The Scout Report -- Volume 18, Number 33

August 17, 2012

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

Understanding Science

The mission of the Understanding Science website is "to provide a fun, accessible, and free resource that accurately communicates what science is and how it really works." The project has a specific focus on assisting teachers in keeping young people interested in science; to support this goal, the site includes a range of materials for teachers. Visitors can start with the Site Tour area to learn about the structure and organization of the site. Moving along, the Understanding Science 101 area includes quick reviews of topics like How Science Works, What is Science?, and "hy Science Matters. The Resource Library contains classroom activities, teaching tools, and strategies for keeping students thinking and engaged. Visitors can also use the Correcting Misconceptions area to address certain commonly held beliefs like Science is complete or Science is a collection of facts. Finally, visitors can sign up to receive updates when the site adds new information. [KMG]

Practical Physics

The Nuffield Foundation was created in 1943 by William Morris, the founder of Morris Motors. He wanted to contribute to improvements in society, primarily the "advancement of social well-being." According to the site, he "emphasised the importance of education, training and research in achieving that goal." This website, created by the Foundation, is a logical extension of his work, containing practical activities designed for use in the classroom with students in high school and college. The activities here are arranged into a dozen topics, including Astronomy, Atoms and nuclei, and Physics applications. The activities here include "Hearing a laser beam," "What's the frequency?," and 75 others that use video clips, interactive graphics, and other visual materials to make these concepts and principles come alive. The Forces and Motion area is one of the best, as it is host to activities that really delve into the concepts of speed, velocity, and acceleration. Visitors can also use the search engine to look for specific items of interest. [KMG]

The Aspen Institute: Forum on Communications and Society

The Aspen Institute has a broad range of thematic programs covering global security, the environment, and American politics. They also are quite interested in the relationship between society and new and innovative forms of communication. Since 2008, they have sponsored the Forum of Communications and Society (FOCAS) to bring together innovative thinkers and policy makers to talk about this subject. This site offers links to these sessions from the past four years, and visitors will find working papers, discussion questions, and presentation videos. Some of the recent topics include "Active Government Service Through Smarter Data Use" and "Beyond Transmedia: Narrative Systems and Population Mobilization." Visitors can view the archived session schedules for each meeting and they can also view a list of all the participants. Additionally, the site contains information on how to get involved with upcoming FOCAS meetings. [KMG]


Urban Land is an online magazine created and maintained by the staff members and affiliates of the Urban Land Institute. The magazine also has a print edition (published six times a year), and the goal of both publications is to provide timely articles and reports that deal with a wide range of topics, including real estate, international planning trends, and municipal finances. On the homepage, visitors can read the New Developments area which contains succinct data reports offered each business day, along with updates on topics such as Economy, Markets & Trends, Infrastructure/Transit, and Residential. Visitors can view the Institute's 75th Anniversary page for details about their past work and also use the Most Read feature to see what other visitors are finding most compelling. Given today's design and planning climate in cities, the Sustainability area is one that professionals and policy types will find most useful. Also, visitors can use the search feature to look for particular news updates, data reports, and so on. [KMG]

The Faulkner Newsletter & Yoknapatawpha Review

In the annals of Southern writing, William Faulkner looms large. His presence can still be felt in Oxford, Mississippi, the place he called home for many years. This fine digital collection from the University of Mississippi brings together the Faulkner Newsletter & Yoknapatawpha Review, which were published quarterly from 1981 to 2001. These two publications published short articles and news items relating to the study of Faulkner's life and work, along with information about the activities of his friends and colleagues. These editions have been placed together in two volumes, and visitors can browse them at their leisure. Taken as a whole, these remarkable publications offer a multi-faceted look into how Faulkner's works have been viewed since his passing. Scholars of literary criticism and related fields will find that these documents are invaluable, and they can also be used by educators in the classroom. [KMG]

Inventions of Note

The Inventions of Note Sheet Music Collection was created in 1997 by the Lewis Music Library at MIT. It includes popular songs and piano compositions that portray technologies as revealed through song texts and cover art. As the introductory notes state, "The initial appearance of inventions such as the automobile, airplane, radio, and telephone created a myriad of responses in American society ranging from excitement and delight to anxiety and scorn." The collection include 50 pieces of sheet music, ranging from "The Bell Telephone Girl" to "The Wireless Man." This last piece contains lyrics like "With his brave steady hand/keeps in touch with the land." It's interesting to ruminate on what songs today might celebrate in video game systems, wireless mobile devices, and laptop computers. For students of the history of technology and popular culture, this site is quite a find and perhaps it will inspire a few sing-a-long sessions for those with a talent for vocalizing. [KMG]

