The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 8

April 25, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Text Retrieval Conference (TREC) [.pdf, .ps, .gz]
The Text REtrieval Conference (TREC) is an annual event that supports "research within the information retrieval community by providing the infrastructure necessary for large-scale evaluation of text retrieval methodologies." Proceedings of the conference covering all twelve years of its history are available on the TREC homepage. As TREC has evolved, it has added several focus areas that span new and different topics in information retrieval. These tracks mainly examine methods of searching and filtering different types of data, including genomic records, digital video, and data that is given in multiple languages. [CL]
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Two on ATM Vulnerabilities
Technical Report: Decimalisation Table Attacks for PIN Cracking [.pdf]
eWeek: Attack Exposes ATM Vulnerabilities,3959,899796,00.asp
An extremely controversial find by two University of Cambridge researchers has exposed a security weakness in the cryptographic systems used by banks to store personal identification numbers for automatic teller machine cards. The discovery is described in a February 2003 technical report, which states that the vulnerability can be exploited by malicious users to crack the PIN in fifteen guesses, on average, rather than the intended 5,000. The author's work has resulted in one of them being asked to testify in a court case involving "so-called phantom withdrawals from ATMs," as described in an eWeek news article. A South African couple is at the center of the case, who claim that 190 withdrawals were made with their ATM card in the UK. [CL]
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New Dimensions for Manufacturing: A UK Strategy for Nanotechnology [.pdf]
This 76-page report presents a vision for expanded nanotechnology research and development in the UK. Beginning with an overview of the subject and its broad implications for scientific and technological advancement, the paper provides motivation for the UK to compete with other countries to foster innovation. A description of current nanotechnology work in the UK and elsewhere is given, and recommendations for future research in both industry and academia are presented. A particularly enlightening illustration included in the report is an applications tree, which shows many different areas that could benefit from nanotechnology and how they are related. [CL]
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FAST: Fast AQM Scalable TCP [.pdf]
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology, in collaboration with several other organizations, have designed and implemented "a new data transfer protocol for the Internet fast enough to download a full-length DVD movie in less than five seconds." Announced on March 18, 2003, this remarkable feat is an important breakthrough for certain scientific endeavors that are currently impeded by limitations in network speed. The homepage of the FAST project, which is an acronym for Fast Active queue management Scalable Transmission Control Protocol, has an excellent overview of the technology. Many papers that are scheduled to appear in various journals are presented, giving thorough technical details and specifications about the protocol. [CL]
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IEEE CAS Workshop on Wireless Communications and Networking [.pdf]
In September 2002, researchers from universities and technical companies from around the world met for a Workshop on Wireless Communications and Networking. The documents that can be downloaded from this Web page consist of over twenty full papers presented at the event and several more one-page research summaries. Many of the papers address low-power design and issues, while others discuss applications of ultra-wideband technology. [CL]
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Research Review [.pdf]
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has made its 2002 Research Review available at this site. The document can be downloaded as a whole or in segments by its nine subject areas. An interesting look at "low-wind-speed turbines" discusses the importance of several turbine components in designing an efficient, low-cost source of power. Vehicle emissions and hydrogen fuel cell applications are among several other areas covered. The Research Review is written in a very non-technical manner, so it is ideal for anyone wanting to learn about renewable energy and clean technologies. [CL]
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The Interactive Workspaces Project: Experiences with Ubiquitous Computing Rooms [.pdf]
A project of the Stanford University Computer Sciences Department is exploring ways for technology to enhance office productivity. Specifically, researchers use large displays with integrated human-computer interaction to create the iRoom, an interactive workspace of the future. This ubiquitous computing environment is described in a 2002 issue of the Pervasive Computing journal. The article introduces the goals of the project and shows pictures and layouts of the iRoom. Because it is such a multi-faceted project, several different subsystems are outlined and related to the operation of the interactive workspace as a whole. [CL]
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Interference Evaluation of Bluetooth and IEEE 802.11b Systems [.pdf]
This paper from the National Institute of Standards and Technology addresses interference issues stemming from Bluetooth and wireless local area networks (WLAN) operating in the same vicinity. It begins with an overview of each communication medium, describing their individual operation characteristics. The authors then consider how to adjust several different parameters to minimize interference, with special attention given to transmitted power and traffic type, among other things. The on-screen text of this document is slightly blurry for some reason, but it is by no means illegible. [CL]
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Introduction to Matrix Algebra [.pdf]
The author of this online textbook is a professor in the Holistic Numerical Methods Institute at the University of South Florida. Although the book is described as an introductory overview of matrix algebra, it deals with many advanced topics. The first five chapters do indeed cover the fundamentals that are important for most people to understand; however, the last half of the book delves into eigenvectors and other fairly complex methods. The advantage to this arrangement is that the book will be as useful for inexperienced people as it will be for others with some background in linear algebra. Clearly defined terms and example problems make the book quite easy to follow. At the end of each chapter, a small number of homework problems are presented. Solutions are not supplied for all problems, though. [CL]
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Algorithms in the "Real World" [.pdf, .ps, .gz]
