the Holocaust, cultural studies, and history in general. [KMG]

The Green Guide

Going "green" can be a challenge but it doesn't have to be. National Geographic created this site to provide the public with information about various green-friendly products, services, and so on. The homepage presents users with a "Tip of The Week", a selection of picks from the editors of the site, and a number of articles on topics such as wind farms, environmentally-friendly cleaning products, and conserving water. The "Green Home Makeover" area is worth a look, as visitors can learn about working on different rooms in the house, including the living room, the laundry room, and the bathroom. Finally, the site includes links to a clutch of weblogs, including "Home Green Home" and "The Ecopolitan". [KMG]

National Institute of Mental Health: Publications [pdf]

For people who are living with a mental health condition, it can be most helpful to have access to high-quality and authoritative information. The National Institute of Mental Health provides such information on the publications area of their website, and visitors can make their way through fact sheets, booklets, and Spanish-language versions of these documents here. First-time users may wish to begin by looking at the drop-down tab which covers everything from autism to social anxiety disorder. The fact sheets are quite good, and they include titles such as "Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and Prevention" and "Depression: A Treatable Illness". Moving on, the "Booklets" area includes "Eating Disorders", "Depression", and ten other offerings. Finally, the right-hand side of the site includes news about recent research findings from the Institute. [KMG]

Royal Academy of Arts [iTunes, pdf, Macromedia Flash Player]

The Royal Academy of Arts in London sponsors work that ranges across a multitude of diverse artistic traditions and practices. For visitors who aren't planning a trip to London in the near future, this site allows them to experience some of their very fine programs and initiatives. First-time visitors will want to look at the "RA Collections" area, which profiles the work of an artist in their collection and also includes an examination of their "Object of the Month". Moving on, the "RA Podcasts" area includes audio explorations of the work of noted architects Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren, along with a profile of Georg Baselitz. Finally, visitors can also learn about visiting the Academy and also look over an interactive calendar of events. [KMG]

Greene & Greene Architectural Records and Papers

Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene were brothers who formed an important architectural firm which went on to design a number of notable residences, including the Blacker, Gamble, Pratt, and Thorsen houses. Their substantial collection of architectural drawings, photographs, personal papers, and other manuscript materials found their way into the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University. Visitors to the site can start their exploration of this fine material by looking over the indexes, which include listings by personal names, subject headings, geographic names, and genre/medium type. It's quite a bit of fun to browse through the image index, as visitors can view drawings and photographs of notable houses, churches, and office buildings executed by the Greene brothers. [KMG]

Let the World In: Prints by Robert Rauschenberg [Adobe Flash Player]

This web site accompanying Let the World In, an exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg's prints at the National Gallery, takes a close look at around a dozen of the artist's works. Using the "zoomify" feature of the site, viewers can magnify selections from each print. Since Rauschenberg typically uses a collage-type approach, melding many images in each print, "zoomify" gets interesting results, as details of individual components are revealed. For example, in L.A. Uncovered #12, 1998, what looks like a patch of blue and red turns out to be a piece of a cigarette ad, complete with Marlborough man. The only downside is that while zooming in is easy, it's a little more difficult to step back and appreciate the entire piece. [DS]

Network Tools

BullGuard Spamfilter 8.0

Spamfilters are common enough, so it's nice to find out about one with a few extra features. Bullguard Spamfilter allows users to ban individual email addresses or complete domains, and it also includes anti-phishing protections and integration with Outlook, Outlook Express, and Thunderbird. This version is compatible with computers running Windows 2000, XP, and Vista. [KMG]

Adium X 1.2.1

When Adium disappeared during development, a number of users were quite disappointed. Those users need worry no longer, as their development team recently released this version of this multiple-protocol, instant messaging client. Visitors can insert their existing addresses into the client and they will also appreciate the very sleek and elegant design of this particular iteration. This version is compatible with computers running Mac OS X 10.4.0 and newer. [KMG]

In The News

Fossil shows that the platypus diverged from its closest relative 120 million years ago

120 Million Years Old, Fossil Shows Divergence of Platypus and Anteater [Free registration may be required]

Platypus Much Older Than Thought, Lived with Dinos

Australian Platypus Conservancy

The Diplomatic Platypus

The Enigma of the Echidna

A History of the Earth, and Animated Nature: The Platypus,M1

When naturalists first encountered the platypus in the late 18th century, they were more than a bit perplexed but some of its features. When the first specimens were brought back from Australia to England, some thought it was a taxonomical practical joke. Was it a beaver with a duck's bill crudely attached? And you say it's a mammal that lays eggs? It was more than a bit odd, and this rather curious animal has been the study of much inquiry over the past several hundred years. The platypus's closest relative happens to be the echidna (or spiny anteater), which is yet another curious looking animal. Scientists had always been curious to know when the platypus's evolutionary path had begun to diverge from that of the echidna. This week Timothy Rowe of the University of Texas and his colleagues reported that they had evidence that indicated the platypus diverged from echidnas approximately 120 million years ago. Many in the scientific world were excited about the finding, but Matt Phillips of the Australian National University in Canberra commented that more evidence might be needed. [KMG]

The first link leads to a news article on this recent discovery from this Tuesday's New York Times. The second link will take users to a piece from the National Geographic News site which provides a bit of additional background on the scientific research which contributed to this discovery. The third link will whisk users away to the homepage of the Australian Platypus Conservancy. Here visitors can read about how to spot a platypus and also current conservation initiatives designed to protect this unique creature. Moving on, the fourth link leads to the rather fine poem "The Diplomatic Platypus" by Patrick Barrington. The fifth link leads to a good piece from the National Wildlife Federation's magazine on the "unpredictable behavior" of the echidna. Finally, the last link leads to the "platypus" entry in Oliver Goldsmith's 1823 compendium, "A History of the Earth, And Animated Nature". [KMG]

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