The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 9

May 9, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Odyssey Telecommunications [.pdf]
As part of a series of design and performance summaries of several different NASA spacecraft, this 78-page report addresses the communications systems of the Mars Odyssey, which is orbiting the red planet. Beginning with an overview of Odyssey's mission objectives and phases, the report then delves into specifics of X-Band and UHF telecommunication. Odyssey is equipped with technology that allows it to send and receive information from Earth (via the Deep Space Network) and eventually from vehicles on the surface of Mars. All previous articles in this series are available from the Deep Space Communications and Navigation Systems Center of Excellence (DESCANSO) home page. [CL]
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Peephole Displays: Pen Interaction on Spatially Aware Handheld Computers [.pdf, .avi]
Drawing on previous work in the area of spatially aware displays, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley has devised a novel method of interacting with touch screens of handheld computers. Especially for applications like drawing, the displays of these devices can be prohibitively small. By augmenting handhelds with position tracking equipment, users have a "larger virtual workspace" with which to manipulate the pen or pointing device. An April 2003 conference paper summarizing this research is available at this Web site along with a video clip demonstrating Peephole Displays. [CL]
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Centibots: The 100 Robots Project [.pdf, .zip, .mov, .avi]
Involving two universities and two research organizations, this multi-tiered project is "aimed at developing new technology to support the coordinated deployment of as many as 100 robots for missions such as urban surveillance." One of the most significant tasks concerns the problem of designing the robots to efficiently work together as a team. Many technical details of the project are given, as well as a short list of downloadable papers and presentations. Information about completed and scheduled experiments, along with many pictures and a couple video clips, are available on this Web site. [CL]
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IEEE Working Group Areas [.pdf, .ppt]
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is one of the most active organizations in developing standards for emerging technologies. At this site, visitors can learn about many different working groups and the process of implementing new standards. Each working group's homepage has an overview of the purpose and scope of the particular standards project, and some offer reports and documentation for public download. The IEEE is involved in many different technical areas, as is immediately apparent when looking at the list of projects. Power and Energy and Information Technology are the two most prominent areas of standards development, but others range from broadcast technology to the voting system. [CL]
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Internet Quarantine: Requirements for Containing Self-Propagating Code [.pdf, .ps, .gz]
Appearing at the INFOCOM conference in April 2003, this research paper provides insight into critical factors necessary to contain outbreaks of self-propagating code on the Internet. Citing the outbreak of the Code-Red worm in 2001 as an example, the authors justify the need for better methods of quickly controlling the spread of malicious code and minimizing damage. A couple scenarios for the deployment of a containment systems are identified, and their simulated effectiveness for dealing with a worm outbreak are discussed. The paper serves as a good starting point for anyone interested in learning about the technical issues associated with self-propagating code, and can also be useful for Internet security professionals who need to evaluate current containment systems or implement new ones. [CL]
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Design and Demonstration of an Advanced On-Board Processor for the Second-Generation Precipitation Radar [.pdf]
The on-board processor of a prototype NASA satellite is described in this technical paper from 2003. A Next-Generation Precipitation Radar, the satellite will require a processor capable of meeting "the challenging requirements for measuring precipitation from space." Many engineers and technology professionals who work with field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) will find this report of interest, as it describes a remarkable processing system that uses FPGAs to satisfy the requirements of the satellite. The innovations used in the system's design push the limits of FPGA technology, as is shown by the authors. [CL]
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Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team [.pdf]
The Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team at Cornell University has been active for over a decade, and it has consistently performed well at competitions. The team's homepage has a chronology of all vehicles with which it has worked. Images and brief synopses attest to the effort that went into each one, as well as what characteristics made each stand out. Additionally, an informative section on electric and hybrid electric vehicles describes the motivation for the team's work and some of the design challenges that still need to be considered. Several publications and newsletters are available for download, showcasing some of the recent accomplishments of the team. [CL]
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Power Evaluation of a Handheld Computer [.pdf]
In this case study from researchers at Hewlett-Packard, the power characteristics of a handheld computer were evaluated. The purpose of the study was to shed some light on how battery operated handhelds consume power under representative workloads, possibly leading to more efficient "low-power design and power management." Experimental procedures and results are presented for extensive battery lifetime analyses over several benchmarks. The authors state that this research can be used as a starting point for hardware and software designers of handheld devices to more effectively gauge battery performance. [CL]
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Evoweb: The EvoNet Online Tutorial
This tutorial on evolutionary computation is offered by an authority on the subject, the European Network of Excellence in Evolutionary Computing. As the name implies, evolutionary computation is based on natural processes. For example, an emphasis of the tutorial is on genetic algorithms, which evolve by taking the best characteristics of preceding generations. This is analogous to living organisms, where offspring have many traits of their parents. Some historical information related to the development of evolutionary computation and its subdivisions is provided, but most of the material describes the processes and operations of various techniques. [CL]