Algorithms in the "Real World" is a computer science class at Carnegie Mellon University. While the Course Versions links have information primarily related to each semester's offerings, the rest of the material on this site provides an excellent introduction of the subject matter for anyone who is interested. The lecture notes, which are neatly organized and could easily be made into a book, cover topics like data compression, cryptography, pattern matching, and much more. Links to several on- and offsite research papers, tutorials, and background information are also given. [CL]
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Mathematics Help Central [.pdf]
This helpful site offers a number of resources, mainly intended for college-level mathematics students. The bulk of the site's material is contained in the Lecture Notes section. Seven complete sets of notes from math professors are presented, with emphases on courses in college algebra, pre-calculus algebra and trigonometry, and calculus, among others. Ready-to-print graph paper can be downloaded in a variety of grid sizes and layouts. A section of lecture notes on discrete mathematics is also given, although it is a work in progress. [CL]
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ENGnetBASE: The Mechatronics Handbook [.pdf]
Mechatronics is a multi-disciplinary field that has evolved considerably in the past few years, especially with recent advances in nanotechnology and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). To make the Mechatronics Handbook reflect this fact, almost 90 people from industry and academia contributed to its creation. Published in 2002, the book "provides a unique, detailed overview of this vibrant, dynamic field and sets forth its state of the art." It describes the design process and components of many different mechatronic systems, while at the same time introducing principles from computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. This handbook is possibly the best, most comprehensive online resource dealing with mechatronics. [CL]
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Linear Systems Virtual Experiments: Cleveland State University
Offered by Cleveland State University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, these five virtual experiments "are intended to broaden and deepen a student's understanding of linear systems concepts by allowing interactive exploration of various issues." The experiments start by introducing a certain situation and giving necessary background to understand the properties of the particular linear or nonlinear system. Following the introduction, one or two Java applets allow the user to see the system's response over time. Some topics demonstrated in the experiments include superposition, state feedback, and others. [CL]
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The Wavelet Tutorial: The Engineer's Ultimate Guide to Wavelet Analysis
This site's author created this unique wavelet tutorial to help people with no prior knowledge of wavelet theory. In contrast with many other resources on the topic, which are more advanced in nature, this site starts with a firm overview of the basics and then gradually moves on to subsequent topics of time and frequency domain analysis. The relationship of wavelets to a similar concept, the Fourier transform, is discussed. The four main sections of the tutorial include computer representations that show characteristics of wavelets in two and three dimensions. [CL]
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Best Mechanics [Flash]
Best Mechanics is a three-part Web site consisting of educational material about statics, dynamics, and mechanics of materials. Although it is a work in progress, the site already has the feel of a finished product. The interactive lessons and exercises are visually stunning, progressively leading the user from fundamental topics to more advanced theory. In addition to the impressive animations, the dynamics section has a large selection of completed problems, and the statics section has a page of images that illustrate various concepts. Each learning unit includes an online feedback form that allows users to offer their opinions about the site's design or content. [CL]
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Ultra-Efficient Engine Technology: Kid's Page [Flash, RealPlayer, Windows Media Player, .pdf]
NASA's Ultra-Efficient Engine Technology Program hosts this educational site intended mainly for grade school students. Visitors can browse several sections related to aeronautics and flight technology, including one that discusses career paths leading to work in these fields. An introduction to aerodynamics explains how an airplane's systems and design contribute to its flight. The operation of a jet engine is described in a video clip of a NASA researcher, and details of several different types of jet engines are given in the accompanying text. A new feature on the Web site is a trivia game that teaches children about the history of the Wright brothers and their work. [CL]
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Tech OnLine [RealPlayer, .pdf]
Tech OnLine is a veritable haven for electronics engineers and information technology professionals. After completing the free registration process, users have access to live and archived Web casts, online courses, and technical papers. An example of the roughly hour-long Web casts is a touchscreen liquid crystal display design, but this is just one area of many. The site is continually updated with feature articles that cover many different hot topics, including a recent look at fourth generation wireless communications. A discussion forum is also available, but it does not seem to be very active. [CL]
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Two on SpaceShipOne
Private Manned Space Plane Unveiled
Scaled Composites [.pdf]
On April 18, 2003, an historic event in space travel was marked by the unveiling of the first private manned spacecraft and launch platform (called SpaceShipOne and White Knight, respectively). Already constructed and in the test flight stage of its development, the project was hidden from the public in order to reveal a finished product rather than just schematics. The news article describes the in-flight demonstration of White Knight and the systems testing of SpaceShipOne. Scaled Composites, the private company that developed the spacecraft, gives data sheets and photos on its homepage. A detailed list of frequently asked questions addresses many issues regarding the project and its implications. [CL]
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Government Technology [.pdf]
This informative Web site has a host of resources about government technology practices and issues. The main page is updated daily with news stories about homeland security, Internet trends, and more. An online magazine is published monthly; for example, the April 2003 issue has an interesting article on computer systems that monitor online activity and whether they justify Big Brother concerns. The library offers free access to white papers and case studies. [CL]
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Light Reading: 10-Gigabit Ethernet
