The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 1, Number 22

December 6, 2002

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Compendium of Best Papers [.pdf, .ps]
USENIX, also known as the Advanced Computing Systems Association, has compiled a list of the best papers presented over the last twelve years at its conferences and events. Anyone can download these outstanding technical papers, which won an award for "Best Paper, Best Student Paper," or Best Presentation. The documents come from both industry and academia, and they discuss theoretical topics and applied research. Over 60 conferences are featured, and each has a specific focus, such as security, Java, and storage technologies. It is especially interesting to note how the papers show the evolution in computers over the last decade. [CL]
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Final Report of the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry [Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, .pdf]
Since its first meeting in November 2001, the Commission on the Future of the US Aerospace Industry has worked to prepare this final report on the industry, its position in the global economy, and its application to national security. The report was released on November 18, 2002, and can be viewed in its entirety at this Web site, along with a fifteen minute video presentation from the commission's chairman. The 300+ page report is divided into nine chapters, each with a central theme and series of recommendations. Some interesting research objectives are suggested, including hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft, low cost space access, and new hypersonic technologies. [CL]
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Semiactive Damping of Cables with Sag [.pdf]
Vibrations in support cables can be caused by wind, rain, or other forces acting on the attached structure. This can result in premature failure of the cable or its connections, thereby reducing the cable's useful lifetime. This research paper, from the University of Southern California civil engineering department, extends the previous work of the authors on smart vibration damping techniques. Through accurate modeling of the cable and including the properties of "sag, inclination, and axial flexibility," a series of equations are derived that govern the motion of the cable. These are then used to show the effectiveness of semiactive dampers in reducing vibration. [CL]
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Fuel from the Sky: Solar Power's Potential for Western Energy Supply [.pdf]
This white paper from Sandia National Laboratory, released in July 2002, considers the viability of solar power for the US, with special attention given to western states. The recent blackouts in California serve as motivation to look at current trends and weigh possible options for the future. Starting with a discussion of "western electricity markets," the paper introduces existing methods of power generation. Subsequent chapters focus on solar energy, different technologies used to harness it, and the benefits realized from solar power plants. The Concentrating Solar Power/ Sun Lab home page offers detailed descriptions of many different solar power technologies and additional literature. [CL]
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Signal Compression Lab [.pdf]
The Signal Compression Lab (SCL) is a part of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "Current research activities at SCL include low bit rate speech coding, wideband speech and audio compression, speech modeling and synthesis," and many more focus areas involving data compression of various forms of media. A large collection of informative demonstrations and slide presentations illustrate the group's work. Many of the SCL staff have publications available for downloading, which are divided into several categories for easy browsing. [CL]
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NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts [.pdf]
The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is a truly remarkable site about some of the most compelling technology concepts and ideas. The NIAC's aim is to foster creative thinking and support research that could turn today's science fiction into tomorrow's science fact. Numerous projects, both from past efforts and from current investigations, are profiled on the institute's Web site. For example, one project outlines a potential method to make life on Mars possible. Others examine novel forms of propulsion for spacecraft. The studies span a wide range of disciplines, and their diversity is what makes this site so interesting. [CL]
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Power from the
The book Solar Energy Systems Design is offered in a newly revised and free version on this Web site. It is an excellent resource to learn about solar power and the technology that is used to harness it. Seven chapters describe how the sun itself produces energy, how the sun's position relative to the earth's surface effects energy system generation, and how various collectors work. In addition to the text, there is an overview of the J.T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies, an institution that envisions a society only dependent on renewable forms of energy. Unfortunately, not all of the Web site's features are available, such as two calculators and a section of problem sets. [CL]
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Protecting Applications against Malice Using Adaptive Middleware [.pdf]
Security in distributed computing systems is a very important area of research, especially as malicious behavior is a growing cause of concern for businesses and organizations. This paper addresses an emerging method of maintaining security in untrustworthy environments. Until recently, the operating system was the only means of protecting data; the authors discuss a more elaborate technique of using middleware as a second level of security. "When integrated effectively, this multi-level approach makes it harder for intruders to corrupt or disable distributed systems and applications." The paper is scheduled to appear in 2003; several other papers on related topics can be found on the site's home page. [CL]
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ASIC Design for Signal Processing [.pdf]
The material on this site was motivated by the author's recent technical work with Bell Labs Research. It serves as an introduction to digital design of certain types of application specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Although the details of the research project cannot be fully revealed, the basic principles of the technology are explained. This information can be used to implement "a matrix multiplication based algorithm." Because computers can only use binary arithmetic, it is interesting to see how multiplication can be simplified with various hardware techniques. [CL]
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Ready! Set! Takeoff for Engineering [QuickTime]
