The Scout Report
March 29, 2013 -- Volume 19, Number 13
A Publication of Internet Scout
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Great buildings abound in all corners of the world, and this website pays tribute to around 100 of these marvelous structures. The buildings profiled here are part of the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) Archipedia, a subscription database. These profiles are offered at no charge, and visitors will have a field day learning about the ins and outs of each structure. For each building, visitors will find a high-quality image, along with a narrative essay, information about the architectural period, and the building's materials. Visitors can also sign up for a free trial of the complete database or check out several lesson plans that draw on the exquisite materials here. In addition, there is ample information about the print edition of this book, which is published by the University of Virginia Press. [KMG]
Statistics is a subject for all seasons and years, but 2013 is the International Year of Statistics, a designation supported by almost 1,850 organizations. The primary movers behind this noble activity include the American Statistical Association, the International Biometric Society, and the Royal Statistical Society. The goal of this initiative is to promote "the importance of statistics to the scientific community, business and government data users, the media," and a range of other users. On the website, visitors can make their way through four main sections, including What is Statistics?, Statistics as a Career, Teacher Resources, and Statistics 2013 Posters. The Teacher Resources area is a real pip, as it features teacher resources for over two dozen countries, along with statistics education videos from the United States and Mexico. The site also includes a Statistic of the Day, a quote of the week, and a most efficacious Statistical Word of the Week. [KMG]
The OpenCourseWare movement continues to gain steam and the addition of more and more online courses piques the interest of the general public. This particular course from MIT, originally taught and developed by Professor Heather Paxson, deals with cross-cultural investigations into the world of technology and development. The course materials include a syllabus, readings, assignments, and a host of other documents. First-time visitors should peruse the Syllabus to learn more about the basic course expectations and requirements. Moving along, the Readings area contains links to selected works, including "Hands Off Our Houses," "Maya Mobile Medicine in Guatemala," and "Afghanistan's Last Locavores." Finally, visitors can take a crack at the Assignments, which include a genealogy exercise and a bit of classic participant observation. [KMG]
How do we understand the Earth and its complexity? It's a crucial question in our age. Fortunately, the California Geological Survey is interested in these matters. The Survey's Educational Resources Center site features California geology maps. teachers' aids, and "California Geology 101." This last resource is an interactive index of online geologic field trip guides and related sites. The resources include an exploration of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, replies to questions posed by the "Earthquake DOC," and a glossary of rock and mineral terminology. The maps should not be missed either, as they include a fault activity map of California and a detailed map of the Golden State's geomorphic provinces. [KMG]
The outreach programs at Purdue University's Botany and Plant Pathology program are extensive and these teaching resources are uniformly well-developed and crafted. On this page, visitors can browse resources that include "The Story of Plant Pathology" (an illustrated story describing the origin, relevance, and science of plant pathology) and "Fungi: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," which is a lesson plan dealing with the world of fungi. Also, the site includes a range of botanical slide sets that are available for use in the classroom and other settings. All told, there are three dozen slide sets covering orchids, roses, bromeliads, and a number of other plant species. [KMG]
From the "Depth Spinner" to the "Cafe Wall Illusion," the Exploratorium has collected menagerie of thought-provoking and visually intriguing optical illusions. These particular illusions were picked out by staff members and represent the best of the best. First-time visitors simply must start with the "Fading Dot." This exercise in visual acuity will show users that the eye is constantly receiving new information and sending it to the brain. All told, there are twelve illusions, which are all both creative and quite a bit of fun. It's easy to see how these might be used to complement a range of classes, including physics, anatomy, media studies, and more. [KMG]
This engaging classroom activity is culled from the Teaching Entry Level Geoscience site created by the staff of the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College. This particular role-playing exercise has students representing townspeople whose lives and livelihoods are endangered by an active volcano that may or may not erupt in the near future. Along the way, students must debate whether to invest in or to abandon their town. The materials here include learning goals, a section on context, teaching notes and tips, and a brief writing assignment. Also, the site includes additional references and resources, such as links to other role-playing exercises and external websites. [KMG]
