The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 5

March 14, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


IEEE P802.3af: DTE Power via MDI Task Force [.pdf]
A task force of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is investigating the possibility of feeding power over Ethernet data lines. Although computer systems will not be able to be run from one all-purpose Ethernet/ power outlet, many other small Internet-enabled devices could be. For example, access points for wireless local area networks could be installed without requiring a separate power line. The task force's homepage has many technical documents about its objectives and the process of creating the standard. A number of short technical papers and presentations are also available. [CL]
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Innovations @ Georgia Tech [QuickTime, RealPlayer, Flash]
Some of the most interesting, high-tech research and development efforts are brought to light at this site of the Georgia Institute of Technology. The February 2003 featured story discusses work in "computer-based, low vision technologies that can automatically adapt, or morph themselves, to suit the visual capabilities of individual users." Targeted at people with macular degeneration, these devices would be a significant advancement over current vision aids. Three other stories are maintained in an archive. One describes research in blue laser technology, which will soon be used in ultra-high density DVD applications. The other two stories feature aware home research and wearable computing. [CL]
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Information Technology Laboratory [.zip, .ps, .z]
This is the homepage of Roldan Pozo, a "senior researcher in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology." He has developed many C++ libraries for numerical linear algebra, which can be freely downloaded via links on the site. Pozo also offers a short series of introductory lecture notes and programming examples of C++ for scientists. A number of Java numerics resources are also available. [CL]
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Miniature UAVs and Future Electronic Warfare [.pdf]
Presented at the Land Warfare Conference in October 2002, this paper introduces "a research project aimed at prosecuting an [Electronic Warfare] campaign through the use of small, inexpensive, autonomous, cooperative air vehicles." The relationship between Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Electronic Warfare is stressed, citing how their combined use is necessary for each to be effective in a military situation. The application and excellent results of UAVs in Afghanistan is contrasted with other possible scenarios, especially when there could be much greater resistance. Electronic surveillance, communication jammers, and other potential payloads of miniature UAVs are discussed. [CL]
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Turbo Lab: 31st Turbomachinery Symposium [.pdf]
The 31st Turbomachinery Symposium, held in September 2002 in Houston Texas, is featured on this site. Fifteen papers presented at the event can be downloaded, touching on new technologies related to motors, turbines, testing and monitoring techniques, and more. One report, for example, introduces "breakthrough technology for oil and gas offshore production." The majority of the papers discuss research and development issues; however, five tutorials are also included. One explains the fundamentals of a certain type of variable frequency drive, while two others describe troubleshooting processes. [CL]
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An Evaluation of Current High-Performance Networks [.pdf]
Computer scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley wrote this paper for the 2003 International Parallel and Distributed Processing Symposium, with the intention of evaluating five different systems and the performance of their respective networks. Advantages of each configuration are outlined, and some optimization techniques are suggested. Expanding on the concept of parallel operation, the authors propose overlapping high-latency communication with other necessary tasks to maximize efficiency. The evaluations were conducted using a set of benchmarks to measure accurately performance parameters. [CL]
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Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2002 NAE Symposium on Frontiers of Engineering
New for 2003, this publication "highlights the papers presented at the Eighth Annual National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Frontiers of Engineering Symposium." Each section of the report represents an extended summary of the symposium's presentations. A chapter on Chemical and Molecular Engineering in the 21st Century includes papers on fuel cells, nanoscopic structures, and computational fluid dynamics. Other chapters focus on the Future of Nuclear Energy, Quantum Information Technology, and Technology for Human Beings. [CL]
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Precise Interception of a Maneuvering Target by a Missile [.pdf]
One aspect of high-tech military equipment that has received significant attention is the tracking and autopilot systems for missiles. In the past, errors in these systems have resulted in unwanted loss of life and civilian casualties. This paper proposes a novel technique that uses artificial neural networks to accurately control a missile. The configuration of the neural network is described in detail, including methods for error backpropagation. Changes in the target's position and acceleration are used in addition to various parameters of the missile's flight to achieve precise targeting. The paper was presented at two conferences in 2002 for computational intelligence and neural networks. [CL]
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Education Junkyard Wars in the Classroom [.pdf]
Thirteen classroom activities based on Junkyard Wars, a television program on The Learning Channel, are given on this site. The premise of Junkyard Wars is to test the engineering abilities of two teams by making them design something from miscellaneous junkyard scraps. These activities build on that idea; each is a mini design project with defined objectives. Students are given certain materials to work with, but specific design methods are not explicitly stated. The reason for this is to allow the students to be creative and discover solutions on their own. Some examples of the activities are bridge building, egg parachutes, and structural design, among others. [CL]
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ReviseWise Maths [Flash]
This online activity from the BBC is a step-by-step guide to learning about number sequences and how to identify them. The site is completely interactive, and it begins with a gentle introduction to patterns. Several illustrative examples demonstrate patterns based on multiplication, addition, and a few other methods. A fact sheet and worksheet accompany the activity. Students can practice their knowledge of number sequences by taking the online test. Upon completion of the activity and worksheet, the user is returned to the main mathematics Web site, where many more topics can be explored. [CL]
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Introduction to Digital Filters
A professor in Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics is the author of this online book on digital filters. The material is mainly geared toward musicians, but it can be useful for anyone learning about digital signal processing. Available in draft form as of March 2003, the book contains equations, theorems, and principles of filter design spread across many chapters. Several MATLAB utilities and C++ implementations are also given. The only shortcoming of the Introduction to Digital Filters is its online presentation. If the material was condensed into fewer sections rather than being scattered across hundreds of Web pages, or if it could be downloaded as one large document, it would be much easier to read and follow. [CL]
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The Developer's Gallery: Programming [Flash, .zip, .pdf]
Many resources about OpenGL and related technologies can be found in the Programming section of The Developer's Gallery. OpenGL is a programming environment used to develop interactive, two- and three-dimensional graphics applications. One of the most significant features of this site is the online book titled "A 3D Case Study using OpenGL." Many other tutorials and coding examples are offered, as well as information about two OpenGL toolkits and OpenAL, a complementary application programming interface used to create 3D sound. [CL]
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The AT&T Learning Network Community Guide
