The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 1, Number 18

October 11, 2002

A Publication of the Internet Scout Project
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


White House: President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board [.pdf]
A draft of the Bush administration's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace was released September 18, 2002. The 65-page report, spurred primarily by the risk of cyber terrorism, can be viewed at this Web site. It assesses the most serious threats to, and most vulnerable areas in, small operations, large enterprises, and critical sectors like government. After identifying some of the current weak areas in Internet infrastructure, the report makes suggestions about the best practices for correcting the problems. Much of the strategy emphasizes education, training, and advanced technology development. Lastly, the report summarizes the key recommendations for each sector, and briefly discusses global implications. [CL]
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The ALPHA Lab at UC Berkeley [.pdf]
The Alpha Lab at the University of California at Berkeley researches and develops robotics systems for high-precision manufacturing. Specifically, it combines mathematical algorithms and industrial automation to build low-cost, reliable tools for "feeding, fixturing and grasping." The projects section of the lab's Web site describes a number of experiments and model implementations for robotics operation. Many of these have Java applets that demonstrate the principles involved in handling differently shaped objects. There are also discussions of various projects in computational physiology and Internet telerobotics. The lab's director has many of his publications available online. [CL]
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Mobile Manufacturers Forum [.pdf]
This is the home page of the Mobile Manufacturer's Forum, an international association of several leading "radio communications equipment manufacturers." Its purpose is to inform the general public about health policies and standards regarding radio frequency (RF) energy emitted by mobile phones and base stations. There are several documents and press releases that can be accessed on the Web site. One in particular, called the Health Policy Update, outlines the research findings of government agencies and independent organizations. These include recommendations for safe design and use, and assessments of health risks associated with cellular phones and other RF devices. An overview of mobile phone technology is also presented. [CL]
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Bandwidth Estimation Project [.pdf]
As the need increases for fast transfers of large amounts of data over the Internet, it is increasingly important to have an accurate estimation of throughput between two sources. This is the primary goal of the Bandwidth Estimation Project, which is part of the US Department of Energy's Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing program. It is developing new algorithms and techniques to allow for the fastest communication possible. The project proposal given on this Web site gives a detailed overview of the research being done. Some papers and presentations can be downloaded, including several from a June 2002 meeting at the San Diego Supercomputing Center. [CL]
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Vertical Motion Simulator
The Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS), at the NASA Ames Research Center, is an advanced flight simulation facility. This Web site provides thorough descriptions of all of the VMS systems. The VMS is a full immersion environment, complete with customizable cockpit, controls, and instrumentation to give the appearance of any aerospace vehicle. One of its most intriguing characteristics is "out-the-window graphics." This allows the pilot to see computer generated imagery of real locations, so virtually everything is identical to the actual flying experience. Even aircraft that are still in the design stage can be simulated on the VMS. [CL]
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Yet another specialized repository from Elsevier Science, this Web site is a platform that provides access to many publications and research papers related to computer science. Full text is available for over 70 specialized journals. There are often promotions for journals that grant free online access for a trial period. This is the case for Applied Soft Computing, which is available to the public until 2003. Other publications are sorted into categories such as computational intelligence, computer vision, information systems, and several more. The site also has a powerful article submission section. Authors can select a journal that is similar to their article's topic, and the submission process for that journal is displayed. Electronic submission is included, if available. This site is also reviewed in the October 11, 2002 Scout Report.CL]
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Modular Robotics [.pdf, QuickTime, .mpg, Java 3D]
The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is a subsidiary of Xerox Corporation. One of its most intriguing areas of study is "modular reconfigurable robotics," which is a technology that allows a robot to take itself apart and put itself back together again in a new form. This lets the robot customize its design for a given task. Several different models of robots have been constructed at the PARC, and this Web site describes how they were built and how they function. There is a large collection of video clips that show each of the robots in operation, including one of a robot riding a tricycle. Two Java simulation programs can be downloaded that demonstrate the control systems of two of the PARC models. A long list of publication titles with abstracts is given, and the full text is available for a few of them. [CL]
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Accellera SV-EC Technical Committee [.pdf]
Anyone using the Verilog Hardware Descriptive Language (HDL) or working in a digital systems design field will find this site to be quite informative. Its most significant resource is the SystemVerilog 3.0 Specification, which was released in June 2002. SystemVerilog is an extension to the standard Verilog HDL; it adds functionality, making the code resemble a high level language in many ways. The specification explains the various enhancements and changes made from previous versions. It discusses syntax, data types, assignment statements, and much more. The Web site will be updated with new specifications and SystemVerilog issues as they happen. [CL]
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Game Theory .net: A Resource for Educators and Students of Game Theory [.pdf, .ppt, .ps, .doc]
Game theory is a branch of applied mathematics that studies "rational behavior in interactive or interdependent situations." Often used in economics and political science, game theory is a tool to deal with uncertainty and make intelligent decisions. Mike Shor, a professor at Vanderbilt University, operates this Web site. Many useful resources related to game theory are offered, including lecture notes from various classes spanning a multitude of disciplines and colleges. There are links to educational online activities and interactive games that demonstrate the dynamics of game theory. Some of the materials were developed by Mike Shor, but most are from other sources. [CL]
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Interactive Educational Multimedia [.pdf]
Interactive Educational Multimedia is an online journal that is "intended as a space for dialogue and reflection about the application of the multimedia technologies in education." The latest edition consists of eight articles that consider how multimedia experiences can be tailored to the individual user to enhance the learning process. One topic involves the development of e-Learning tools for engineering education, specifically as they have been implemented in graduate level courses at a school in India. Another describes Intelligent Tutoring Systems that integrate forms of artificial intelligence. The collection of articles is quite diverse and comes from contributors around the world. [CL]
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CALResCo Complexity Writings
Anyone interested in learning about complex systems and artificial life should look no further than this site, created by a company dedicated to "free world-wide education about Complex Systems." Newcomers to the subject can access the beginner's introduction, which explains many of the general characteristics and programming applications. For more experienced people, there are discussions of specific concepts in complex systems. These include strange attractors, fractals, and genetic algorithms. Other essays look at complexity from a social or psychological standpoint, considering its representations and effects in the natural world. This extensive educational material is only a fraction of what is available on the site. [CL]
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Engineering Statistics Handbook [Dataplot]
Developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Engineering Statistics Handbook is a massive resource for applied statistics methods and probability. The online publication covers a wide range of topics, with the intention of helping engineers and other professionals incorporate statistical techniques into their analysis and designs. It was originally aimed at workers in the semiconductor industry, but has grown to accommodate a much broader audience. Some of the handbook uses a software tool called Dataplot, which is a free, multi-platform scientific visualization system that can be downloaded directly from NIST. [CL]
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Edmark Mighty Math Club [.hqx, .bin]
The Mighty Math Club is an online collection of free mathematics activities and games. The material is grouped into four age ranges from three to fourteen. Some of the exercises are simple, amusing riddles that can be solved by answering a series of questions. These teach children basic graphing techniques and problem solving skills, as well as introducing them to famous mathematicians. Other activities require the Electronic Geoboard software, which can be downloaded from the site. The Geoboard is a tool for learning about geometry, and can be used by itself to make creative designs or by following the steps in the corresponding activities. [CL]
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MHPCC Tutorial List
The Maui High Performance Computing Center (last reviewed in the August 26, 1994 Scout Report), maintains this collection of tutorials on a wide variety of programming languages, tools, and system applications. While some of the topics are probably specific to training at the center, several are very good resources for the general public. For example, the UNIX Introduction thoroughly covers the basics of the operating system, with information on network utilities, file systems, and much more. There are also tutorials on parallel programming and optimization. Fortran 90 and many programming methods and techniques are described. [CL]
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Machine Tool Technology [Windows Media Player, Flash, RealPlayer]
Funded by the US Department of Labor, the Virtual Machine Shop is a great place to learn about machining tools and practices. The online demonstrations show how to properly use devices like milling machines and engine lathes in different configurations and with various attachments. The instructional material is well presented and is followed by quizzes that reinforce the user's understanding of the subject. Many of the modules have video clips of the machines in operation, and there are also lessons on measurement fundamentals and material specifications. The modules were created by industry professionals and instructors. The Web site cannot be accessed with the Netscape browser. [CL]
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These lecture notes and educational materials related to operations research (OR) are provided by a professor at Imperial College in London. He defines OR as "the representation of real-world systems by mathematical models together with the use of quantitative methods (algorithms) for solving such models, with a view to optimising." The bulk of the material is divided into deterministic and stochastic topics. Since OR is such a broad subject, there are several seemingly unrelated issues that are examined in the context of OR. The tutorials section has a few practice problems for people to test their understanding, and the solutions are provided. [CL]
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Java Technology in Digital TV [.pdf]
Sun Microsystems, the maker of the Java programming language, is exploring the potential uses for Java in digital television. To this end, Sun has developed the Java TV Application Programming Interface (API) in cooperation with other consumer electronics companies. This Web site provides an overview of the API and a link to download the entire specification. Several user scenarios describe how Java will add functionality to digital TV receivers, with features like "on-screen graphics control," Electronic Programming Guides, and other interactive services. A white paper and related news articles about Java TV are also given. [CL]
[Back to Contents] Engineering News-Record
With origins dating back to the 1800s, the Engineering News-Record (ENR) has served the construction industry for generations. Now published in an online edition, ENR has information about construction technology, power and industrial issues, environment, and much more. One of the most interesting sections of the site focuses on new projects around the world, describing innovative buildings and structures, transportation systems, or anything related to construction. Each issue has in-depth feature stories, and a recent one assessed the cleanup and rebuilding operations at the World Trade Center site. ENR is an excellent resource for technical and business related news. [CL]
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TCPA: Trusted Computing Platform Alliance [.pdf]
The Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA) is one of the most high-profile operations for the development and adoption of an industry standard for personal computer security. The main participants in the TCPA are Compaq, HP, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft. This Web site has many documents written for or about the alliance. The most significant resource is the latest version of the main specification for trusted computing, which was released in May 2002. Another report lists some usage models and describes some important characteristics of good security implementations. There are also frequently asked questions about trusted computing in general and the TCPA itself, as well as white papers and presentations. [CL]
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JUSTNET: TechBeat [.pdf]
TechBeat is a quarterly publication of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC). It covers new technologies being developed at the center and other government and private sector research. Some of the frequent topics discussed in TechBeat are electronic crime, prison security, illegal substance detection, and operations at the state and federal level. One section of the publication is called Tech Shorts, which gives summaries of articles from various other sources that deal with technology and law enforcement. Every issue since the journal's inception can be viewed from this site. [CL]
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Certified Products
Originally a way of recognizing the companies who developed technology for use in US space efforts, the Space Certification Program was eventually adopted in consumer products and other terrestrial applications. Examples of such technologies include heat shields, water filtration systems, and the famous zero-gravity space pen. This Web site highlights some of these certified products. Each description begins with the original purpose of the product and how it was used by NASA; then, the uses of the product on Earth are mentioned. The only drawback to this site is that not all of the products are accompanied by descriptions. [CL]
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TopTech: AICPA
Information technology (IT) is one of the most critical aspects to a business's success. This Web site outlines some of the hot topics that define the current state of IT. While the material is geared for certified public accountants, all of it is applicable to any business that uses computers and the Internet. There are four main sections of the site that cover issues, applications, established technologies, and emerging technologies in IT. A common theme across all four categories is security, for obvious reasons. Other interesting topics are mobile technologies and XML. Each of the 35 topics has an article describing its implications and why it is important to businesses. [CL]
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Neck, back, and wrist pain are common complaints from people who regularly use a computer. To help these people become more comfortable and less susceptible to long-term problems, this site offers many suggestions for proper computer ergonomics. Some of the best tips are on office setup, such as positioning the monitor, keyboard, and chair. Mobile computing can be ergonomically worse than at a desk, so information about laptops is also given. Some products that promote ergonomics and their effectiveness are discussed. The health section explains the causes of different types of discomfort, and illustrates some stretches that can help. One topic that is rarely addressed is ergonomics for children, but this site covers it well. Adaptations for the disabled will be put online in the future. [CL]
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This site advocates less dependence on automobile transportation, and proposes suggestions for technologies and city layouts that would eliminate the need for it altogether. Some of the most interesting discussion concerns city topology, suggesting a six-lobe design. Each lobe is divided into many districts, and can support up to two million people (twelve million in all). A heavy-rail metro is the primary public transportation system, and average travel times are outlined. Venice, Italy is discussed as an example of a car free city. All of the information is very well thought out and supported with reasonable estimates and figures. [CL]
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Topic In Depth

