The Scout Report -- Volume 17, Number 37

September 16, 2011

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

NOVA: Evolution [Flash Player]

Over the past several decades, NOVA has worked to create programs that profile everything from motherhood to scientific research on lice. Now, visitors can take advantage of all the materials they have collected on evolution, including interviews, games, slide shows, quizzes, and articles. Near the top of the page, visitors will find a rotating slide show of these resources, along with a search engine. Moving along, visitors can look at the "Editor's Picks", which include interactive features like "Great Minds Think Alike" and "Intelligent Design on Trial". On the right hand side of the page, visitors can take advantage of the "News" feed to look at relevant evolution stories culled from Scientific American and other quality sources. The site is a great resource for educators, and anyone with a penchant for learning more about evolution will find something of note here. [KMG]

National Association for Gifted Children - STEM

The aim of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), according to its website, is to "train teachers, encourage parents and educate administrators and policymakers on how to develop and support gifted children." Their site addresses the recent federal emphasis on STEM, and how it is related to work with gifted children. Visitors will learn in the first paragraph of the section entitled "Gifted Children and STEM", the difficulties that may be faced when encouraging STEM careers among gifted children. The site notes that multiple abilities and a "wide range of interests...make[s] selecting a career difficult" for gifted children. Visitors will see, however, that the NAGC does have suggestions on how to help gifted students excel in the STEM subjects. There are links to research on pull-out programs, public math-science high schools, and teacher training programs designed to recognize giftedness. Also, users should look at the very bottom of the STEM page for a link to a fact sheet on STEM and gifted education. This particular fact sheet notes the lack of progress that has been made in high-potential education, which ultimately increases the dropout rates of gifted students in such programs. [KMG]


This website makes the "T" (Technology) in STEM come to life for students, and hopefully it will spark their desire to work in computer science. Alice was produced at Carnegie-Mellon University, and it is a free educational software program that teaches computer programming in a 3-D environment. The website states that it tries to make a student's first attempt at programming less frustrating, and the end result is an animation to tell a story, play an interactive game or make a video. Visitors should check out the "Teaching" tab, which includes "Instructional Materials", "Tutorials" and "Textbooks". There are almost a dozen textbooks on using Alice, several of which were co-authored by a well-known computer scientist visitors may remember - the late Randy Pausch. Visitors can sign up for a periodic Alice newsletter, under the "Teaching" or "Community" tab. The "Publications" tab has five papers that visitors can download as PDFs, including "Alice: Easy-to-Learn 3D Scripting for Novices" and "Evaluating the Effectiveness of a New Instructional Approach." [KMG]

Skylight: eTLC Resource Project [pdf]

Based around the "seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education" articulated by Chickering & Gamson in 1987, the eTLC Resource Project at the University of British Columbia (UBC) is designed for faculty members interested in improving their own teaching. The Skylight group in the UBC Faculty of Science developed this resource, and it includes materials on teaching large classes, promoting feedback in the classroom, promoting cooperation among students, and making effective use of teaching assistants. Visitors will note that on the right side of the homepage there are a set of resources that include teaching exercises, lesson plans, and suggestions of test and quiz design. Additionally, users can sign in to create their own account on the site so they can archive valuable resources for return visits. [KMG]

Open Textbooks: Computer Science

The open textbook movement is in full flower, and curious parties can find topics covering horticulture, engineering, and philosophy scattered across the Internet. This particular website brings together over three dozen college level textbooks from the field of computer science. The site includes computer science textbooks from the Open University in the United Kingdom, the University of Oregon, and a number of other universities. The titles are arranged alphabetically, and they run the gamut from "Accessibility of eLearning" to "XML-Managing Data Exchange". Visitors will note that while not all of the textbooks have been vetted by professional reviewers, those that have been reviewed have a "*" symbol next to their name. [KMG]

National Science Foundation: Disasters [Flash Player]

This fine website from the National Science Foundation (NSF) addresses its subject thusly: "Whether caused by acts of nature, human errors or even malevolence, disasters are an increasingly costly threat." Released as part of their "Special Reports" series, this interactive site profiles the latest in disaster research from the NSF and the "Critical Role of Research". First-time visitors will want to start by clicking on the "Understanding Disasters" area. Here they can learn about the NSF's work on observing, modeling, identifying, studying, and analyzing various disasters. Each subarea here includes Flash videos, charts, and images which help give some visual armature to each topic. Moving on, the "NSF and 9/11" area features work done through NSF in and around Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon in the aftermath of those tragic events. The site is rounded out by the "Disaster News" area, which features profiles of their work related to California wildfires, major thunderstorms, and levee destruction. [KMG]

