The Scout Report -- Volume 15, Number 5

February 6, 2009

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

Biomedical Beat

Keeping tabs on the research endeavors and findings from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is much easier with Biomedical Beat. Started in January 2005, the publication serves as a monthly digest of research news from NIGMS, and it's a fine resource for scientists, science journalists, and those who just might be interested in such information. Each issue contains four or five short summary articles on the results of different research projects that have received funding from the NIGMS, and recent pieces have looked into the worlds of drug-resistant bacteria, iron deficiencies, and commercial chemical products. After reading these short summaries, visitors can click on links leading to full scientific reports, lab homepages, and article abstracts. Visitors can also check out their "Cool Image Gallery", which contains intriguing images which have appeared in Biomedical Beat. Finally, visitors can also sign up to receive their RSS feed. [KMG]

Forest Encyclopedia Network

Jointly developed by the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station and Southern Regional Extension Forestry, this website has multiple online encyclopedias regarding the forests of the Southern United States, as well as one that covers the environmental threats facing all North American forests. This website is very user-friendly, both for visitors who are not natural resource professionals and those who are. For those visitors who are involved in the forest sciences, this website helpfully provides "scientific results, conclusions, and impacts with management needs and issues." On the left side of the page is a menu which allows the visitor to peruse the site through a thematic lens, or a global one. To view by theme, click on "Thematic" at the top of the menu. The themes visitors can click on include "So. Appalachian", "So. Pine Beetle", and "So. Fire Science". Under each theme are a multitude of clickable subthemes. For those visitors looking for a global view of the site, click on "Global" at the top of the menu. Topics include "Landscape", "Ecology", "Socio-Economics", and "Forest Health Protection". Forest scientists interested in contributing new scientific content to the Forest Encyclopedia Network can click on "Help" at the top of the website, which will take them to a link on the left side of the page entitled "Author Help". [KMG]

Science at a Distance: E-Learning Modules [Quick Time]

Professor John Blamire has crafted this very fine set of online learning modules for students interested in learning about everything from the properties of proteins to Mendelian genetics. First-time visitors should take a look at the video introduction created by Professor Blamire. This introduction tells visitors about the layout of the site and the resources they will find here. Each of the twelve instructional resources on the site contains a brief overview of the topic, and then a "Research Investigation" assignment. Students can complete these investigations using the materials within each lesson, and they can also take a look at some additional readings which explain key concepts. The site also contains a "Words of Science" section, which provides concise definitions of basic terms, such as entropy and glucose. [KMG]

Mathematical Brooding over an Egg

Andr Heck is a project manager at the Faculty of Science of the Universiteit van Amsterdam, and he recently contributed this thoughtful article to the "Loci" project at the Mathematical Sciences Digital Library. In this piece, Heck explores the topic of mathematical modeling by asking, "What is the volume and surface area of a hen's egg?". The article goes on to discuss how mathematical techniques, digital images, and dynamic geometry can be applied to a variety of real-world solutions, like determining the volume and surface area of a hen's egg. In addition, throughout the piece Heck talks about how various software programs can be applied as a modeling tool. [KMG]

Everyday Miracles: Medical Imagery in Ex-Votos

The relationship between faith and healing has engaged the minds of scholars, artists, and theologians for centuries. One physical manifestation of this area of human inquiry and concern has been the ex-voto, which is a devotional painting that gives thanks to a saint or deity for a miraculous healing or a blessing. This website was designed to accompany an exhibition at the National Library of Medicine and it contains ex-votos from the Italian tradition, the Mexican tradition, and those that can be found in early medical guides. It's a good idea to start with the "Ex-Voto Anatomy" area, as it offers a road-map to the different visual and thematic elements that are used in the creating these devotional objects. While here, visitors shouldn't miss looking at the elaborate ex-voto from 1939 in the "Mexican Tradition" section or the ex-voto of Sabastiano Gunsolo in the "Italian tradition" area. [KMG]

The Brookings Institution: World [pdf]

The Brookings Institution has a number of centers that specialize in urban policy, the economy, and foreign policy. Their "World" site brings together research, commentary, policy reports, and working papers that deal with a broad set of issues with a global reach. First-time users can browse around some of the "Recent Research and Commentary" area, and they may also wish to sign up for a Brookings account. With this account they can create their own online portfolio that will allow them to receive email updates about different topics and programs. The page also features a "Top Topics" area that brings together papers and op-ed pieces on subjects such as Afghanistan, terrorism, energy security, and Arab-Israeli relations. Additionally, visitors can sign up to receive their RSS feed and their newsletter. [KMG]

United Nations Diplomatic Conferences [pdf]

