The Scout Report
July 3, 2015 -- Volume 21, Number 25
A Publication of Internet Scout
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
25 Years of Hubble
Finding and Using Health Statistics
Women in Science and Mathematics (WiSM)
Multiracial in America: Proud, Diverse and Growing in Numbers
Slate's Audio Book Club
Botanical Society of America
Perspectives on the Boston Massacre
Resources for Genealogists and Family Historians
Becoming Richard Pryor
Marist: Archives & Special Collections: Poughkeepsie Regatta
Knitting - Victoria and Albert Museum
The Internet Has Survived the Leap Second, but Is It Necessary?
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The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit on April 25, 1990, supported by NASA funding that began in the 1970s. While the initial phase of the mission encountered problems (the main mirror was incorrectly manufactured and needed to be repaired), by 1993 Hubble was sending back some of the most magnificent images of the universe that humans have ever seen. This two-hour presentation by Frank Summers, of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), offers an overview of the history, trials, and accomplishments of NASA's first Great Observatory. The talk is available for free streaming online. In addition, the slides, which include phenomenal images taken from Hubble, can be downloaded in PDF format. For educators teaching astronomy, and for anyone with a fascination for space exploration, this is a valuable presentation. [CNH]
Finding and using health statistics has become requisite for a number of careers in the past several decades. It's also a worthwhile skill for anyone navigating the increasingly complex world of health care and medicine. This free online course from the U.S. National Library of Medicine is divided into three related parts: About Health Statistics, Finding Health Statistics, and Supporting Material. Selecting any of these tabs opens to a table of contents. From there, readers can follow the course page by page. For instance, About Health Statistics begins by reviewing the importance of health stats, moves on to their uses, and then speaks about sources for the gathering of statistics, such as population surveys and registers of diseases. [CNH]
While the express goal of this website is to recruit and retain women students in sciences and mathematics at Eastern Illinois University, there is plenty of good information on the site for the rest of us. Readers may like to start with Further Reading, where they can link to media coverage of women in science from around the web. From there, they may select Biographies of Women in Science, where they can access dozens of biographies of women who have made contributions to fields as diverse as chemistry, primatology, biophysics, and astronomy. In addition, the site features links to half a dozen other websites on the topic, from the Smithsonian's photo portraits of women scientists to the San Diego Supercomputer Center's coverage of women scientists from around the world. [CNH]
According to this newly published report from the Pew Research Center, "America's multiracial population has grown at three times the rate of the general population since the beginning of the millennium." In fact, the number of multiracial children increased tenfold between 1970 and 2010, shooting up to a new high of nearly seven percent of the total population. The report emphasizes that these multiracial youth are "young, proud, [and] tolerant" of differences. Further bringing the statistics to life is a supplemental website on the Voices of Multiracial Americans. Here young, multi-racial Americans speak about their experiences, their thoughts about multiracial identity, and other related topics. To explore these stories in greater detail, select Essay: Multicultural Voices in the Report Materials section of the Multiracial in America site. [CNH]
Katy Waldman hosts Slate's Audio Book Club, an engaging podcast where she facilitates monthly discussions about distinctive literary titles with expert book lovers from around the country. Recent guests have included a senior editor at Slate, an editor from the New York Times Book Review, a writer at the Atlantic, and Choire Sicha, co-founder of the popular culture site, the Awl. Discussions have ranged from wowed to perplexed to incensed to critical, but as these lovers of books have taken on such titles as Helen MacDonald's soulful memoir, H Is for Hawk, or Paula Hawkins' best-selling thriller, Girl on the Train, the overall mood is one of careful consideration and, above all, appreciation for the art form. [CNH]
Launched in 2010 by science writers Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus, Retraction Watch seeks to make public the "self-correcting" nature of science. The site has been praised for bringing to light many hundreds of retracted papers in a wide variety of fields, some due to fraud, others just to mistakes in experiments or the publishing process. A great place to start is with the latest retractions, listed in chronological order on the homepage. For instance, recent retracted papers at the time of this writing concerned plagiarism in the field of aeronautic dentistry, a paper on wheat straw that seems to have been published (and retracted) more than once, and even a letter to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, written by an impersonator. The site also contains a useful search function for readers who are looking for specific topics, authors, or articles. [CNH]
Founded in 1893, the membership of the Botanical Society of America now includes scientists from around the world. The organization's website includes a number of excellent resources for plant lovers. For instance, selecting the Botany Conference area opens a draw down bar with abstracts from 15 years of presentations, programs, and conference sessions. The News section includes frequently posted articles on everything from conference updates to calls for proposals to announcements for new online tools. In addition, the Resources area includes a host of helpful links and information, including information on parasitic plants, a statement on evolution, and a list of excellent suggested websites. [CNH]