1. An Overview of Biometrics
2. Avanti Knowledge Base
3. University of Cambridge: Computer Laboratory [.pdf]
4. International Biometric Group: The Biometric Industry - One Year After 9/11
5. A Trusted Biometric System [.pdf]
6. Connecticut Department of Social Services: DSS's Biometric ID Project
7. IEEE Spectrum Online: Who Goes There?
8. Scientific Who's Who
Biometrics technology can take on many forms, but, in general, it is defined as the automated identification of a person based on physiological or behavioral characteristics. The topic has gained considerable attention lately, because it can be a tool for airport surveillance or national security.

To learn the basics of biometrics, try the overview given on a Michigan State University Web site (1). Besides summarizing the characteristics of biometric systems, it explains four different identification methods and how they can be used together. A collection of fifteen papers is presented on this site (2). Each one looks at a particular issue in biometrics and describes it in detail. These papers can be especially useful for anyone designing or working with identity verification systems. The home page of a University of Cambridge professor (3) has many resources for iris recognition. There are many distinguishing characteristics of the iris, and the material ranges from a general introduction to advanced analysis techniques. An article published by the International Biometric Group (4) considers the effects of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the biometrics industry. The potential applications of biometrics technology and the obstacles to deploying these security measures (such as privacy) are discussed. Researchers at Hewlett-Packard published this technical report about user authentication on distributed computing platforms (5). It describes a trusted biometric system that incorporates smart cards and biometric readers to validate the user's identity. A project in Connecticut uses biometric technology to prevent fraud (6). By scanning the fingers of welfare recipients, no one can attempt to collect multiple welfare checks using different names. An article in the September 2002 issue of IEEE Spectrum (7) discusses advancements in biometrics within the last year. It outlines the benefits of adding biometric information to state driver's licenses, and considers what else needs to be done to increase the nation's security. Lastly, a July 2002 article in Scientific American (8) explains how biometrics can be used to prevent identity theft. This is one of the top consumer complaints and has been increasing dramatically in recent years. An interesting development is a tamperproof ID, which can not be falsified. [CL]
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From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2002.

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Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2002. The Internet Scout Project (, located in the Computer Sciences Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides information about the Internet to the U.S. research and education community under a grant from the National Science Foundation, number NCR-9712163. The Government has certain rights in this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the entire Scout Report provided this paragraph, including the copyright notice, are preserved on all copies.

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