The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 1, Number 21

November 22, 2002

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


WFEO ComTech [.doc, .pdf]
The World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) and its Committee on Technology outline on this Web site the roles of engineers for sustainable development. There is specific attention given to environmental protection and restoration with respect to energy use, natural resource extraction, and transportation. Worldwide progress toward sustainable development is considered, especially over the last ten years, and several accomplishments are identified, many of which stemmed from a 1992 United Nations conference. Lastly, several future goals are listed for engineers to accommodate basic human needs as global population continues to increase. A number of hyperlinks to reports and other documents are scattered throughout the site. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Solar Thermal Power Technologies [.pdf]
Published in July 2002 by the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands, this 50-page report describes current and future Solar Thermal Power technologies. It offers a unique perspective by looking ahead to the "global energy supply and demand until 2100." Five main technologies are described, and two are examined in depth. The first is a solar tower design that uses a large array of mirrors to reflect all sunlight to a receiver at the top of a tower, and then generates electricity from a steam-powered turbine. SNAP technology is the second focus; this kind of power plant directs artificially created wind down a large tube, turning turbines as the wind escapes. A short history of each of these methods is included, as well as an analysis of world solar power potential. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Hot Chips: A Symposium on High Performance Chips [.pdf]
The Hot Chips conference was held in August 2002, and the presentations from the event were recently released online. The symposium was centered on high performance processors and the technologies used to design them. Many presentations are from key industry representatives who described cutting-edge microarchitectures and implementations such as the Itanium 2, GeForce4, and more. Others are from academia, like one that describes the trends and challenges of microlithography. Over 25 presentations are available, and more from previous years can also be accessed. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

SRI International: SRI's Digital Earth Project [.pdf]
SRI International is a research institute with interests in engineering, information technology, and a variety of other fields. One of its current projects is dubbed Digital Earth, an effort "to create an open infrastructure that allows anyone around the globe to publish or to search for data based upon a specific location." This report describes the multiple technologies that are being integrated into the project, like GeoWeb as the information database, GeoVRML as a three dimensional geographic data format, and the 3D browser called TerraVision. All of the digital images and illustrations included in the report make it quite large; so, it is best to have a fast Internet connection to view it. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Treatment of Legacy Materials Using the Melt-Dilute Treatment Technology [.pdf]
The Savannah River Site (SRS) is the location of a government operation that manages US nuclear weapons and related radioactive materials. Ongoing research into safe handling of such materials is an important function of SRS, and this report discusses the Melt-Dilute technology "for the treatment and disposition of aluminum based research and test reactor spent fuel." Each step of the treatment process is described, and it is shown to have applications for a variety of substances. The Melt-Dilute technology can be used to safely transport hazardous materials, and the report favorably evaluates its performance for the Department of Energy. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

MSRI: Streaming Video - Fall 2002 [RealPlayer, .pdf]
The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) maintains an impressive archive of streaming video lectures and presentations. This site contains all of the videos from various workshops and special topics held in fall 2002. Of particular interest is the "Introductory Workshop in Quantum Computation." It consists of fifteen lectures, each with complete textual slides provided in addition to the roughly hour-long presentations. Quantum computation is a science that is still in its infancy, and the theories discussed by the lecturers are significant. There are also videos about commutative algebra, random matrix theory, and semidefinite programming. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

An FPGA Implementation of the Linear Cryptanalysis
This advanced research paper addresses an application of field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) for a computationally intensive cryptographic task. Specifically, the method of linear cryptanalysis is used to break a Data Encryption Standard key (a former standard used by the US). Prior to this work, the technique was attempted on a network of nearly 20 computers, and the key was broken in about four days. Implementing the same technique with a $3500 FPGA hardware setup, the authors report a total time of only twelve to fifteen hours. The paper begins with a review of linear cryptanalysis, and then it delves into the particulars of the proposed attack and its effectiveness. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Drawing with the Hand in Free Space [.pdf]
Leonardo, a journal that focuses on applications of science and technology in art, included this paper in its second-to-last issue of 2002. The author discusses a fascinating method of creating three dimensional shapes in a semi-immersive virtual environment. Developed at Caltech, the technique tracks the motion of a user's hand, which is fitted with a special type of glove. With the help of an eyepiece viewing device, the user can see the corresponding surface drawing floating in midair. Several pictures of the system and objects created with it are shown. The paper illustrates the system's ease of use and its multitude of uses, even for non-art related purposes. [CL]
[Back to Contents]