Provided by the Society for Women Engineers (SWE), this site is a good resource for high school students who want to learn about engineering as a possible career choice. One of the most unique features on the site is the collection of video interviews. Four professional engineers, including a former NASA astronaut, respond to questions that are often asked by curious students. The Career Corner section offers brief descriptions of eight of the most common disciplines, providing glimpses into the everyday lives and responsibilities of engineers. Several links to other information sources are also given. [CL]
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Problems to Enjoy [.doc]
Problems to Enjoy presents an enormous selection of mathematics problems for middle and high school students. Teachers will find it especially useful; divided into four categories and three grade levels, the problems are easily searchable. Eventually, the site's creators hope to "build up a comprehensive library of problems in a format that is simple to access, download and customize." The collection is already quite substantial. Number problems, algebra, geometry, and statistics are the main topics, and each has a long list of fun, educational exercises. An easy-to-use Web form allows users to submit original problems for inclusion on the site. [CL]
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Digital Library and Archives: Journal of Technology Education [.pdf]
The Journal of Technology Education (JTE) is a biannual publication that focuses on "technology education research, philosophy, and theory." The fall 2002 issue has five articles written by teachers and professors from around the world. A very interesting article examines how elementary school students respond to technology-related questions. Specifically, they are asked about suitable materials for building bridges, and their answers are categorized to identify commonalities across different age levels. Another article proposes including biotechnology concepts in technology education curricula. Over ten years of JTE issues can be accessed on this Web site. [CL]
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AIMS Puzzle Corner [.pdf]
Each month, the AIMS Education Foundation posts a new mathematical challenge on its Puzzle Corner Web site. "The goal of the AIMS Puzzle Corner is to provide teachers with a variety of interesting puzzles that can be used to create a learning environment where students engage in doing mathematics just for the fun of it!" Each puzzle includes an overview of the topic for the teacher, and a worksheet that can be used by the students. Some examples of previous puzzle concepts include sequences, palindromes, topology, and many more. Solutions to each puzzle are provided one month after it was first posted; however, users must first answer a math trivia question before access is granted to the solutions. [CL]
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NBS Educator: Helping People Understand Contract Documentation [.ppt, .pdf]
NBS Educator is intended for "construction industry students, lecturers and professionals who need to understand contract documentation, such as specifications and schedules of work." As of December 2002, a collection of five text-based lectures exist on the Web site. Each provides an in-depth look at various aspects of the construction process, so as to keep all parties informed and operating on the same page. A few additional modules of educational resources are under development, including safety plans and production drawings. The site is offered by the organization responsible for the National Building Specification publication. [CL]
[Back to Contents] Design Archives
This novel site gives examples of circuits for a wide range of applications. It is suitable for people looking for specific instructions for a predetermined project or for anyone with an electronics hobby. Circuit diagrams, component lists, and a concise explanation are provided for each item. Many of the circuits were submitted by other visitors to the site, and further contributions are encouraged. Several categories are shown, including audio, motor control, and digital signal processing. [CL]
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Chaos Lab: An Orderly Pursuit of Disorder [.zip]
Chaos Lab is a great piece of software that teaches users about fractals and chaos theory. The menu-driven interface is extremely easy to use; however, a significant drawback of the software is its poor documentation. This can make experimenting with the settings more fun, but it would be helpful to have better explanations of the more obscure functions. What Chaos Lab lacks in documentation, it makes up for in the remarkable visual representations of famous fractals. The Mandelbrot and Julia sets can be explored with simple zooming tools, equation definitions, and brilliant color selections. Many more options are available, making the program a powerful educational tool in a small package. It is a free download. [CL]
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Canadian Civil Engineering History and Heritage [Flash]
As part of Canada's Digital Collection project, this site exemplifies some of the country's most significant civil engineering landmarks. Most of the depicted sites have been "commemorated as National Historic Civil Engineering Sites by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering." Over 40 features include bridges, railways, dams, and the Alaska Highway. There are pictures and descriptions of each item in the collection. Several important civil engineers who contributed to national sites are also highlighted; most of these figures worked in the 1800s and helped develop some of the most impressive Canadian treasures. [CL]
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ANWR Technology
Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska has been a topic of debate for many years. Although initial exploratory drilling has not yet been authorized by the government, this site presents some technologies that could eventually be used to find and extract oil without damaging the land. Nine articles describe different drilling methods, spill prevention tactics, exploration techniques, and more. One topic is 3D reflective seismic technology, which is used to help assess underground conditions for future well placements. Most of the articles relate to the environmental impact of oil production and the steps that would be taken to minimize these effects. [CL]
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NOVA: Sinking City of Venice [QuickTime, RealPlayer, Flash]
First aired on November 19, 2002, the Sinking City of Venice is a fascinating episode of the NOVA television series that focuses on the threat of rising tide levels for the exposed Italian city. Venice has many historical treasures and centuries-old architecture, which is forcing the government to turn to engineers for possible solutions to safeguard the city. A very ambitious proposal that is currently being considered involves massive underwater gates that rise in times of dangerously high tides. A five-minute video given on this Web site illustrates how the gates will work. An interactive map of the region shows hazards stemming from manmade and natural causes. Educators can find a few activities to introduce students to human environmental control. [CL]