This site from the Massachusetts Historical Society examines multiple perspectives on the Boston Massacre. The confrontation between British Soldiers and mostly unarmed civilians on the evening of March 5th, 1770 left five men dead - and contributed to the resentment that eventually led to the American Revolutionary War. On the site, readers may like to start with the excellent introduction before delving into the historical source material, which is divided into four additional sections: Reactions and Responses, The Massacre Illustrated, The Trials, and Anniversaries. The Reactions and Responses section is perhaps of particular interest, as it offers both original hand written letters and articles, as well as easily readable transcripts. Educators searching for primary materials to liven up lesson plans about the United States’ road to independence will find much of interest on this excellent site. [CNH]
For readers who are fascinated by genealogy, the National Archives has a page dedicated to helping people find their roots. The easiest place to start is the section entitled "Start Your Family Research." There readers will find instructions about how to start their research, some helpful research tips, guidance on the use of the site's military records, and reference reports on a range of topics, from census to citizenship to federal employees. Also on the homepage, readers will find links to popular topics like land records and immigration, as well as tools for genealogists and genealogy-related articles. [CNH]
Richard Pryor, the stand-up comic and actor, has been called "The Picasso of our profession" (Jerry Seinfeld) and "the seminal comedian of the last 50 years" (Bob Newhart). His life, however, was defined by tragedy, drug addiction, and violence. This website created under the supervision of Pryor's biographer, Scott Saul, examines Pryor's early years in Peoria, Illinois, where he grew up in his family's brothel. While the site revolves around Pryor, the designers do a wonderful job bringing mid-century Peoria to life, with stories of family, segregation, organized crime, and much more. Readers may like to start with Pryor's biography, which is located in the More section. From there, it is fascinating to browse the People, Places, Eras, and Themes that provide the context for the man. Teachers of 20th century history with an interest in race, segregation, and the arts will find much to explore here, as will anyone with a love of hard-hitting comedy. [CNH]
The Millions is an online magazine that covers books, art, and culture. Founded in 2003, the site boasts an enormous backlog of essays, reviews, excerpts, lists, and other wonders. While readers can choose to support the Millions with a monthly donation, the content is free, and ads are minimal. Readers could start anywhere on this playful and intriguing site. Recent essays have included a look at gender, books, and children as well as an exploration of the persistence of the physical book in the face of tablets and e-readers. Lists have covered topics like "Hinge of History: Nine Books for the Post-Ferguson Era" and "Five Ways Being a Writer and Professional Skateboarder Are the Same." [CNH]
The mission of Farm Sanctuary is "To protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living." Besides adopting and rescuing animals in three different locations around the country, and advocating for better animal welfare laws, the organization also hosts a site that is packed with information about factory farming and the alternatives. Most of the information can be found under the Learn tab, where readers may scout articles about the factory farming of chickens, pigs, cows, turkeys, sheep, and goats, as well as read about the impact of factory farming on the environment, human health, and rural communities. The Educational Literature section also includes several downloadable pamphlets about alternatives, such as meat-free foods and vegan recipes. [CNH]
Recently popularized by Daniel James Brown's bestselling book, Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the Poughkeepsie Regatta was once one of America's most talked about sporting events. This digital collection from the Marist College Library brings the old crew race to life once more. Readers may like to read the brief yet informative history on the landing page before delving into the rest of the site. From there, examine the timeline at the top of the page, where the curator of the site has posted photographs and the finishers for each year of the race, from its inception in 1895 to its final run in 1949. In addition, Programs will link readers to every program from those 54 years; readers may peruse photographs of the athletes, the boats, and the awarded prizes over the decades. The Resources highlighted here are another strength of the site, providing information about rowing from around the web. [CNH]
BurmaNet News is an online news resource dedicated to providing coverage on the latest events, information, and opinions on Burma (Myanmar) published by media outlets from around the world. The country has gone through profound changes since BurmaNet News was founded in 2004. For instance, an article from July of that year (published in the Washington Post), focused its attention on the house arrest of Nobel Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which went on for over a decade. These days, recent articles have examined the restrictions on the press that are still in place, among other topics. On the site, readers may like to start with the latest articles, which are organized by chronological order on the landing page, then delve deep into the extensive archives to find thousands of reports or subscribe to the listserv. [CNH]