National Institute of General Medical Sciences [pdf]

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences' (NIGMS) Science Education website brings together award-winning booklets on topics like cell biology and genetics, their in-house magazine, interactive games, and a scientific image gallery for those who hold science close to their heart. First-time visitors will notice that there are two primary areas here: "Publications" and "School Resources". The "Publications" area includes "Findings" (their in-house magazine) and the very helpful "Biomedical Beat" news digest. This digest is published monthly, and it contains research news and educational updates from the NIGMS. The "School Resources" area includes interactive games that deal with Nobel Prize winners and proteins, along with suggestions on how to most effectively use the resources here with different grade levels. [KMG]

General Interest

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Collection: Georgia State University Library [pdf]

Back in 1888, a machinist in one of Atlanta's railway yards, Thomas Talbot, brought together eighteen of his fellow machinists. They were all committed to forming a craft union, and they shortly banded together to create the Order of United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers. Over the next 120 years, the Order would go on to include skilled laborers who worked on planes and other forms of transport as part of their union. This rather unique collection is housed at the Georgia State University Library, and it includes documents from the Association's history. The materials here are divided into ten topical areas, including "History", "Executive Officers", "Digitized Publications", and "Oral History Abstracts". In the "Digitized Publications" area, visitors can view the complete run of the Machinists' Monthly Journal, which was published from 1889 to 1956. The site also includes brief profiles of the union's leaders in the "Executive Officers" area and a collection of early ephemera in the "Artifacts" section. [KMG]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Refugee Resettlement [pdf]

The mission of the Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Refugee Settlement is to provide "people in need with critical resources to assist them in becoming integrated members of American society." Visitors will note that the website features information about their various thematic programs and directives, such as "Anti-Trafficking in Persons" and "Repatriation". Casual users may wish to start by looking at the "Press" section. Here they will find fact sheets, newsletters, and press releases. Social service providers and others will appreciate the "Resources" area, as it highlights information on obtaining housing for refugees, technical assistance guidelines, and webinars. Finally, the site also has a "What's New" area which provides information about legislative matters pertaining to refugee resettlement and related issues. [KMG]

Education, Demand, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America [pdf]

What's the biggest challenge facing urban areas these days? Some might say problems with infrastructure, and others might say a lack of adequately trained employees. This paper from September 2011 by staff members at the Brookings Institution takes a close look into the world of economic recovery in metropolitan areas in the United States. Specifically, the work examines the problems involving public investment in education and how "structural unemployment" will continue to hinder the economic recovery in certain metropolitan areas. The paper begins with a series of short "Findings", which can be read as a type of policy brief for those with limited time. The report also contains a set of graphs and methodological appendices for those who might have a particular interest in their research methods and statistical work. [KMG]

Open Spaces

Recently, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service created the "Open Spaces" blog to showcase some of their wildlife refuges and to offer the general public an inside view on the day-to-day operations of the organization. Visitors to the site will find blog posts that profile their work in the Everglades, reflections on September 11th, migratory birds, and the Labrador retrievers that work at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Users of the site can search posts by category, and they will find that each entry also contains a selection of links to other materials, such as park management plans and lesson plans. Finally, visitors can also use the social media buttons here to share each post on Twitter and Facebook. [KMG]

The Willard Suitcase Exhibit Online

This heart-wrenching and well-executed online exhibit highlights the 400 suitcases workers found in the attic of the Willard Psychiatric Center in New York when it closed in 1995. The suitcases were from admitted patients, and the theme of the exhibit is the "lives they left behind". Visitors can learn in "The Suitcases" tab about several patients who had very interesting and rich lives before they were admitted to the hospital. Some were there for as few as three years, and some for 50, but most of the patients profiled here died at the Center. A number of patients were immigrants from Europe, and many were there for debatable psychiatric reasons. Visitors can see the photos, letters, and documents that were found in the suitcases they had packed to take to Willard. The "Recollections" link under "The Institution" tab offers a perspective on Willard not only from the "inmates", but also the staff. Visitors can listen to these recollections about lobotomized patients, typhoid cages, and Lawrence the gravedigger through a selection of oral histories on the site. [KMG]