Published on March 18, 2003, this report provides an excellent insight into the expanding 10-Gigabit Ethernet technology. The author starts by explaining what 10-Gigabit Ethernet is and what applications are likely to be the first to take advantage of its advanced, high-speed protocol. A market analysis examines current trends of the technology's growth and suggests what the future might hold. A more detailed description of 10-Gigabit Ethernet is then given, highlighting differences between it and its predecessor. Several illustrations and clear descriptions make the material not overly technical in nature. [CL]
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Bruce Clay, LLC: Search Engine Optimization [.pdf]
Anyone who has ever wondered how online search engines determine the order of appearance of Web sites can learn about the complex process here. Web site ranking is more than a curiosity, however, as it can be very important to companies that depend on online recognition. Therefore, this site is also useful because it contains detailed instructions about how to achieve and maintain a high rank. A series of eleven steps are outlined, which must be endlessly repeated to make sure that a Web site's rank does not slip. Even for people who do not have a Web site, this material provides an interesting glimpse into the dynamics of search engines. [CL]
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Discovery Channel: Extreme Engineering [Flash]
Extreme Engineering is a program on the Discovery Channel that unveils "some of the most ambitious architectural plans of our times." The projects highlighted in each episode come from locations around the world. Some are in the planning stages, while others are only theoretical. This Web site serves as a companion to the television broadcasts and has interactive multimedia tours that offer a glimpse of what the projects would look like when completed. An underwater train tunnel linking New York and London, a massive skyscraper city in Tokyo, and a bridge over the Bering Strait are just some of the remarkable projects featured. The online elements are added after the corresponding episode is aired. [CL]
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This Web site is a great reference for any assembly language programmers of the 32- or 64-bit x86 architectures. It has complete information about register locations and contents, instruction operation codes, and data representations. Details about interrupt and exception handling, as well as reset states, are also given. Aside from the architecture descriptions, profiles about specific implementations are offered. All major processor manufacturers are represented here, with facts about physical and electrical characteristics, clock frequencies, and more. The documents section is not accessible to the public. [CL]
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SIAM News Online [.pdf]
The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) online news journal "brings educators and users of mathematics a publication that helps them keep up with the latest developments and issues in their working environment." Released ten times a year, SIAM news includes technical articles, updates about research and scientific breakthroughs, and more. With a broad range of writers and contributors, the publication can be useful for anyone who is part of the math community. [CL]
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Topic In Depth

Online Multi-User Environments
1. Emerging Technologies for Active Learning
2. Virtual Worlds Platform [.mpg, .ppt]
3. On Virtual Economies [.pdf]
4. AquaMOOSE 3D! [.pdf]
5. Exploring New Learning Technologies
6. Harnessing the Hive: How Online Games Drive Networked Innovation [.pdf]$FILE/Rel1_1002.pdf
7. BBC News: Gaming 'is Good for You'
8. Conceptual Learning in Virtual Environments [.pdf]
Online communities have existed since the inception of the World Wide Web, and before that, in the form of bulletin board systems. New technologies are making them much more advanced than the original text interfaces, creating virtual meeting places where users can congregate in a more personal atmosphere. These developments are popularizing online multi-user environments for business, entertainment, education, and recreation.

An article that defines multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) is provided by the Education and Development Center (1). Although it is a bit dated, the information is still accurate and does a good job of explaining the uses of MUVEs, especially in educational settings. Microsoft Research's Social Computing Group (2) lists several implementations of three dimensional virtual worlds. With a wide range of applications in research and academia, the projects are briefly described, and links to most of their homepages are also given. An interesting perspective on the virtual economies of online games is given in a research paper from California State University (3). The author considers whether these games will effect real-world economies, since users can buy items in the virtual world with real money. A research project at Georgia Tech, called AquaMOOSE 3D (4), is a system that allows math students to interactively participate in a virtual world by experimenting with mathematical concepts. The software is freely available for download, as well as three research papers about the software's development and results. In a March 2003 interview with a Harvard professor of learning technology (5), the professor specifically addressed his work with Multi-User Virtual Environment Experimental Simulators (MUVEES). This technology allows students to collaboratively explore a virtual world and answer scientific questions based on what they observe. A link to the MUVEES project Web site is also given. The potential for using online virtual communities in business applications is explored in this issue of Release 1.0 (6). The author notes that advancements to multiplayer games are happening so quickly due, in part, to development done by the users of those games, which is essentially free to the company. This trend of open source cooperation could possibly be extended to the business world as well. A professor at Chicago's Loyola University is researching the social interactions of multiplayer games, and his viewpoints are expressed in this article from the BBC (7). He asserts that, despite the mindlessness that is often attributed to such games, there is a very complex process of communication and teamwork that is often ignored. Rather than simply being an entertaining retreat, the games could possibly have a positive effect on users. Lastly, a short research paper from Wichita State University (8) provides another look at conceptual learning via Collaborative Virtual Environments. The peer-to-peer dynamic of these worlds mimics in-person communication, but the author states that current systems are a long way from being perfect. [CL]
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From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2003.

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Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2003. 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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