The Scout Report
November 21, 2014 -- Volume 20, Number 45
A Publication of Internet Scout
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Encyclopedia of Earth: People
Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room
Institute for Science + Math Education
Coffee Break: NCBI Bookshelf
The Legislative Process
Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries
National Priorities Project
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Subzero Science and Engineering Research Facility
Search NMNH Collections
University of Hawaii at Manoa Marine Option Program
APA Center for Organizational Excellence
The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics, and Society
National Library of Medicine Specialized Information Services
The Polar Vortex Rides Again?
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Science is fascinating for its methods and its discoveries, as well as its people. This site from the Encyclopedia of Earth focuses on the researchers who have made great science happen. Whether your interest is great environmentalists like Rachel Carson or groundbreaking chemists like Susan Solomon, this site has dozens of biographies dedicated to the brilliant minds that advance the world's knowledge. Entries are broken down into categories that include Chemists, Economists, Energy People, Physicists, Biologists, and Environmental Scientists. Additionally, Featured Articles and Recently Updated entries provide snapshots into the range of people featured on the site, from Leonardo Pisano Fibonacci to Martin David Kamen, and can be found on the homepage. [CNH]
If you have a few hours to spare and you're curious to know what the CIA has been interested in over the past half century or so, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Electronic Reading Room might be the site for you. Start on the homepage, where you can read about functionalities of the Reading Room and browse overviews of the FOIA, the Privacy Act, and Executive Order 13526, which clarifies the process of classifying and declassifying documents. Then, use the search engine to scout the site. For instance, a search for "UFO" turns up dozens of declassified documents, including a 1967 report about unidentified objects over Moscow. Searching "Cuba" returns hundreds of documents, including plans for the Bay of Pigs invasion. [CNH]
The University of Washington's Institute for Science and Math Education has been creating partnerships for "equity-focused" STEM education models since 2008. The Institute is based on three core strategies, which can be found in the About section of the web site. They intend to create mutually-beneficial collaborations, build educational practice based on research, and transcend the inequity that has long been endemic to STEM education. The site is clearly organized, with categories such as Projects, People, and Partners. The Resources area features several excellent bibliographies that educators will surely enjoy, and the Next Gen Science Standards area outlines an innovative Framework for K-12 Science Education, including videos, PDFs, and Webinars. [CNH]
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has been publishing Coffee Break since 1999. This resource combines recent biomedical discoveries with NCBI tools and makes for an edifying read. It's perfect for advanced high school students and college undergraduates who are keeping up on the latest in biotech breakthroughs. Typical articles sport titles like, "From the Statue of Liberty to the coin in your back pocket: The secret life of copper," and, "A gut feeling: Bugs are critical to your health." Each article begins with a brief introduction that explains the works relationship to a broader context, then scales down to the molecular level. [CNH]
The United States Congress is a complex web of interrelated activities, policies, bills, and law making. For educators who are seeking to introduce the process to their students - or anyone who is looking for a quick and easy way to better understand the system - this nine part video series will serve as a welcome tool. The well appointed presentations, replete with slides and voice overs, cover such topics as the an overview of the legislative process, an introduction to the referral of bills, and committee consideration among others. A transcription accompanies each video for easy reference. [CNH]
In 2000, then-governor of New York, George Pataki announced his idea to establish a cutting edge research and education facility on the Hudson River. Over the next several years, the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries opened its doors, adopted its name, and then became affiliated with Clarkson University. Currently, the institute works on a variety of river projects. The WatermarkBlog is a fun place to start and features fascinating articles like the entry from September 22, 2014 entitled, "Water Investment Builds Economy Better than Defense Spending or Tax Cuts." Recent News is continually updated and always interesting. In addition, the Newsroom link navigates to articles, videos, and other sources of information about the Beacon Institute and its work. [CNH]
Nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, The National Priorities Project (NPP) has been working for the past 30 years to analyze the American government's military spending and to promote a national budget that it considers more in alignment with the priorities of everyday citizens. If the progressive politics of the NPP don't turn you off, this site offers a bounty of information on the way the federal government spends tax dollars. Start with the Federal Budget 101 tab, where you can learn through hour-long webinars on a range of budget related topics. Teachers will especially enjoy the Educator Toolkit, which includes lesson plans and activities on topics such as campaign finance, lobbying, and historic events related to the federal budget. [CNH]
This page from the United Nations introduces readers to Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. Readers can find out more about the man himself in the Biography section, located under the About tab. The real meat of the site, however, is all available on the homepage. For instance, take a look at the Secretary General's Key Priorities, which include Sustainable Development, A Safer and More Secure World, and several others. Scan the Latest Headlines for developments in U.N. action. Visit Engaging the Public, which highlights videos of the Secretary-General giving speeches and meeting with students and leaders. One of the most interesting aspects of the site is the search engine that allows visitors to locate Major Speeches by theme, place of delivery, year, or keyword. [CNH]
The Subzero Science and Engineering Research Facility at Montana State University is a one-of-a-kind lab, a place where students and faculty work together at temperatures down to -90 degrees Fahrenheit. These extreme environments allow investigators to explore everything from how extreme cold interacts with dehydration in human subjects to the effects of subzero environments on pavement, machinery, and solar panels. The site is quite inviting, and visitors should make sure to check out the interactive graphic Explore the Subzero Facility. Here, visitors can click through the building room by room and learn what each environment is used for. The site also features sections on Projects, Research Facility, and the Facility Floor plan. News articles about the lab from National Geographic and the Montana State Magazine are also available. [CNH]
The Botany Collections at the National Museum of Natural History feature over 1.2 million online specimen records. Over 100,000 of these boast beautiful images of diverse plants from around the world. Whether you are a botanist searching for information about a rare orchid, or an enthusiast with a thirst for botanical expertise, the site offers an impressive range of information. The archive can be searched by Keyword, Field, Type Register, and Plant Photo. Readers can also search the site's collection of Botanical Art, which dates back to United States Exploring Expedition in 1838. [CNH]
Who wouldn't want to move to Hawaii to study the ocean? The Marine Option Program (MOP) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa lets students do just that. This hands-on experiential program offers plenty of time for getting under the water to study dolphins, reefs, and many other systems and beings. You can read about the program on the site, as well as access the program's free monthly newsletter, Seawords. This online publication provides a fascinating peak into the marine life of the Pacific ocean and features gorgeous photographs of the turquoise water, both above and below the surface. [CNH]
The science of psychology is often associated with either carefully controlled lab experiments or the soft-spoken tones of a therapist's office. But psychologists actually study a huge range of behavioral phenomena. This site from the American Psychological Association (APA) focuses on work and work environments, asking questions such as: What makes work meaningful? How can companies help people love their jobs? And what's in it for the companies if they invest in making the workplace healthier? There is a lot to discover here, including the Articles & Research section, which links readers to coverage of workplace research by such media outlets as USA Today and Market Watch. The Good Company section is another great find and features Podcasts as well as a Newsletter and Blog that provide focused, research-based content for both employers and workers. Company executives may also want to look into the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award, which has been "shining the spotlight on exemplary organizations" since 1999. [CNH]
The Albertina has been gathering great European paintings, prints, sculptures, and drawings since the 18th century. For readers who can't make the trip to Vienna this year, the Albertina showcases 61,812 of its most precious art works online, among them classics by Bruegel, Monet, Picasso, and many others. If you're looking for a particular work, era, or painter, the search functions will make quick discoveries across all departments. Otherwise, works can be searched for within seven individual departments: Paintings and Sculptures, Graphic Art Collection, Poster Collection, Architectural Collection, Photographic Collection, Bio-Bibliography on Photography in Austria, and the Albertina Library. The site is available in English as well as German. [CNH]