The National Gallery: Virtual Tour

Recreate a Sunday morning stroll through 18 rooms of the British National Gallery with this virtual tour, all without having to dodge fellow tourists to get a clear view of the paintings. Use the fullscreen mode, and you can lie on the marble floor and look up at the vaulted ceiling without getting trodden upon. Visitors can use the tabbed information box to toggle between floorplans and paintings, and the box can be kept open in the fullscreen view as a navigational aid. Click on any painting to get more information and get a better view. Rooms on the tour include the Central Hall, which has 15th and 16th century paintings from central Italy on pumpkin-colored walls, and a large skylight. Visit Room 45 to see Van Gogh, Gauguin, Czanne, and other post-Impressionists, or Room 23, Rembrandt and Dutch Painting, to see Rembrandt's Self Portrait at the Age of 63, and other Dutch masters. [DS]

Boston Private Industry Council

Founded in 1979 by a banker and education advocate, the Boston Private Industry Council's (PIC) Boston's Workforce Investment Board is a valuable program that pairs Boston businesses with Boston high school students to give the students valuable experience and jobs, while helping the businesses develop a skilled workforce. Visitors should definitely take a look at the "Research" tab to read about research on "Drop Out Studies", "Labor Market Studies", and "College Going Studies" that the PIC has produced with the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. Under the "Programs" tab visitors can choose from career programs for youth, adults, and out-of-school youth (those who have not finished high school or finished without passing state requirements). Under the same tab, visitors will find the "Career Exploration for Youth" program provides career exploration programs including "Job Shadow Day", "Mock Interviews", and "Career Speakers". [KMG]

Network Tools


The folks at Retickr study the interaction between humans and their computers, and one of their goals is to make these interactions more efficient and productive. The Retickr application allows users to create a customizable streaming feed that can be filled with information customized by creating playlists or source lists. There could be a "work" playlist, populated by sites like CNN or the Wall Street Journal. Then users could also create a "home" playlist, populated by entertainment sites. Retickr is integrated with social media, so visitors can stream updates from Facebook, Twitter, and other networking sites. This version is compatible with computers running Windows XP and newer or Mac OS X 10.3 and newer. [KMG

PeerBlock 1.1

The PeerBlock application allows users to control who their computer communicates with while connected to the Internet. After a quick installation, users can establish lists of computers they wish to block, and essentially, it blocks unwanted IP addresses. Visitors will note that there is an FAQ area on this site, along with a selection of screenshots. This version is compatible with computers running Windows 2000 and newer. [KMG]

In The News

Glow in the dark cats may lead to important advances in finding a cure for HIV

Cats That Glow For AIDS Research Join List of Animals That Shine

'Green-Glowing' Cats May Help to Fight Against HIV/AIDS

The Scientist: Fluorescent Cats Aid Research

Glowing Animals: Pictures of Beasts Shining For Science

International Society for Transgenic Technologies

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2008

"Glow in the dark" animals have been around for a few years, but scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and Yamaguchi University in Japan have come up with a rather curious use for such creatures. This week, researchers at these two institutions announced that they had genetically date cats to glow in the dark. The cats were created by using a virus to carry a gene, called green fluorescent protein, into the eggs from which these animals eventually grew. It is hoped that this type of genetic modification will allow scholars to learn about vital clues for treating the AIDS virus. The idea is that scientists will now be able to monitor the activity of individual genes or cells in cats, and eventually in a number of different animals. This type of genetic modification expresses fluoresces when illuminated with UV light, which produces a green glow that scientists use to track the activity of individual genes or cells. Commenting on the work he shared with his colleagues, Eric Poeschla of the Mayo Clinic remarked, "One of the best things about this biomedical research is that it is aimed at benefiting both human and feline health." [KMG]

The first link will take visitors to a post from this Wednesday's NPR blog "The Two Way" about this recent discovery. The second link leads to an article from this Tuesday's International Business Times which offers some more details about the world of "green" cats. Moving along, the third link will take visitors to "The Nutshell" column from The Scientist website which also delves into fluorescence, kittens, and genetic modification. The fourth link will whisk users away to an interesting photographic feature on animals that have glowed in the name of science, courtesy of the folks at National Geographic. The fifth link leads to the homepage for the International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT). Here visitors can learn about courses like "Genetics of Laboratory Rodents" and also view professional information about the ISTT and their activities. The last link will take interested parties to the official Nobel Prize page for the individuals who won the prize in 2008. They received the prize for developing the technique used by the researchers working on these cats, and the technique is now widely used throughout the world.

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