Fibre Optics Technology [.avi]
As part of the Flexible Learning on the Internet initiative, this Web page gives a very descript overview of fiber optics technology. The site covers everything from fiber optics manufacturing to its technological capabilities. Several basic equations that govern fiber optics properties and operation are mentioned, but the material is not overly mathematical. It explains how light travels through the cable as a signal and how a fiber's structure effects the propagation of light. Three video clips of a fiber being spliced with a fusion splicing device are also given. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Exploring the Future of Learning
ThinkQuest is a worldwide collaboration of students and educators that explores "youth-centered learning on the Net." A conference held by ThinkQuest in July 2002, called Exploring the Future of Learning, focused on emerging technologies and ideas to improve global education methods. This Web site presents several articles about the conference that were written by student journalists who attended the event. The articles highlight technology trends and new innovations, as well as the experiences and impressions of the students themselves. Some specific items that are discussed include tele-immersion, augmented reality, and video conferencing. This site is also reviewed in the November 22, 2002 Scout Report. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

IDEERS [.pdf, Flash, Cortona VRML Client, RealPlayer]
Introducing and Demonstrating Earthquake Engineering Research in Schools (IDEERS) is a program of the University of Bristol "to communicate the challenge and excitement of earthquake engineering research to young people." Beginning with a detailed explanation of earthquake causes and effects, the Web site provides motivation for designing structurally reinforced buildings. Five recent earthquake disasters are outlined and related to the general impact of earthquakes on society. The material then describes building dynamics, such as vibration and resonance, and various techniques to design earthquake resistant buildings. There are some interesting animations that demonstrate important concepts. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Maths Challenge is a fun activity to build mathematical and reasoning skills. Each month during the school year, a new set of math problems are posted online. There are miscellaneous problems at junior and senior levels, cryptography and code breaking problems, and computer programming challenges. Each section is appropriate for a different age range, but the most basic material starts at age eleven and increases from there. To participate in the programming exercises, a simple registration is required to keep track of each user's progress. There are initially three beginning level problems, but new levels are unlocked as previous ones are completed. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Addison Wesley Longman: Internet Projects for Elementary Statistics
This educational site is suggested as an extension to a statistics text book, but the material is also beneficial as a stand-alone resource. It uses data sources from many other Internet sites to illustrate statistical concepts. In one chapter, for example, trends in the rise of women in the work force are used to show how to analyze wage differences between males and females. In all, there are fourteen chapters that use a similar approach to teach the basics of averages, histograms, confidence intervals, and more. By applying real-world data, users will learn how to effectively incorporate statistics into their everyday activities. [CL]
[Back to Contents] [.zip] is a very well presented site about Active Server Pages (ASP). Maintained by a Norwegian ASP developer, it is intended as a reference/ training resource for people using ASP in Web authoring and design applications. There are over twenty lessons on various ASP topics, ranging from introductory material to more advanced topics like database integration. A large forum archive lets users search for a specific problem or post their question to get answers from other users. A live chat section is also offered, which requires a brief, free registration. Code examples for various functions are provided in VBScript and JavaScript. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

MultiMedia Schools [.pdf]
"MultiMedia Schools (MMS) is a practical how-to magazine sharply focused on the needs of school practitioners." It is published six times a year, and roughly half of its articles are made available for free online. In the last issue of 2002, the editorial offers suggestions for how school media specialists can take advantage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Other articles discuss a proposed technology-integrated teaching system, tools and techniques to continuously improve and adapt to changing school conditions, and much more. Most of the material that is not published on the Web consists of product reviews of software and computer hardware. Apart from the journal articles, there are also white papers and success stories given on the MMS Web site. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Motion System Design Online [.pdf]
While this site is considered a news source, it is perhaps best used as an educational reference for mechanical engineering topics. A very interesting section called Brushing Up is periodically updated with a new article describing one of the "core principles governing physics and the laws of motion." Fun with Fundamentals is another feature geared mainly for high school students. Here, a challenging problem is proposed, and the user must solve it. The solution to the problem is given in the following issue. Lastly, Design Basics discusses several concepts, such as motors, fluid power, and gears. [CL]
[Back to Contents]