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PSpice Tutorials
Spice is a language used to describe and model electrical circuits. A derivative of the language is PSpice, which is one of the most widely used tools for simulating circuit components and various parameters. The tutorials presented on this Web site of the University of Texas at Arlington provide a thorough overview of PSpice. Examples of proper syntax are given, beginning with the basic notation used to describe connectivity within a circuit. Various circuit elements are then introduced, and the process of performing transient analysis is given. The only concept that is not addressed in these tutorials is the specification of transistors, but this might be more advanced than the intended audience. [CL]
[Back to Contents] Daily Brains
Six days a week, a new math problem is posted on this Web site to intrigue and challenge grade school students. Each Daily Brain has a different theme, considering some mathematical perspective of science, history, geography, and more. After solving the problem, or for a little help, students can look at a step-by-step solution that is also posted online. All old Daily Brains are kept in an archive, and as of May 2003, they numbered around 400. The problems are mostly intended for students between fourth and sixth grades. [CL]
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Beyond Discovery: The Code War [.pdf]
This fascinating article explores the history and development of cryptography. Published in February 2003 by a division of the National Academy of Sciences, the article has substantial information on the applications of encryption in today's wired world. Additionally, it looks back at some of the most important breakthroughs related to number theory, spanning over two millennia. Some mildly technical descriptions of cryptographic techniques are included, but they are suitable for most audiences. Although the article can be downloaded as a single file, the online version includes an integrated glossary that defines many terms appearing in the text; users can simply click on the hyperlinked word to see the definition. [CL]
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Linear Algebra [.pdf, .zip]
A mathematics professor from Saint Michael's College is the author of this free online textbook about linear algebra. Being just shy of 450 pages, the book is very comprehensive and of high quality. It gives an excellent introduction into topics such as vector spaces, linear systems, and determinants, and the author is quite good at defining a consistent notation throughout the book. Each chapter has several examples that demonstrate the concepts, concluding with exercises to be solved by the reader. Solutions to the exercises are given in a separate file. [CL]
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Walk Through a Hydroelectric Project
The Foundation for Water and Energy Education offers this informative guide to hydroelectric power. To begin with, users can tour a hydroelectric dam by clicking on successive systems shown in a diagram. This part of the guide is somewhat lacking in content, as it is mainly illustrations with little explanation. However, the rest of the guide is more illuminating. Other sections show users how dams can accommodate fish, and a more specific description of a hydropower generator is also available. One of the best resources is the timeline, which charts many of the most important developments in hydropower since 500 BC. [CL]
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Complex Numbers and Trigonometry [.pdf]
Complex numbers have applications in many applied sciences. This online text begins with an introduction to trigonometry, which serves as a starting point for additional discussion about complex numbers (also known as imaginary numbers). The drawings and figures are the only notable downside to this excellent resource, because many of them are somewhat crude; however, they are still fairly easy to follow. The book can be read online or downloaded for offline viewing. [CL]
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An Introduction to Programming Languages
Anyone who already knows one programming language and is considering learning another will find this site very helpful. "It describes some of the differences between common programming languages and considers why and how a new language should be learnt." Furthermore, it provides a set of classifications that can easily be used to identify which language is the most appropriate for the programmer's needs. In this respect, the material defines such concepts as threads, data structures, and object oriented programming. It does not provide excessive details about any single language; rather, it simply serves as a guide to evolve into a more well-rounded programmer. [CL]
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TRN: Technology Research News
"Technology Research News (TRN) is an independent publisher and news service dedicated to covering technology research developments in university, corporate and government labs." The TRN Web site incorporates prominent and interesting news stories from these sources in a weekly online magazine. The scope of the magazine is quite broad, but commonly featured research includes nanotechnology, breakthroughs in computers and computing, and telecommunications. The Research Directory is the easiest way to find articles about specific topics, and a page of external links provides a good list of useful resources and directories. [CL]
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Internet Art Commissions for 2002
This virtual project of the Guggenheim museum showcases two examples of Internet-based artwork and gives an overview of the significance and origins of this artistic medium. The meaning behind the two works may not be clear until reading the associated project descriptions and essays. The creations, called Unfolding Object and net.flag, are intended to allow viewers to "explore communal interactivity in a virtual space." Visitors to this online exhibit can also read the Ten Myths of Internet Art, which refutes several misconceptions people have about the subject. [CL]
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Yesterday's Tomorrows [.pdf]
