The Scout Report -- Volume 14, Number 16

April 25, 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

The National Institute for Conservation [pdf]

The National Institute for Conservation works to preserve a wide range of objects related to history, and they frequently create partnerships with conservators, museums, and civic groups who share their passion for preserving the past. On their site, visitors can learn about their current programs, which include the Heritage Emergency National Task Force and the Conservation Assessment Program. Dedicated preservationists and archivists will want to click on over to the "Heritage Health Index" section. Here they will find a summary and complete report from 2005 on the state of America's collections which includes four primary recommendations for future conservation efforts. Another campaign that visitors will want to read about is their "Rescue Public Murals!" initiative. The initiative is designed to identify murals that are in danger of being destroyed or which are already in steep decline. Visitors can look at their list of highly endangered murals and also check up on some recent preservation success stories. [KMG]

A First Course in Linear Algebra

A number of online textbooks have been created in the past several years, and this course in linear algebra is a nice addition to the existing repertoire of such educational materials. Professor Rob Beezer of the University of Puget Sound created this introductory textbook, and he still maintains the site and provides updates periodically. The material covered in the textbook includes systems of linear equations, matrix algebra, and Jordan canonical form. Visitors can download copies of the textbook in the pdf format, or they can just read through the text online. The entire text is provided at no cost, and visitors are welcome to make modifications and then distribute their own modified version. [KMG]

Center for Academic Integrity [pdf]

Academic integrity at all levels of education has come under increased scrutiny, and a number of organizations and institutions are dedicated to providing high-quality information and public outreach programs about this topic. One such organization is The Center for Academic Integrity, which is affiliated with the Robert J. Rutland Institute for Ethics at Clemson University. While some resources on the site are only available to dues-paying members of the Center, a number of helpful resources are available at no charge to the general community. Some of these resources can be found in the "Educational Resources" section, and they include articles on academic integrity, online ethics tutorials, and information about conducting faculty workshops. This area also includes a model code of academic integrity that might serve as a template for those looking for a place to start. [KMG]

The International Year of the Potato

The potato has been around for some 8000 years, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has created this site to promote 2008 as the International Year of the Potato. The intent of the site is to promote the role of the potato as a way to alleviate world hunger and to help achieve a number of internationally agreed upon development objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals. On the right-side of the homepage, visitors can read fact sheets on the potato, learn about world potato production, and even view a photo gallery of potatoes from around the world. Along the top of the site, visitors will find the "Potato World" section. Here they can learn about world potato production over the past two decades via a set of statistics and a nice map. Clicking on each region of the world will reveal even more detailed country-level statistics, including acres in potato production and consumption rates. The site even has information about a world potato photography contest, and most of the information on the site is available in Russian, English, French, Spanish, and Chinese. [KMG]

Math Gateway of the Mathematical Association of America [pdf]

Created through a partnership with the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), the Math Gateway was developed by the Mathematical Association of America. The site provides a veritable cornucopia of information for educators and those who are curious about anything from algebra to the history of mathematics. Visitors can start their exploration through the site by using the search engine at the top-left hand corner, or they look at the "Content Highlights" displayed prominently here. Some of these highlights include tips for writing an interactive mathematics text, using statistical samples from a real estate database, and so on. The site also encourages visitors to register for membership, which will allow them to create their own personalized library of resources. Rounding out the site is a selection of tips for searching the materials here and a fun "This Day in Mathematics" feature. [KMG]

Tracking Progress in Maternal, Newborn & Child Survival: The 2008 Report [pdf]

The World Health Organization (WHO) performs a great deal of research related to maternal and newborn health and survival, and this recent report represents some of their latest work in this area. Working together with a wide range of partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank, the WHO released this 111-page report in April 2008. The report is based on data drawn from national surveys and global databases, and it measures coverage of basic health services proven to reduce maternal and child mortality. It also effectively assesses the strength of health systems, the status of policies related to maternal, newborn and child health and how equitably health services are distributed. Interested parties who might not have time to read the entire document can instead just read the brief summary, which provides an overview of the main findings. [KMG]

A Commonwealth of Diverse Cultures: Poland's Heritage [Macromedia Flash Player]