The Pew Research on Religion and Public Life Project conducted over 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 29 countries to compile this report on Muslim views on religion, politics, and society. The findings are fascinating. Among other results, the interviewers discovered that the desire to institute sharia (Muslim law) at the national level differed significantly by region, that age, gender, and education had little effect on these views, and that most Muslims interviewed believed that Western pop culture was harmful to morality. The overview of the report, complete with graphs and tables, is a great place to start. Additional Report Materials are also easily accessible from the site including the Complete Report and the Topline Questionnaire. [CNH]
The website for Specialized Information Services (SIS), provided by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), has a very long html title: "Reliable information on K-12 science education, chemistry and toxicology information, environmental health, HIV/AIDS information, and outreach to minority and other specific populations." While the title is no doubt provided to increase the site's findability in search engines, it's a handy synopsis for humans of the rich resources on offer. The A-Z list includes between 200 and 300 online sources. There are specialized databases, such as the Household Products Database that consumers can use to find out if there are any hazardous ingredients in products they use, as well as databases for researchers like ALTBIB, a collection of citations on alternatives to using live animals for testing. In addition, there are a number of fact sheets and research guides. If the A-Z list is too overwhelming, return to the SIS home page where the resources are organized into six broad categories: Environmental Health & Toxicology; Chemical and Drug Information; HIV/AIDS; Outreach Activities & Resources; Disaster Information Management Research Center; and K-12 Science and Health Education. [DS]
Voted Best App by the App Store way back in 2013, Circa has been improving its services ever since. In essence, Circa condenses news stories to the size of your screen, and then allows you to follow the ones that are important to you as they develop. Available for iOS 7.0+ and Android 2.3+. [CNH]
If you think of a world without checkbooks, or maybe even a world without cash, you might be imagining Venmo. Venmo uses bank-grade security to let you pay friends or family for dinner, drinks, or really anything. Forbes has called the app "the crown jewel of all finance apps." This version is available for apple devices running iOS 7.0+ and Android devices running 4.0+. [CNH]
What is a Polar Vortex?
Yes, The Weather Is Polar. No, It's Not The Vortex
Snowvember: What's Causing the Unseasonably Cold Weather?
The Squishiness of the Phrase "Polar Vortex"
Arctic Blast Brings Freezing Temperatures and More Snow to U.S.
Polar vortex visits to U.S. linked to climate change
Despite the fact that the term "polar vortex," a whirling mass of frigid air around the north and south poles, was first coined in the 1970s, popular media has increasingly promoted the phenomenon over the past year in a heavy stream of headlines. Since January 2014, the term polar vortex has been used in numerous stories referencing instances of bitter cold weather across the United States. However, overuse of the term has the potential to backfire; calling every push of cold air the polar vortex means destabilizing the meaning and accuracy of the actual term. With a new wave of cold sweeping across North America this November, news outlets may be tempted to prop up headlines like, "Polar Vortex is Back, Baby!" But is it? The Northern Plains and Great Lakes regions may be colder than average, and snow accumulation may be exceeding the norm, but this is not the polar vortex. Rather, it is air influenced by part of the polar vortex, a distinction that is not only important but that provides great insight into our planetary climate cycles. [CNH]
The first link takes readers to an AccuWeather.com video in which meteorologist Bernie Rayno highlights the mechanics of the polar vortex phenomenon. Next, readers can listen to a recent NPR story that explains why we probably shouldn't call this unusually cold November week a polar vortex. The third and fourth links take readers deeper into the quandary of what causes extremely cold weather, while the fifth link reports on this week's frigid temperatures. Lastly, an article from USA Today covers a recent study that tentatively connects last year's polar vortex to climate change.
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|Internet Scout Team|
|Catherine Dixon||[CBD]||Managing Editor|
|Debra Shapiro||[DS]||Contributing Editor|
|Kendra Bouda||[KAB]||Metadata and Information Specialist|
|Sara Sacks||[SS]||Internet Cataloger|
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|Corey Halpin||[CRH]||Software Engineer|
|Yizhe (Charles) Hu||[YH]||Web Developer|
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