The United Nations has been involved with eight significant diplomatic conferences since their creation in 1945. Diplomatic conferences of this type serve as the traditional method for the negotiation of treaties, and there were a number of notable examples of such conferences decades before the United Nations, including the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907. Diplomatic conferences are less frequent occurrences these days, but they remain important when multilateral treaties need to be negotiated and adopted. On this site, visitors can look over the official records of a series of diplomatic conferences convened by the United Nations. The conferences included here include the 1963 Conference on Consular References and the 1983 Conference on Succession of States in Respect of State Property, Archives and Debts. Legal scholars and others will find this collection most useful, and they may wish to pass this link along to colleagues. [KMG]


Started in 1994, the Stanford Guide to Japan Information Resources (or "JGuide") is a topically arranged directory of online information resources in and about Japan. Much of the focus is placed on resources about Japan in the English language, and visitors can use their search engine or dive right into their topical subheadings. These sections include "Society & Culture", "Law & Regulation", "Health & Medicine" and nine other areas. Each resource is annotated, along with information about when the link was added to the site. The JGuide also contains a "Tools" area which features links to information about currency conversion, weather, news outlets, and other online gateways of note. The site also contains a link for users who wish to submit an online resource for potential inclusion in the JGuide. [KMG]

General Interest

The Life and Work of Edward R. Murrow

Edward R. Murrow is widely regarded as one of the most important American journalists of the 20th century, and his work continues to inspire new generations entering the field. The Morrow Center at Tufts University has created this online exhibit that contains a detailed timeline of his life, and is accompanied by magazine covers, personal correspondence, and other historical items. Visitors can make their way through his "Professional Timeline", which is divided into sections that tell of Morrow's time as a student at the Washington State College (now University), CBS, and the United States Information Agency (USIA). On the left-hand side of the homepage, visitors can learn about Murrow's wife, Janet Brewster Murrow, and her own career as a journalist. For those looking to do more research on Murrow, the site also offers a collection guide to the Murrow materials held by Tufts University. [KMG]

Victoria and Albert Museum: Medieval & Renaissance [Macromedia Flash Player]

Between their triptychs and impressive prints, the Victoria and Albert Museum's Medieval & Renaissance collection covers a broad range of artistic traditions and human history. First-time visitors will want to start with the "Features" section. Here they can view interactive online exhibits that deal with Leonardo da Vinci and the famed Raphael Cartoons, which were commissioned by Pope Leo X. In the "Objects" area, visitors can learn about individual objects in their holdings, including the Choirscreen from the Cathedral of St. John in 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. Their weblog, "Past, Present and Future" is a real find, as it contains posts on upcoming medieval exhibitions, touring exhibitions, conservation efforts, and curatorship. The "Conservation Case Studies" offer details on the conservation work on objects like the faade of Sir Paul Pindar's home (a part of a London timber-framed house that predates the Great Fire of 1666) and an altarpiece from 1428. [KMG]


Everything is going "green" these days, and more and more builders and homeowners are actively seeking to incorporate energy efficiency elements into their residences. The U.S. Building Council has sponsored this site to provide expert know-how on how to create green information regarding countertops, bathrooms, landscaping, stone & tile coverings, and flooring. First-time visitors can get a sense of the site's mission by looking through some of the recent "Ask A Pro" questions. This section provides interested parties with the opportunity for concerned parties to ask experts questions such as "How much will it cost to install solar panels on my 2000 sq. ft. home in San Francisco?". In the "Know-How" area, visitors can browse over sections that include "Furniture" and "Kitchens" to learn how to choose low-toxicity finishes, energy-efficient appliances, and durable surfaces. Finally, visitors can also use the "Search for a Green Pro" feature to look for a professional in their area who adheres to such methods and principles. [KMG]

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art [Macromedia Flash Player]

Not too long ago in American history, the name "Ringling" was one that would have fascinated and excited small children in just about every town in the United States. The Ringling Brothers Circus was the stuff of fantasy for many in dusty hamlets and bustling metropolises from Bangor to Bend. John Ringling was one of the fabled five Ringling Brothers, and throughout his life he maintained an interest in art. Upon his death in 1936, he willed his entire mansion in Sarasota (along with all of his art) to the state of Florida. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is a lovely institution, and visitors to the website can learn about their various exhibitions and take a few virtual tours. Visitors can go to the "Collections Online" area to see themed collections of circus posters, historic circus photos, decorative arts, and photographs. The site also offers access to their provenance project, and their in-house publication "The Ringling Quarterly". [KMG]

W.P. Davies Newspaper Columns

Born on a farm in Ontario, William Preston Davies came to the plains of North Dakota at the age of 20. In his early 30s, he began a long career as a journalist, and worked as an editor and writer at the Northwest News, the Grand Forks Plaindealer, and the Grand Forks Herald. In 1930, Davies began writing a daily column called "That Reminds Me". This digital collection from the University of North Dakota's Chester Fritz Library gives users access to his daily insights and observations on North Dakota life. The first column available here dates from April 1930 and the last one is from September 1943. There is nary a subject that Davies doesn't cover, as he winds his way through topics like farm policy, local wit and lore, and Charlie Chaplin. [KMG]