This very interactive and visually stimulating exploration of Polish heritage was created through a unique partnership between The National Library of Poland, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Cultural and National Heritage. Entering the site, visitors will hear a dramatic musical score and a series of sections that allow them to look through the French, Lithuanian, Italian, and German influences on Polish culture throughout the centuries. In the "French Connection" area, visitors will travel across an illuminated manuscript to an area that includes a video clip describing the early relationship between French culture and what would later become Poland. This section also includes a brief essay on this relationship and a selection of digitized documents which includes the Wilanow Psalter from the 13th century and the Parisian Calendar from the 14th century. The other cultural sections adhere to this general layout, and overall this site serves as a model for other institutions hoping to create like-minded digital exhibits and collections. [KMG]

General Interest

Fuel Economy [pdf] (Last reviewed in the Scout Report on October 8, 1999)

As the price of fuel continues to rise, this site continues to be as timely as when it first came online in October 1999. The site is maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and it provides fuel-saving tips, fuel economy estimates, and so on. From the homepage, visitors can click through sections that include "Gasoline Prices", "Gas Mileage Tips", "Hybrid Vehicles", and "New Fuel Economy Ratings". As one might expect, the "Gasoline Prices" area allows users to find the lowest gas prices in their area, learn about saving money and fuel with gas mileage tips, and also learn why gas prices are so high. In the "Your MPG" area, visitors can calculate their own miles per gallon and also compare their measurements with other users. Finally, visitors can also access this information on their mobile phones through a specially designed site that includes fuel economy ratings, fuel cost estimates, and annual petroleum use. [KMG]

Arkansas in the Civil War

When people think about the Civil War, they probably recall major conflicts at places like Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg. Admittedly, not many may think of the 771 battles and skirmishes that took place in Arkansas, but this website offers up a variety of first-hand accounts and reporting from the Hot Springs state. The site was created by Harper's Magazine as part of their "Lincoln and the Civil War" database, and it features historic newspaper accounts and writings from Harper's Weekly, the New York Illustrated News, and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Visitors to the site can learn about Arkansas's history before the Civil War, and then move on to read an essay on the state's strategic location by Gregory J.W. Urwin. Visitors should also not miss articles from "North and South Magazine" on some noted battles that took place within the state, such as the 1864 skirmish at Poison Spring. [KMG]

Living & Loving with HIV in Jamaica [Macromedia Flash Player]

In the last four months of 2007, poet Kwame Dawes traveled back to his home of Jamaica to talk to people on the island who are living with HIV and AIDS. His work was sponsored by the Pulitzer Center, and this site offers a very rich portrait of these people, and as Dawes himself says, "These people taught me how to write about hope." After watching a short introduction narrated by Dawes, visitors can immerse themselves in the site by reading some of the poems Dawes wrote after being on the island, listen to the voices and experiences of those he met during his travel, and also look through an extensive image gallery. One section that should not be missed is the "Vital Voices" area, which includes interviews with people living with HIV and AIDS and those who care bout their well-being and survival. The site is rounded out by a selection of poems set to music and images by composer Kevin Simmonds. [KMG]

Riding the Storm: Landslide Danger in the San Francisco Bay Area [Quick Time]

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been developing a series of informative videos for educators and members of the general public, and this online presentation about landslides in the San Francisco Bay Area is a nice addition to this body of work. This particular film looks at the various catastrophic landslides which have affected the region over the past twenty five years, along with offering an exploration of the dynamics behind landslides and the contributing factors to their severity. In the video, visitors will hear from scientists, Bay Area residents, and others who have experienced landslides first hand. The site also includes links to reports by the USGS on the areas affected by these periodic landslides. One could imagine that this film could be used in a physical sciences classroom at many different levels of education. [KMG]

Science: Embryos and stem cells

It's quite easy to stay abreast of all the developments within the world of embryos and stem cell research with this handy site created and maintained by staff members at the Guardian newspaper. On their page, visitors can read news reports from the frontlines of scientific research in these areas, and also check out the latest posts from the weblogs they maintain on these matters. Further down the page, visitors will find a selection of specialized reports on both stem cell research and the manipulation and transformation of embryos. Visitors can also sign up to receive an RSS feed and even learn about related subjects, including genetics and biotechnology. [KMG]