Two about Internet Security
A Net Meltdown is Inevitable
ICANN: Final Implementation Report and Recommendations [.pdf]
On October 22, 2002, an attack on the thirteen servers that act as the backbone of the Internet was carried out, briefly disabling nine of them. This drew attention to the often criticized organization that operates these servers, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The first news article argues that bad practices and insufficient safety precautions of ICANN may soon lead to a more successful attack, one that could cripple the Net. It also stresses the importance of reforming the organization to better serve the purpose of effective Net management. Coincidentally, an October 2, 2002 report from ICANN addresses exactly this issue. The committee that prepared the report makes several recommendations for reform, but only time will tell if they are followed. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

100 Years of Design
Hosted by the Industrial Designers Society of America, this interesting site highlights some of the most influential people and groundbreaking products in this field. Titled 100 Years of Design, the site has content that spans the 20th century and "is a monthly installment of excerpts from a proposed book" along the same lines. Fifteen famous designers are profiled, along with over 50 products. One of the people mentioned is Harley Earl, the subject of a recent line of television commercials. Many of the products are related to the automobile, but other examples include the Polaroid camera and the Wurlitzer jukebox. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Two from
Math Player 1.0
Math on the Web: A Status Report
Math Player is a browser plug-in that supports MathML, an XML-based language used to encode mathematical symbols and equations for displaying on the Web. Developed by Design Science, the software can be downloaded for free at this site. Another interesting resource on this site is a status report of Math on the Web, a biannual publication by Design Science. The September 2002 issue focuses on the Second International MathML Conference. There is considerable interest being generated by this standard of the World Wide Web Consortium, and its integration in online content is likely to increase. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Bridge Building: Art and Science
This site is one of the most substantial, comprehensive sources on the Internet dedicated to bridge design and history. It has an incredible list of sections from which to choose, and each describes a particular bridge type or characteristic. Several pictures are included from all over the world that give examples of arch, truss, suspension, and many other bridge designs. There are also explanations of forces that act upon bridges, as well as what issues are considered when choosing the kind of bridge to build over a span. Perhaps the only drawback to the site is that there is so much information; the main page seems a bit cluttered. However, it does not really hamper navigating the site. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Grant Prideco: Engineering Toolkit
The Engineering Toolkit is a diverse assortment of utilities and interactive tools developed by a drilling manufacturing company. Possibly the most useful item in the toolkit is the Equation Bank, which contains nearly 100 equation solvers. Most are related to civil engineering and calculate effects due to pressure, parameters for pipe threading, and more. Another resource is the unit converter, a powerful tool with both metric and English units and over 20 dimensions from which to choose. A large glossary defines hundreds of engineering terms. The other two features are a pipe building tool and a database of technical specification sheets; these are probably not as useful as the other items of the toolkit. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Hypography Sci-Tech
Hypography Sci-Tech is an intriguing Internet portal to some of the more obscure, yet profound, discoveries and scientific developments around the globe. The site "aims to provide popular science and technology content to a general, world-wide audience on a daily basis." Besides including links and references to original work, the author provides a unique perspective of the topics' implications. Some recent hypographies include DNA computing, impossibility, and thinking machines. also an active discussion board, where users can exchange ideas and opinions about science and technology. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Magplane: Transportation for the Information Age [.pdf, .avi, .doc]
The Magplane concept involves electromagnetically levitated vehicles designed for fast intra-city travel. This is in contrast to most other systems that focus on intercity travel; the goal of the Magplane system is to connect suburbs and locations up to 250 miles from a central metropolitan area, with travel times of about an hour or less. The Magplane home page offers many details of the system's design and operation. Five technical papers are also presented, which describe some of the engineering aspects of magnetic levitation. There are some specific issues addressed in the Featured Stories section. These news articles and perspectives come from many different sources, and they are updated often. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet [Flash]
This fantastic site shines the spotlight on the "nerds" who developed one of the most important technologies of modern day life. It begins with an overview of technologies developed in World War II that would eventually make the Internet possible. A good multimedia animation demonstrates the concept of packet switching, the fundamental communication process involved in decentralized networks. The next section looks at early applications of the Internet in the corporate world, which is followed by the global adoption of the World Wide Web. The last three sections are more references than stories; one highlights many of the founders and key developers that contributed to the Internet's growth. Another briefly defines some terminology, and the last section is a decade-by-decade timeline. [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Topic In Depth