Florida broadsides and other ephemera, 1800-2000

The State Archives of Florida offers a peek into their online collection of ephemera from the last 200 years that includes broadsides, advertisements, announcements, political cartoons, and campaign posters. Although the archives has more than 200 pieces of ephemera digitized, that is a small fraction of what they have in their entire collection. The text of each piece is typed out below the image, which in some cases is the only way to read the fine print, as a zoom feature is not available. Broadsides were a form of communication used before radio, television, and the Internet, and conveyed news or information for immediate consumption. They were placed in highly trafficked areas, such as town halls, churches, and street corners. To start browsing the broadsides by subject, check out the 15 topics to browse by, on the left side of the page. Some of the topics include "Social Life and Customs", "Land Sales and Development", "Horses", and "Military and Veterans". For those visitors who prefer to browse the collection by title, they can click "Browse by Title", which is below the listed subject categories. [KMG]

Art 21 [Real Player, Windows Media Player, QuickTime] [Last reviewed in the Scout Report on September 14, 2001]

Art 21 refers to itself as the "biennial of television" because a new season of four 1-hour, thematic programs premieres on PBS every two years. One of the most impressive things about this website is the designers' prescience - re-formatting may have been done, but older content appears harmoniously alongside newer material. The fourth and most recent season highlights the themes "Romance", "Protest", "Ecology", and "Paradox". "Protest" examines the ways in which four artists use their work to picture war, express outrage, and empathize with the suffering of others. While "Romance" features artists whose works pose questions about the role of emotion, regret, fantasy, and nostalgia in contemporary art. Back on the homepage, visitors can easily find artists from earlier seasons, such as Barry McGee, featured in Season 1, wondering what young graffiti artists might think of his graffiti-inspired work. [DS]

Network Tools

ReadAir 0.3.1

There are a number of RSS feed readers out there, and this may be one of the best. This version of ReadAir allows users to access all of their feeds simply, and they can also search all of them by keyword and look around for shared stories. While ReadAir doesn't have the trend analysis feature that some users have come to expect from Google Reader, it's still a very valuable tool. This version is compatible with computers running Mac OS X 10.3 and newer. [KMG]

Google Earth 5.0

Google Earth has gone underwater with this latest iteration of their popular Earth-roaming application. Along with traveling the usual roads provided by previous versions of Google Earth, visitors can now visit the bottom of the Mariana Trench, learn about ocean observations, and even discover new places to surf and dive. On the Google Earth homepage, visitors can take a guided tour of all these new features. This version is compatible with all operating systems. [KMG]

In The News

New portrait reveals the appearance of Martha Washington as a young woman

Martha Washington a hot first lady?

Fresh Look at Martha Washington

Rare Letter from Martha to George Washington Returns to Mount Vernon

Gilder Lehman Institute of American History: Martha Washington to Francis B. Washington

First Ladies

National First Ladies' Library

Looking at portraits from the past can only provide one a snapshot of the given subjects' life. If most people are familiar with an iconic image from the later years of a subject's life, that image may be how most people visualize and remember a figure. One only need think of someone like Benjamin Franklin to be reminded of this curious fact. Another such personage is Martha Washington, who people tend to think of as somewhat dowdy and a bit matronly. This image may change as a result of a rather interesting portrait of Martha Washington as a young woman, created by a team of forensic anthropologists at the Louisiana State University Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services group. Drawing on contemporary accounts written during Washington's life and a miniature watercolor-on-ivory portrait of Washington in middle age, the team used age regressions to create an image of Washington in her 20s. This version of Washington reveals an elegant looking young woman, bedecked in a deep purple dress complete with silk high heels. One of the historians who wrote a recent biography of Washington (and who also assisted with the research for this new portrait) commented, "I wanted to rescue her from old-ladyhood." [KMG]

The first link will take visitors to a news article from this Wednesday's Guardian which reports on this new rendering of Martha Washington. The second link leads to the transcript of an online chat held by Washington Post writer Brigid Schulte where she answers readers' queries about Martha Washington and her life. Moving on, the third link will take readers to the text of one of the two extant letters written from Martha Washington to George Washington, courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. The fourth link leads to the text of a letter written in 1789 by Martha Washington to her niece and illustrates her conflicting feelings about political life. The fifth link leads to the White House's official First Ladies page. Here visitors can learn about every First Lady from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama. Finally, the last link leads to the homepage of the National First Ladies' Library in Canton, Ohio. [KMG]

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