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes hundreds of reports, papers, fact sheets, and other documents each year for use by the general public, scholars, and members of the press. Much of this work is generated by the Economic Research Service (ERS) division, and this impressive report is one of those key documents. Published in February 2013, this work offers up the USDA's 10-year projections for the food and agricultural sector in the United States. The 99-page report covers "agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices." Visitors can download the entire report or discrete sections, such as "US Crops," "US Livestock," or "Macroeconomic Assumptions." [KMG]
From Teddy Roosevelt to "We Like Ike," the Cornell University Political Americana Collection offers up a cornucopia of presidential promotional and commemorative items dating from 1789 to 1980. All told, there are approximately 5,500 items here, including cartoons, prints, posters, lapel buttons, and leaflets. The majority of this prodigious collection was donated to Cornell by the private collector Susan H. Douglas between 1957 and 1961. Visitors can use the Categories listing to look around via over 150 sections, including Mourning; Monroe, James; and New York. The When category breaks items into presidential election years and it's a great way to get a sense of the changing political fortunes and key issues surrounding each four year contest. Finally, visitors can zoom in and out on each object and also use a variety of embedded tools to look at the rich details of each item. [KMG]
Have you ever wanted to attend a film festival from the comfort of your own living room? With this collection of 25 short films under the PBS banner, that dream can become a reality. The films are featured under the headline "Watch Us Surprise You," which is a worthy byline. New visitors should start by watching the introduction to the history of online video and then looking over the About the Festival area. Here they can watch a one-minute introduction to the festival and then they should dive right in. The films here include an exploration of anagrams ("Ars Magna"), a look into the life of a disappearing cat ("CatCam"), and a piece on shell mounds in California titled "Injunuity: Buried." Overall, it's a wonderful collection that will inspire filmmakers young and old to get out there and craft their own narrative work. [KMG]
Billed as "Storytelling. With a beat," Snap Judgment is an fine public radio show hosted by Glynn Washington. Before turning to this assignment, Washington was an educator, diplomat, community activist, actor, political strategist, and self-described fist-shaker. The stories here are culled from every corner of society, and they include tales of family, personal struggle, and triumph over adversity. Visitors can click through to the Podcast area to get a flavor for their works here, and they can download shows of particular interest. First-time visitors might want to start with "Suspicious Behavior" and "The Long Con." The Listener Stories area is a great way to learn about what is on the minds of listeners around the country. Also, users shouldn't miss the blog or signing up to learn about "super secret" upcoming events like the "Snap Salon." [KMG]
This website provides online tools "to help low and moderate-income individuals to answer important questions about their eligibility for naturalization, to better understand the naturalization process, and to prepare for the naturalization tests." The site represents the collective efforts of the Immigration Advocates Network and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and it includes an interactive online interview to help individuals understand their eligibility for naturalization and other key resources. On the site, visitors can make their way through sections that include "Learn About Naturalization," "Prepare for the Tests," and "Find Legal Help." It is worth noting that the materials here are also available in Vietnamese, Spanish, and Chinese. [KMG]
The Annenberg Lesson Plans archive features high-quality educational resources culled from their award-winning documentaries and serial productions. Visitors can select plans by grade level or discipline, or they can just browse as they see fit. The plans tend to be erudite, witty and compelling, and include "American Robin: A Robin's Menu Through the Seasons," "Causal Patterns in Density," and "Building Viewpoints." Currently, there are over 140 plans, with new ones added on a regular basis. The site also includes links to each of the programs the plans are adapted from so it is easy to work through the offerings. Finally, visitors can also sign up to receive updates when new materials are added. [KMG]