The Turing Test
1. Alan Mathison Turing
2. The Turing Test and Intelligence
3. The Turing Test Page [.pdf, .ps]
4. Rules and Technical Specifications
5. EllaZ - Artful Intelligence
6. The Blurring Test - Mr. Mind [Flash]
7. Mind as Space [.pdf]
8. Acquiring Word-Meaning Mappings for Natural Language Interfaces [.pdf]
A man before his time, Alan Mathison Turing is arguably one of the most recognized mathematicians of the 20th century. In 1950, he published a paper that, to this day, sets the standard for artificial intelligence. He proposed a way to determine if a machine has intelligence, and this is now called the Turing Test.

In his 41-year life, Turing accomplished a great deal as a mathematician. Bordering on many philosophical issues, his work is recounted in this online biography (1). A very good introduction to the Turing Test is given on this site (2). The text of the original paper written by Turing is provided, as well as an original take on its implications. Another paper about the Turing Test can be downloaded here (3), but it looks at the test from 50 years after it was first published. The author gives an interesting retrospective on what has transpired since Turing formed his ideas and sets the stage for future work.

The Loebner Prize is an annual competition that implements the Turing Test. It involves a panel of judges who question an entity over a computer terminal. The entity can be either human or a computer program, and it is up to the judges to decide who is not human. The program that gives the most human-like responses wins the contest. If a program can ever be indistinguishable from a human and manages to trick the judges, a grand prize will be awarded (although this has not yet happened). To read the rules of the competition, visit the Web site of the 2002 Loebner Prize (4), which was held on October 12, 2002. The contest's winning program was dubbed Ella, and an online version of the program can be tried at this site (5). Ella's responses are usually humorous, and it is surprising how realistic they are. A similar interactive utility is called Mr. Mind (6), but it reverses the roles. The user is asked to prove to Mr. Mind that he/she is human. By taking this perspective, it is quickly realized how difficult it must be for a computer to respond like a human. One chapter of a book that is scheduled to be published in 2003 is given on the Mindpixel Web site (7). It argues that a lifetime of human experiences is necessary for a computer to pass the Turing Test, but this can be approximated by a large collection of submissions contributed by the public over the Internet. This, incidentally, is the goal of the Mindpixel Digital Mind Modeling Project. Natural language processing is one important factor for computers to understand, and glean meaning from, human dialog. A research paper that was recently included in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research can be viewed at this site (8). [CL]
[Back to Contents]

Below are the copyright statements to be included when reproducing annotations from The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology.

The single phrase below is the copyright notice to be used when reproducing any portion of this report, in any format:

From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2002.

The paragraph below is the copyright notice to be used when reproducing the entire report, in any format:

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.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, or the National Science Foundation.

Cavin Leske -- Editor
Ted Schroeder -- Managing Editor
Rachael Bower -- Director
Edward Almasy -- Technical Director
Max Grinnell -- Contributor
Joel Brieske -- Contributor
Rachel Sohmer -- Contributor
Wayne Hayes -- Contributor
Laura Boyle -- Contributor
Yasuhiro Sasahira -- Contributor
Debra Shapiro -- Contributor
David Sleasman -- Internet Cataloger
Colin Holden -- Assistant Internet Cataloger
Barry Wiegan -- Software Engineer
Pat Coulthard -- Technical Specialist
Noah Diewald -- Technical Specialist
Andy Yaco-Mink -- Website Designer

For information on additional contributors, see the Internet Scout Project staff page.