In an effort to help individuals and communities realize the importance of the Internet, AT&T created the Learning Network Community Guide. The guide consists of many different resources, and it serves a variety of purposes. Two Internet introductions, separated into student and teacher versions, can be used to maximize use of Web tools, newsgroups, and other online services. Other sections of the site suggest ways to raise community awareness of information technology (IT) and facilitate access to the Internet on a large scale. Safety issues of online activity are discussed, and a glossary of many common terms related to IT is included. [CL]
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Fractals, Chaos [.c]
Paul Bourke of the Astrophysics and Supercomputing department at Swinburne University of Technology is the author of this massive resource on fractals and chaos. He gives examples of many different kinds and classes of fractals, including the Mandelbrot set and various attractors; and brief explanations accompany each one. A substantial introduction to fractals covers the underlying principles and connection to chaos theory. Many stunning, high resolution fractal image galleries show elaborate patterns and colors. Examples of C and PovRay code used to create the remarkable images are provided. Bourke's homepage has many other sections of tutorials, papers, and notes on a diverse range of subjects. [CL]
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A prodigious author of computer science books presents several introductions to computers and computer-related technologies at this site. Eight different guides are available, which cover topics including digital data, motherboard logic, and the computer input/ output interface. The text and accompanying illustrations are not overly technical in nature, and are therefore suitable for almost any audience. A section on digital imaging is under construction as of March 2003; it has information on photo editing and will likely have more content when completed. A few advertisements are somewhat of a distraction on the site, but they are not too much of a problem. [CL]
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QuickMath: Automatic Math Solutions
QuickMath is one of the most useful sites for common but tedious mathematical calculations. It is a free "online calculator that solves equations and does all sorts of algebra and calculus problems." Separated into many different functional sections, this handy tool can simplify expressions, evaluate symbolic integrals, plot equations, and much more. When inputting a problem into QuickMath for it to solve, users have an option to use basic or advanced controls depending on the problem's intricacies. Each section has an associated help feature, which allows users to see examples demonstrating how to use the interface. [CL]
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Two on Smart-1
BBC News: Europe Targets the Moon
By Sun Power to the Moon [.pdf]
Tentatively set for a July 2003 launch, the Smart-1 spacecraft will host Europe's first lunar mission. A news article from the BBC outlines the objectives of this pioneering mission. The Smart-1 is incorporating many new technologies and testing them for the first time in space. One of the most notable is the ion thruster, but several other novel items used in the Smart-1, if successful, will end up in a mission to Mercury around 2010. A twenty-page brochure from the European Space Agency provides a more detailed profile of several of the spacecraft's systems. Particular attention is given to the ion engines and the solar panels that will power them. Communications and navigation experiments are also highlighted. [CL]
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Mystery Aircraft
The Federation of American Scientists offers this unique perspective into classified government aircraft, "some of which actually exist, some of which certainly do not, and all of which are fascinating in a way." This site is divided into two main sections. The first provides insight into several aircraft that were initially shrouded in secrecy but have since been revealed to the public. Some examples include the SR-71, the B-2, and the Hyper-X. The second section is devoted to aircraft that may or may not be currently under development or in operation by the US government. The much popularized Aurora is in this section, as well as exotic propulsion aircraft. [CL]
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Vision Systems Design [.pdf, .doc]
Vision Systems Design is a magazine that provides comprehensive information and analyses about "machine-vision and imaging components, boards, assemblies, software, and systems." Its online version is free and has many Web-exclusive features available. For example, Back to Basics is a series of technical articles about a certain topic; the February 2003 issue has articles on FireWire interfaces, infrared systems used to increase vehicle safety, and much more. Technology news and industry trends are also provided online. [CL]
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Two on Chernobyl
International Herald Tribune: Steel Shell to Encase Chernobyl
Chernobyl Forum [.pdf]
Following the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, a concrete sarcophagus was built to enclose the remnants of the destroyed reactor. Now, nearly seventeen years later, engineers are faced with a new problem: the sarcophagus is literally falling apart. In a December 2002 news article, plans to build a giant steel shell around the sarcophagus are explained. Once completed, the shell "may be the largest movable structure ever built," around 370 feet high and 20,000 tons. The article describes the challenges that must be overcome for the shell to be stable and effective. The second site discusses events and topics of a February 2003 international forum on Chernobyl. Several documents are included on the site, including retrospectives and health analyses. [CL]
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The Transistor Museum
The Transistor Museum is a fascinating site "dedicated to preserving the history of the greatest invention of the 20th century." The museum's front page mentions some remarkable facts and quotes that demonstrate the importance of the transistor in modern life. Visitors can read transcripts of lectures, oral histories, and short biographies of notable individuals who played a role in the development of transistor applications. An impressive photo gallery showcases some of the most prominent historical transistors, while providing information about their usage, type, date of introduction, and other interesting notes. [CL]
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The Solar Decathlon [.xls, .pdf]
In October 2002, teams of students from universities around the US competed in the Solar Decathlon, an eleven-day event that challenges the participants "to design, build, and operate the most effective and efficient solar-powered house." The Solar Decathlon homepage features information about the contest, the different designs, and the experiences of each team. Contestants also share their insight into energy conservation and solar power by providing some tips for consumers. An especially interesting section is the contest diaries, where the participants record their progress and challenges in a daily journal. The next Solar Decathlon will not be held until 2005. [CL]
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NASA Research Park
A massive addition to the NASA Ames Research Park is detailed on this site. Although the project is not scheduled to be completed until 2015, it has been in the planning stages for several years and 2003 marks the beginning of Phase 1. The 98-page NASA Ames Development Plan is available for public viewing online. The new facilities will be designed to accommodate research in "information technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and astrobiology." Several other news articles and formal documents about the project can be downloaded as well. The design, construction, and staffing of the new research park will reportedly generate 7,000 high-tech jobs. [CL]
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The Virtual Terrain Project
The Virtual Terrain Project (VTP) homepage has a wealth of information about three dimensional environment rendering, as well as links to many different research efforts and papers about the subject. The project's aim "is to foster the creation of tools for easily constructing any part of the real world in interactive, 3D digital form." Several subtopics are addressed, including plant modeling and realistic ground detailing and texturing. An interesting focus is on cultural aspects of terrain rendering, such as roads, buildings, and other infrastructure. Some images of VTP worlds are shown, and three software titles developed with the project can be downloaded upon request. [CL]
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Topic In Depth