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is often considered one of the world's leading art and design museums. Established in 1852, the institution's collections span two millennia of art in a variety of mediums, including diverse holdings related to textiles. It should come as no surprise that the knitting page on the museum's website offers a plush resource for knitting enthusiasts. Articles on the page address such topics as the regional knitting practices of the British Isles, 1940s knitting patterns, and an interview with textile artist Freddie Robins among others. In addition, readers may like to follow the links to knitting blogs, knitting websites, the knitting reading list, and related interviews and artist profiles. [CNH]
Humanitarian Tracker seeks to support humanitarian causes by connecting and empowering citizens through innovative technologies. In essence, the site provides "tools, methods, and training" to citizen journalists so that anyone anywhere can report what they see and hear during periods of conflict, natural disasters, or other extreme situations. Then Humanitarian Tracker verifies the reports and makes them public. One of Humanitarian Tracker's interesting Projects is Syria Tracker, featured on the home page, which tracks the number of casualties in the ongoing civil war in Syria using a number of salient categories. For instance, readers can track casualties by male, female, age group, manner of death, location, and other criteria. Maps and graphs make the story visual. While the content is not pleasant, it is useful for understanding the human toll of global issues. [CNH]
Edmodo, which functions as a fully-loaded social network tool for the classroom, rivals popular platforms like Facebook in look and functionality while also designed with learning in mind. The site allows teachers to post lesson plans, information, assignments, and other content. Then students can post, have online conversations, collaborate, and work together or separately on quizzes, projects, and a number of other activities. Sign up is simple and free; all that is required is an email account. From there, it takes some time to set up the site to one's specifications, but teachers may find it worth the trouble. [CNH]
Very few of our activities on the Internet are, strictly speaking, private. Nearly everything we do is logged somewhere, and our instant messaging is no exception. This is where Off-the-Record (OTR) Messaging can help. For those who are chatting about confidential matters (e.g., medical histories) or those who simply want their privacy, OTR can help keep instant messaging secure. OTR uses standard and well-tested cryptographic algorithms to keep our conversations confidential and prevent impersonation of our correspondents (e.g., in the event of account hijacking). In fact, many messengers, including the popular Adium for Mac and IM+ for Android devices already have OTR built-in. On Windows, OTR can be added to the popular Pidgin messenger by using the "Primary download" link on the OTR homepage, then going to Tools > Plugins and activating the Off-the-Record Messaging plugin. [CNH]
Leap Second Will Extend the Day, and Might Roil the Internet
‘Leap Second’: Why June 30 will have one extra second
Leap second causes Internet hiccup overnight
The origin of leap seconds, and why they should be abolished
What Is a Leap Second Anyway, and Why Do We Use It?
World Will Gain a Leap Second on Tuesday: Here’s Why
In the lead up to this week’s Leap Second, which took place on Tuesday at precisely 23:59:60 PM Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), there was much speculation about what the effects of adding a second to the day would do to various computer systems around the world. In the end, the fallout was minimal. Still, some commentators have begun to grumble at the practice, which is designed to sync astronomical time (a measurement based on the planet’s rotation) with atomic time (a measurement based on the cycling of atoms). The doubters point out that adding or subtracting seconds makes almost no positive difference to even the most time-obsessed among us, and that the practice is, at the least, inconvenient and expensive for companies, governments, and other organizations who must adjust their computer systems to the chronological hiccup. Adherents note that syncing astronomical and atomic time has a number of advantages and, as Udo Seidel, a systems administrator at Amadeus Software noted, “If we cannot manage to make our systems handle a leap second, then we have bigger problems.” [CNH]
The first two links, from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, respectively, present some of the media build up to Tuesday’s Leap Second. Next, Jeremy Kirk, writing for PC World, offers coverage of some of the network outages the Leap Second caused - many of which seemed to have occurred in Brazil due to unprepared routers. The fourth link will take interested readers to David Yanofsky’s case against the Leap Second. Finally, Wired and National Geographic fill in the gaps with their excellent coverage of the history and science behind leap seconds.
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|Internet Scout Team|
|Catherine Dixon||[CBD]||Managing Editor|
|Debra Shapiro||[DS]||Contributing Editor|
|Kendra Bouda||[KAB]||Metadata and Information Specialist|
|Elzbieta Beck||[EB]||Internet Cataloger|
|Samantha Abrams||[SA]||Internet Cataloger|
|Corey Halpin||[CRH]||Software Engineer|
|Yizhe (Charles) Hu||[YH]||Web Developer|
|Cea Stapleton||[CS]||Web Developer|
|Zev Weiss||[ZW]||Technical Specialist|
|Adam Schwartz||[AS]||Administrative Assistant|
|Mitchell Mckay||[MM]||Administrative Assistant|
For information on additional contributors, see the Internet Scout staff page.