Western Americana Collection

Over the past few years, Princeton University has continued to improve their diverse set of online collections through a compelling digitization program. One of their largest collections is the Western Americana collection, which will be a rare treat for persons with an interest in the American West and its history, geography, and culture. The collection includes over 6,900 items culled from three unique collections. Perhaps the most intriguing sub-collection here is the "Sheldon Jackson Collection of Indian Photographs." Here visitors can view a wide range of photographs of Native Americans in both formal and informal settings, along with a mix of other images that document the material culture of various tribes. Visitors can search all of the collections, and some sample searches that are worthy of consideration include railroads, Dakota, and forts. Even a cursory glance through the collection may inspire a new piece of writing or a bit of mediation on American identity and the foibles of westward expansion in the 19th century. [KMG]

General Interest

Aaron Thomas: The Caribbean Journal of a Royal Navy Seaman

Setting out on the Caribbean today on a large vessel might involve boarding a massive cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale or Nassau in the Bahamas. Things were a bit different when Aaron Thomas set off on those same waters back in 1798. Thomas served on the HMS Lapwing during the French Revolutionary wars and his journal contains first-hand accounts of naval operations, customs of the day, and humorous anecdotes involving shipmates and superiors. This wonderful volume is physically located at the University of Miami Libraries Special Collections Division, but visitors can read the document on this site. One sample contains this chestnut of an observation: "Never stop at an Inn, nor go into a Shop to buy goods, if you see the Master has a Superfine Coat on." The document includes pen sketches, financial records, and graveyard epitaphs collected during Thomas's forays ashore. Visitors can click on the Biography area to learn more about Thomas and also use the Excerpts area to get a flavor for his prose style. [KMG]

American Antiquarian Society, 1812-2012: A View at the Bicentennial

The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts celebrated their bicentennial in 2012. They chose to celebrate with a variety of events, and one of their projects involved creating this website. Visitors to the site can make their way through a wide range of images and illustrations taken from the Society's printed bicentennial history volume, which was meticulously prepared by Philip F. Gura. On the homepage, users will find five thematic sections: The Society's Leaders, Antiquarian Hall, Collections, Access, and Program & Outreach. The Antiquarian Hall area offers a visually stimulating tour through the various homes of the Society from 1819 to the present. The section includes some wonderful plans of the structures, along with some detailed photographs that document how the exhibits looked at various moments in the 19th century. Further along, visitors can peruse the Timeline of AAS Events, which offers a panoramic view of the various moments that have defined the institution. [KMG]

American Civil War Music & Resources

The Library of Congress has created this delightful site that brings together hundreds of items that tell of the musical culture of the American Civil War. First-time visitors will want to start by perusing the Civil War Sheet Music section. Here they will find 2,500 pieces culled from the Library's collection, including songs about various generals, battles, and a longing for the tranquility of home life. Further along, the site also includes the Civil War Era Band Music section. This area features over 700 musical compositions, along with over a dozen audio files of these fine ditties. Visitors shouldn't miss the Historic Events in the Civil War area, as it offers a new profile of an important event from this conflict every day. On the right-hand side of the page, visitors can also browse different collections such as Civil War Maps and Civil War Treasures from the New York Historical Society. [KMG]

The Real Estate Record

How could one weekly report keep tabs on the building activity in and around New York City and the surrounding area? From 1868 to 1922, the Real Estate Record did just that, and for anyone with an interest in urban affairs, it is a remarkable resource. It was digitized by the good folks at the Columbia University Libraries Digital Collections, and visitors can search through each volume by keyword or date. Each issue contains period advertisements, information about ongoing legal battles regarding properties, news about new and ambitious building projects, and so on. It is the primary record of real estate transactions in the area during this period. It's easy to see how this work might be used as a tool in historic preservation courses, urban history seminars, and related educational settings. It's quite easy to use and well-worth several return visits. [KMG]