Designing against Disaster
1. Seismic Retrofit
2. Securing Society against Catastrophic Earthquake Losses [.pdf]
3. Presentations: Critical Infrastructure [.pdf, RealPlayer]
4. Progressive Wisdom
5. Analysis of Needs and Existing Capabilities for Full-Scale Fire Resistance Testing [.pdf]
6. Overview of Recent Progress in Fire Suppression Technology [.pdf]
7. Preparations for Terrorist Attacks and Natural Disasters Linked, Says University of Colorado Prof
8. News Release: Livermore Engineers Use Computer Simulations to Illustrate Impacts of Bomb Blasts on Infrastructure
Civil and structural engineers face a challenging task when designing buildings and other infrastructure. They have to account for a multitude of safety issues related to fire, floods, and natural disasters. That challenge is twofold with the additional risk of terrorism, because blast protection could be a major concern for high-profile structures.

California's Golden Gate Bridge is in the process of being retrofitted for enhanced seismic stability. Details of the project and status reports can be found on the bridge's homepage (1). The seismic retrofit will allow the bridge to withstand earthquakes of 8.3 on the Richter scale, as opposed to its previous limit of only 7.0. A publication of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (2) outlines the risks and impacts of catastrophic earthquakes, and suggests a long term plan for research. The report considers many aspects of the subject, from risk management to community resilience after an earthquake. In a research paper from California State University (3), a terrorist blast protection system for buildings is proposed. The author combines the concept of a Blast Protective Structural Shield with an Earthquake Protective Building Buffer, and the results of the system in several configurations are discussed. A video clip demonstrating the system's effectiveness is also given. This article from the American Society of Civil Engineers (4) looks at some of the most important advancements in civil engineering. The second half of the article is especially interesting, since it examines design innovations in dams, bridges, and more. The foundation of the World Trade Center, which endured the towers' collapse remarkable well, is also highlighted. Fire is one of the most common causes of building damage, and this report (5) focuses on testing structural assemblies for fire resistance. Published in December 2002, the report surveys existing facilities that are capable of this kind of testing and outlines the need for further testing. Technologies for fire suppression systems are the topic of this paper from Canada's Institute for Research in Construction (6). It describes several different methods, but notes that there is not necessarily one optimal technique. Rather, different fire suppression methods should be used depending on the situation. This news article (7) links terrorist attacks to natural disasters. Citing a University of Colorado professor, it states that engineers and other emergency management workers have to prepare for terrorism in the same way as they have for earthquakes and hurricanes. Engineers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories are using computers to simulate the impact of terrorist bombs on critical infrastructure. This article (8) describes how the simulations model buildings and dams to determine the possibility of structural collapse. [CL]
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From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2002.

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