When reading old books that alluded to present day, it is always interesting to note how the authors perceived the world of the future. In some cases, they were remarkably accurate, while in others, they were ridiculously far off. This site is the online home of a traveling exhibition of the Smithsonian Institution and the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The exhibition "explores the history of the future -- our expectations and beliefs about things to come." Visitors to the Web site can view image galleries for each of the exhibit's four themes, or test their knowledge of the future with a fun online quiz. Several lesson plans presented by the New York Times and a 30-page teacher's guide are also available. [CL]
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The H-1 Flies Again! [.mov, .mpg, .mp3, .wav, RealAudio, .pdf]
On July 9, 2002, a project to build a replica of the famous Hughes H-1 airplane reached its pinnacle when the finished product took off from Cottage Grove State Airport. The homepage provides many details of the design process and a thorough background on the historical significance of the H-1. A large collection of photos and video clips show the replica being constructed and flown. Several audio clips are also presented that feature Howard Hughes, the creator of the original 1935 H-1, discussing such things as the future of aviation and an amazing emergency landing with the landing gear up. [CL]
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Java Mathematical Expression Parser [.zip, .gz]
The Java Mathematical Expression Parser (JEP) is a handy tool "for parsing and evaluating mathematical expressions." It is a no-frills package that incorporates several important features, including user-definable functions and implicit multiplication for easy use. JEP can be downloaded as a complete application, or a couple of its features can be used online as applets. There is a separate page of documentation and installation instructions. Also available on this Web site is the AutoAbacus, which allows users to input a system of equations and obtain the solutions instantaneously. [CL]
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Great Projects: The Building of America [RealPlayer, .pdf]
Some of the most famous engineering projects are the focus of this series of four programs from PBS. The first looks at the flood prevention systems implemented for the Mississippi River and the Hoover Dam used to harness water resources from the Colorado River in the early 1900s. The development of the US national electric system is discussed in the second. The last two consider the bridges of New York City and the Big Dig in Boston. The online components include synopses of the projects, video clips, transcripts of interviews, and an online quiz. [CL]
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Al Teich's Technology and the Future Toolkit
The Tidbit of the Week is a Web site that features an interesting perspective of current and historical technology-related issues. Originally updated each week, the frequency of new additions has dropped to once a month for 2003. The Tidbit for May discusses the innovation and the establishment that sparked the dawn of fast food: the Automat. Although this might seem a bit outlandish, past topics include the Iridium satellite system, snow removal technology, and nuclear fusion; and they can all be browsed via the archive. After a brief essay, most of the Tidbits have several links where readers can learn more about the subject. [CL]
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Two on Tidal Power
San Francisco to Test Tides for Energy
The Australian Greenhouse Office: Tidal Power
A plan to construct the United State's first tide-driven power plant under the Golden Gate Bridge is outlined in a May 8, 2003 news article. The project, if approved, will install a system of turbines on the sea floor; tidal currents will then turn the turbines and generate electricity for San Francisco and surrounding areas. Environmental considerations are also touched upon in the article. A more detailed description of tidal power is given on the Web site of the Australian Greenhouse Office. This page explains the notion of harnessing the tide and illustrates a few designs of systems that can accomplish the task. [CL]
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Topic In Depth

1. Information about Spam
2. CAUCE: Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email
3. Paul Graham: Spam
4. Spam Conference [RealPlayer]
5. Selling Interrupt Rights: A Way to Control Unwanted E-mail and Telephone Calls [.pdf]
6. PHEmail: Designing a Privacy Honoring Email System [.pdf]
7. InformationWeek: Attacking Spam on Multiple Fronts
8. Virginia Threatens Spammers with Jail Time
Anyone who has an email account knows the annoyance and frustration caused by unwanted junk email messages. Spam also creates substantial Internet traffic, which is more than irritating for systems that have to handle the extra load. For many problems associated with spam, great efforts are being undertaken by industry and government organizations to curb its spread.

The basic social and technical issues of spam are defined at this helpful Web site (1). In addition to outlining the reasons why spam is bad, an interesting account about the true nature of removal lists is given. The Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (2) provides a more in-depth discussion of how spamming works and how vendors exploit it. An extensive section about spam-related legislation includes both national and state movements. A great collection of articles written by an authority on the subject, Paul Graham, are available on his homepage (3). The articles mostly address filtering technologies that automatically remove junk email; Graham also maintains links to resources and tools that can be useful for controlling spam. On January 17, 2003, the Spam Conference (4) was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Video of the presentations can be viewed online, and several of the speakers have provided links to their papers and research. A novel approach to deal with spam is proposed by a researcher from IBM. In his paper (5), he suggests a method of implementing a system in which the targets of spam can choose to collect a modest fee if they feel that they have been unnecessarily interrupted. If it were possible for a person to keep their email address private, spam would not be as big of a problem. This issue is addressed in a short paper from the Georgia Institute of Technology (6). The authors describe an email system that maintains a user's privacy by controlling how their email address is disseminated. An anti-spam bill introduced in the US Senate in April 2003 is discussed in this news article (7). If passed, the bill would allow email users to register online to not receive commercial advertisements. In a related story (8) from Virginia, legislators have enacted a law that allows very tough punishments for mass emailing. Violators can face stiff fines and even jail time. [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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