Chemistry Now

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently teamed up with NBC and the National Science Teachers Association to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry. Their big joint project was to create Chemistry Now, a weekly online video series that uncovers and explains the science of common, physical objects. There are over two dozen short films here that cover topics like the chemistry of salt, grapheme, safety glass, and the common cheeseburger. All of the videos are lively and interesting, and they can be used in a wide range of classroom settings to provide visual and audio reinforcement of topics that might be addressed in course lectures and other activities. The videos are completely free and the site includes links to other organizations that have created similar videos. [KMG]

USDA: Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

The main goal of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is "to improve the health and well-being of Americans by developing and promoting dietary guidance that links scientific research to the nutrition needs of consumers." Visitors to the site can take advantage of the very useful and pragmatic guidelines surrounding daily calorie intake suggestions, the MyPlate food suggestions, and the MyFoodapedia. This last resource provides quick access to food groups, calories, and comparisons. The Know your Farmer, Know Your Food area provides information on farmers markets and community supported agriculture across the USA. On the left-hand side of the page, visitors can look through topical areas such as Nutrition Insights and USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food. The Publications area includes nutritionally-themed posters for classrooms and sample menus and recipes. [KMG]

Mead Art Museum

The Mead Art Museum helps serve the community of Amherst College by making its 16,000 object collection available to both the academic community and the general public. The Mead collection is quite strong in American and European paintings, along with ancient Assyrian carvings and Russian modern art. On the site's homepage, visitors can view sections that include Collection, Exhibitions, Events, and Publications and Podcasts. First-time visitors should start with the Collection Highlights area, which provides a nice mix of items culled from the museum's impressive holdings. The podcasts on the site are quite a find as well, as they include meditations on the work of John Singer Sargent, John Singleton Copley, and the aforementioned Assyrian works. Moving along, visitors can also read the museum's annual report and read over its engaging blog, titled "SpeedMead." The site is rounded out by a search engine and a place where visitors can offer their feedback. [KMG]

Network Tools

SoundDownloader 2.0

If you want to download sounds, this application is the perfect tool. Visitors can use SoundDownloader to download music audio files from YouTube and other popular websites with little fuss. The program can be set up to download multiple files at the same time, and it is easy to use. This version is compatible with PCs running Windows 2000 and newer. [KMG]

Pocket 4.1.2

In an era of information overload, sometimes you may just want to save something for later. The Pocket application (formerly known as "Read It Later") allows users to just click on a photo, document, or other file so they can look at it at a later time. There isn't a limit to how many files can be saved, and it's rather useful. The program is compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPod running iOS 5.0 or later. [KMG]

In The News

New findings point to more interesting wrinkles in the story of human evolution

Human evolution: Ask the family

Fossils complicate human ancestor search

Questions over human and Neanderthal interbreeding

Neanderthal sex debate highlights benefits of pre-publication

Introduction to Human Evolution

Becoming Human

Who are we? Where did we come from? These are a few questions that motivate evolutionary biologists and others interested in the world of human evolution. Recently, a team of scientists from the Turkana Basin Institute in Nairobi published work in Nature that seems to point towards yet another possible unique species of human. The team has found evidence that there may have been another group that existed around 2 million years ago, which they are referring to as KMN-ER 62000. This new species has a face similar to another specimen (Homo rudolfensis) but it would appear that its upper jaw does not match any existing fossil jaw specimens. Of course, the record of human evolution is fragmentary, so this finding is only a preliminary one. In other human origins news, a lively debate over the interbreeding of humans and Neanderthals has been stirring the genetics community. Some researchers claim that Neanderthals and humans evolved from a common ancestor who lived about 320,000 years ago, and others claim that interbreeding occurred as recently as 65,000 to 47,000 years ago. While the latter claim seems to be prevailing for now, this is another story worth following. [KMG]

The first link will take visitors to a nice piece of reporting on the fossil discovery from this week's The Economist magazine. The second link will take interested parties to a wonderful piece from CNN's "Light Years" blog about how this discovery complicates scientists' search for a common human ancestor. The third link leads to a piece that outlines the debate over human and Neanderthal ancestry. The fourth link will take visitors to a discussion of how this debate could have benefited from more rapid pre-publication of the papers in question, so that each paper could respond to other authors' most recent findings. The fifth link will take users to the brilliant page created by the National Museum of Natural History that provides an interactive and thoughtful introduction to human evolution. The final link will lead parties to the Becoming Human website which brings together research, scholarship, and interactive multimedia materials to create "greater understanding of the course of human evolution."

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