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Battelle: Technology Forecasts
Battelle Memorial Institute works with the government and industry to develop new technologies and products. In the course of this work, Battelle has compiled several technology forecasts that speculate about what will be common in the years and decades to come. These predictions range from 2005 to 2020, and many of them are quite interesting. Concepts such as nanomachines, "personalized public transportation," and genetaceuticals are defined, and their use in society is explained. Only time will tell if these predictions are accurate, but they certainly drive the imagination. This site is also reviewed in the December 6, 2002 Scout Report. [CL]
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Two on Cyber Terrorism
Report: Pro-Islamic Hackers Gear up for Cyber War
An October 29, 2002 news article in USA Today describes a recent surge in activity of politically motivated hackers and cyber terrorists. The attacks, which range from Web site defacements to viruses and worms, are probably being perpetrated by individuals opposed to the US war on terrorism and action in Iraq. Zone-H, an organization that monitors worldwide hacker activity, reported that "politically motivated Web site defacements make up around 11% of the total." The Zone-H home page is regularly updated with software vulnerability advisories and downloads. There are many statistics about hacker activity, as well as a large collection of security-related papers. [CL]
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SoloTrek XFV: Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle [.mpg]
Anyone who ever dreamed of flying with the birds should peruse the SoloTrek Web site. The vehicles shown online are either conceptual or in a prototype version, but they are intriguing nonetheless. Making its "proof-of-concept" test flight in December 2001, the Exoskeleton Flying Vehicle (XFV) is probably receiving the most attention. A technical primer describes the operation of the XFV and lists the specifications and components of the design. The vehicle's significance is outlined according to its potential uses in various sectors (e.g., military, commercial). There is even a video that shows the contraption being tested. The Dream of Flight section of the Web site recollects previous attempts at making personal flying vehicles. [CL]
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IBM Archives [.pdf, .wav]
IBM is one of the most recognizable names in the computer industry, with a history that spans over a century. The IBM Archives is an online repository of information that tells the story of how the company began and how it has evolved. Possibly the best way to learn about IBM's roots is to browse the archive's main exhibit, which takes the user on a year-by-year tour of inventions and major business dealings since 1900. A collection of historic documents is also offered, describing landmark computers or giving noteworthy quotes. Several multimedia files (mostly audio clips) convey "sights and sounds from IBM's past." Lastly, a featured exhibit, which is periodically changed, showcases a particular innovation or classic IBM moment. [CL]
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The World: Technology Report [RealPlayer, QuickTime]
Public Radio International broadcasts "The World," a daily international news program, and a periodic feature of "The World is the Technology Report." This site provides downloadable audio from the four-minute report, which looks at some interesting and obscure technological innovations. The November 12, 2002 recording discusses an invention from a Danish university. The Automatic Pool Trainer, as it is called, uses lasers, cameras, and sophisticated tracking software to show the optimal shots on the pool table. Other recent topics include the SmarTruck, earthquake research, and alternative cars. [CL]
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Topic In Depth

Technology in Movies: Fact and Fiction
1. Life as "Star Trek"
2. BBC News: Australian Teleport Breakthrough
3. Bond Gadgets: Fact, Fiction, Fun
4. TechXNY: Hunting for James Bond?
5. Classified: Collections Overview
6. Monsters from the Id: Futuristic Visions in 20th Century Science Fiction Cinema
7. 2001: Movies versus Real Life [.pdf]
8. 2002 News Releases: How to Sort Science Fact from Science Fiction [RealPlayer]
With the recent release of the new James Bond film, it seems appropriate to consider the technology used so creatively on the silver screen. Movies often show elaborate gadgets that seem physically impossible, but they also can inspire the creation of real-life devices.
An excellent example of science fiction turned science fact is the Star Trek communicator. It is virtually identical in function to today's cellular phones, but it was envisioned nearly 30 years before it became a common accessory. Many other parallels of Star Trek concepts to everyday life are illustrated in a short article from the winter 2002 Albright College newsletter (1). Researchers at the Australian National University have accomplished a feat that also originated with Star Trek. The team demonstrated the transportation of a beam of light. A BBC news report (2) describes the specifics of the research, and also includes a separate section that ponders whether human transportation will ever be possible. Several of James Bond's gadgets are highlighted at this Web site (3). A few opposing viewpoints are provided, which contrast real spy devices to the ones used by 007. At a trade show held in June 2002, an industry representative suggested that companies should use Bond-like tactics to help in the war on terrorism (4). This could take the form of technology development, and the cooperation between government and corporations was encouraged in the speech amusingly titled "James Bond Saves the USA." A discussion about technology from Bond movies would not be complete without a look at the real-life counterparts of the films' spy devices. The International Spy Museum (5) has a large collection of items from the CIA, KGB, and elsewhere. Some of the amazing gadgets described on this site include a lipstick pistol, a poison gas gun, and a coat with a buttonhole camera. An interesting essay about futuristic visions in science fiction movies is given at this site (6). It traces examples all the way back to the 1903 film A Trip to the Moon. A collection of lesson plans for different grade levels is presented by the NASA Explores program (7). The activities encourage students to think about science fiction's effect on their lives, and how devices once limited to the imagination have become reality. Another resource, provided through NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is a pair of lectures given in November 2002. They address topics of space exploration, intelligent robots, and how recent advances in these areas compare to science fiction. This site (8) contains the news release about the lectures, while giving a link to the archive where the Web casts can be viewed. [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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