The promise of any sort of adventure can be a magic tonic to any rather dull and ordinary day. National Geographic knows a few things about adventure, and this website brings together fascinating photographs, essays, itineraries, and other items that will be most useful to the casual or extreme adventurer. Visitors can look over the "Beyond the Edge" blog, which features everything from meditations on skiing the Jackson Hole backcountry to a video tour of the Powder Highway in British Columbia. Users shouldn't miss some of the "best of" lists here, which include "World's Best Ski Towns" and "Word's Best Surf Towns." A list that will give cause for inspiration (and perhaps debate) is the "Ultimate Adventure Bucket List," which includes activities like hiking up to Machu Picchu and a trek around Java's volcanoes. [KMG]
The University of Georgia Libraries has a remarkable resource in the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The library maintains a collection of more than 1,000 historic maps spanning nearly 500 years from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Many of the maps detail the history of the state, but still others cover medieval Europe, colonial Africa, and more. A good way to start is by clicking on the Title category. Visitors will find that this area contains "An Accurate Map of North and South Carolina" by Henry Mouzon and his colleagues from 1775, along with 36 other items. Visitors can browse through all the maps here by title, creator, facets, or century. They can also search by keyword, title, author, or year of creation. Users looking for an entry into this collection could type in military, Savannah, or Atlanta. [KMG]
Especially for those of us who collect such things, the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) provides a nice example of a university art museum website. In the Collection Galleries section, wander from gallery to gallery and browse selected items from the permanent collection. For example, the Marvin H. and Mary M. Davidson Gallery, European and American Art 1650–1830, is represented by a Rembrandt self-portrait from 1638; see Picasso's "Two Girls Reading (Deux Enfants Lisant)," 1934 in the Modern Art Foyer. The collections search is integrated with the MLibrary interface to all University of Michigan image collections, so searches can be quickly broadened beyond UMMA holdings. There's short, brochure-style information about past (back to 2001), current, and upcoming exhibitions - a Laurie Anderson installation goes on view April 6th. About the only downside is no online shopping in the museum store. [DS]
The Ripcorder Screen application allows users to create movies from their Macs' on-screen activities. The application will capture whatever is played on the display and transform it into a QuickTime movie. This can be most useful for users who would like to share information with colleagues or friends seeking to learn more about a particular computer operation or process. This version is compatible with all operating systems running Mac OS X 10.7 and newer. [KMG]
Ribbet offers visitors the opportunity to edit their photos on the fly online. The site gives users the ability to crop, resize, and rotate their images, along with adding captions in a host of different fonts. Also, there are a number of compelling special filters with names like Cairo, Morocco, Los Angeles, and Fiji. This version is compatible with all operating systems. [KMG]
Scientists examine nothing, find something
Speed of light may not be fixed, scientists suggest
Speed of Light May Not be Constant
Testing Einstein's E=mc2 in Outer Space
Ole Roemer and the Speed of Light
American Association of Physics Teachers
Is the speed of light constant? For a very long the speed of light has been determined to be 299,792,458km per second. Recently, two separate studies by scientists at the University of Paris-Sud and the Max Planck Institutes for the Physics of Light seem to indicate that the speed of light fluctuates. Interestingly enough, researcher Marcel Urban from the University of Paris-Sud identified a quantum level mechanism for interpreting vacuum as being filled with pairs of virtual particles with fluctuating energy values. Ipso facto, the inherent characteristics of vacuum, like the speed of light, may also fluctuate. Vacuums themselves are quite fascinating, as when they are viewed at the quantum level, they are not empty, but instead filled with an array of particle pairs that are constantly appearing and disappearing. This is quite a fascinating discovery and one that will be worth keeping tabs on as new information comes to, well, light. [KMG]
The first link will take visitors to an article from this Monday's Christian Science Monitor about these two recent studies on the speed of light. The second link will take users to a similarly-focused news article from Science Daily. The third link will whisk interested parties to a post by the Voice of America's Rick Pantaleo on these discoveries. The fourth link leads to a fascinating news update from the University of Arizona. The piece reports on the work of Professor Andrei Lebed, who is looking into whether or not Einstein's famous mass-energy equivalence formula is correct in all corners of space. The fifth link will take users to an informative essay on the work of Danish astronomer Ole Roemer, who became the first person to measure the speed of light. Finally, the last link will take visitors to the very helpful teaching resources section of the American Association of Physics Teachers website. Here visitors can make their way through dozens of websites that offer free instructional materials dealing with various aspects of physics.
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