University of Alabama Digital Collections

For devotees of Alabama history (and even for those who aren't), the University of Alabama's Digital Collections are a real find. Currently, the site offers up more than a dozen digital collections, including The University of Alabama Encyclopedia and the Hugh Davis Farm Journals. The Hugh Davis Farm Journals are quite a find, as they offer an insightful portrait of a 19th century attorney and plantation owner in Marion, Alabama. Here visitors can read his farm journals, which contain records regarding slaves and accounts of life on the plantation. The other collections offered here include the Marjorie L. Smith Slide Collection of images related to cotton agriculture in the 1960s and selected issues of the University of Alabama Yearbook, which is titled "The Corolla". [KMG]

Hampton Dunn Postcards Collection

The University of South Florida has expanded their digital collections by leaps and bounds in the past few months, and this particular addition is a real find. The Hampton Dunn Postcards Collection contains over 2600 digitized postcards that feature scenes from early twentieth century Florida. Within this collection, visitors will find color images of street scenes, natural vistas, and Floridians at work and play. Visitors will find plenty of urban scenes, along with some rather fascinating images of various public parks and gardens scattered throughout the Sunshine State. Browsing the collection is quite easy, and visitors can also search the collection in its entirety. Finally, visitors should also browse through some of the other digital collections offered by the University of South Florida Libraries. [KMG]

Gustave Courbet

The Metropolitan Museum of Art presents this full retrospective of the French artist Gustave Courbet (18191877). Courbet has been called the first modern artist for his tendency to paint explicit nudity and celebrity life style. About 15 images, selected from the 130 in the Museum exhibit, can be seen on the exhibition web site. Images of Courbet's work provided here include portraits and landscapes. Also included in the online exhibit is an example of a unique nineteenth-century photograph by Gustave Le Gray, "The Great Wave", which may have inspired Courbet's work, The Wave. In addition, visitors can listen in on an interview with curator Gary Tinterow speaking with the figurative painter John Currin about Courbet's influence on his work. [DS]

Network Tools

Avira AntiVir Personal-Free Antivirus 8

Viruses are quite pesky, and the free version of Avira AntiVir Personal can help those bedeviled by such afflictions. This application will help users locate and remove Trojans, worms, and backdoor programs. Users can customize their scans and they can elect to fully scan all hard drives. This version is compatible with computers running Windows 2000, XP, and Vista. [KMG]

A-Z Free Video Converter 6.81

A-Z Free Video Converter allows users to convert a wide range of file formats (such as WMV, MPEG, and DIVX) to the popular MOV formats. The converter can be helpful for a range of media projects, including classroom presentations and the like. This particular version is compatible with computers running Windows 95 and newer. [KMG]

In The News

As part of NASA's 50th anniversary, Stephen Hawking offers his latest thoughts on the universe

NASA 'should follow Columbus'

Hawking: Unintelligent life is likely on other planets

Stephen Hawking

Today/Interview with Stephen Hawking [Real Player]

NASA 50th Anniversary Website [Macromedia Flash Player]


Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is known the world over for his myriad accomplishments, which include best-selling books on the history of the universe, his musings on black holes, and of course, his guest appearance on the television show, "The Simpsons". This Monday, Hawking gave a lecture at George Washington University in honor of NASA's 50th anniversary where he outlined some of his latest thoughts on the cosmos. During his remarks he noted that there may in fact be alien life somewhere out in space, but that in general "Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare." Hawking went on to suggest that alien abduction claims come from "weirdos", and remain very unlikely. He also made a bold call for continued human space exploration and suggested that the current situation regarding space conquest is akin to "Europe before 1492." Never one to shy away from a timely quip, Hawking noted that if explorers hadn't come to the New World, "we would not have a Big Mac or KFC." [KMG]

The first link will take users to an article from the BBC News service which talks about Hawking's lecture and also offers a set of related links. The second link leads to a piece which appeared in this Monday's Washington Post that offers additional coverage of the lecture. Moving on, the third link leads to Hawking's homepage. Here visitors can learn about his work, academic background, and various publications. The fourth link leads to an interview with Hawking conducted for the BBC's radio program, "Today". The fifth link leads to NASA's 50th Anniversary website. It's full of interesting activities and interactive timelines and exhibits about NASA's past. For those who want to help out with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, the sixth and final link will be a real find. Visitors can download the SETI software from this site to help analyze radio telescope data, and it takes up a relatively small amount of space on one's computer. [KMG]

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