The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 10

May 23, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


A Conceptual Design for the Space Launch Capability of the Peacekeeper ICBM [pdf]
The Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was originally intended for military use, but this paper considers how minimal modifications could transform it into a "rapid resupply system for the International Space Station (ISS)." A detailed overview of many important facets of the conceptual Peacekeeper Space Launch Vehicle is given. Possible propulsion configurations, ISS interfacing equipment, and payload characteristics are compared. An analysis of each of these items is shown and a final recommendation is made based on the goal of achieving maximum payload. The importance of this research could be much greater in light of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. [CL]
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Retinex Image Processing [pdf]
Retinex Image Processing technology, developed by NASA, is used to compensate for the effect of poor lighting in recorded images. Shadows, changes in the color of illumination, and several other factors can cause image quality to be highly variable. Using an advanced system that sharpens images and efficiently renders colors, a much more constant image quality can be achieved regardless of the lighting. Retinex technology is described in several online publications that can be downloaded from this Web site. Additionally, some example pictures of scenes taken with and without the image processing are shown. [CL]
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Data to Decision [Microsoft PowerPoint, RealOne Player]
The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) engineering school held its annual Research Review on February 28, 2003. The theme of the event was "DATA to Decision: Predicting, Assessing, and Responding to Today's Challenges." Four industry representatives and six UCSD faculty members gave presentations, which are viewable online. The presentations, averaging twenty minutes in length, vary in topic but all address new developments and trends in engineering. Slides of each speaker's presentation are also downloadable. [CL]
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Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat [pdf]
The inaugural issue of the journal of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, CTBUH Review, was released online in April 2003 and can be downloaded from the council's homepage. Several technical articles and an in-depth case study of a featured project, the IDX Tower in Seattle, comprise the 64 pages. Special attention is given to post-September 11 building design. The journal is scheduled to be published quarterly, but it is unclear whether future issues will remain available free online. Although it may take a while to download on slow connection, it is well worth the wait. [CL]
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What This Country Needs is an 18-Cent Piece [postscript]
In this highly original research paper, a computer science professor from the University of Waterloo formulates a problem to optimize coin denominations so that the fewest number of coins are returned when making change. By creating and solving a cost function, the author shows that the current system of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters could be significantly improved by switching the dime to an eighteen cent piece. The mathematical analysis used to arrive at this conclusion is clearly defined and quite interesting. While the reasoning is sound, the proposal will almost surely never be realized since the math of making change is easier with the current system. [CL]
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A Cockroach Inspired Robot with Artificial Muscles [pdf]
The Biologically Inspired Robotics Laboratory at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) has created many unique robots. This research paper describes the process of designing and constructing one of the newest creations, a robotic cockroach. Weighing over 30 pounds, the CWRU Robot V is much larger than its real-life counterpart but its design closely approximates the movements of an actual roach. Some background about previous work is given in this paper followed by a detailed look at the characteristics and operation of the Robot V. Much more of the lab's work can be discovered at its homepage. [CL]
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Creating Science-Driven Computer Architecture: A New Path to Scientific Leadership [pdf]
Motivated by Japan's recent accomplishment of building the world's fastest supercomputer, this report discusses a methodology for creating "a new class of computational capability in the United States that is optimal for science." With the needs of several different scientific disciplines in mind, the report outlines the goals of the IBM Blue Gene and the proposed Blue Planet projects. Specific architectural characteristics are defined that will be needed to accommodate the scientific community. Milestones are laid out through 2009 and a number of alternative technologies that should be explored are also mentioned. This report provides an excellent glimpse into the future of large-scale scientific computing. [CL]
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CryptoBytes Technical Newsletter [pdf, zip]
A free online publication by RSA Security, CryptoBytes generally consists of three or four technical articles on some aspect of cryptography. The latest issue, Spring 2003, addresses the topics of Radio Frequency Identification, public key encryption, and "Side-Channel Cryptanalysis." Each article is presented in research paper format and provides a thorough discussion of the subject. Contributions to CryptoBytes come from corporate research centers and academia. The newsletter is published on an irregular basis but averages two releases per year. [CL]
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NACME Guide Me [Windows Media Player]
The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) offers this site to encourage minority youth to pursue a career as an engineer. One of many features is an online questionnaire that can help students identify what area of engineering best suits their personal tastes. Several short video clips show professional engineers describing their work and what kinds of applications relate to their field. High school students can find a number of tips for selecting and applying to college. Resources for parents and educators are also available. [CL]
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Maths Help: Working with Vectors
Analysis of a wide range of physical properties such as force, velocity, and acceleration, requires a firm understanding of the mathematics of vectors. This comprehensive Web site covers many aspects of vector algebra and trigonometry. The often-used dot product and cross product are defined, as well as vector representations of lines and planes. Illustrations are used to demonstrate vector analysis and its real-world applications. A few extra sections delve into related topics, including transformation between Cartesian and spherical coordinates. The material is mostly suitable for high school or college students who have taken pre-calculus. [CL]
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Everything about Construction Equipment [Macromedia Flash Player]
Children can learn about bulldozers, hydraulic excavators, and other construction equipment at this fun Web site. Cartoon animations show the operation of the main systems in these vehicles. The interactive applications give the user an operator's view of the machines and even show the location and function of several controls. While keeping a fairly simplistic perspective, the material explains some more advanced concepts such as hydraulic cylinders. Three methods used in construction to transform unwanted materials into something useful are also highlighted. [CL]
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The Calculus Bible [pdf]
The Calculus Bible has many of the features of a standard calculus textbook and is freely available online. The e-book is nearly 400 pages in length and is divided into nine separate chapters. A significant portion of the text is devoted to derivatives and integrals. Other topics include limits, infinite series, and analytic geometry. Each chapter concludes with several practice problems. Unfortunately, answers for these exercises are not available. As of May 2003, only the online text is available. The problem database and other features are probably still being implemented. [CL]
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Advancing Excellence in Technological Literacy [pdf]
Grade school teachers and curriculum developers will be interested in this 152-page document from the International Technology Education Association, published in 2003. The report "presents standards and enabling guidelines for student assessment, professional development of teachers, and the program infrastructure associated with the study of technology in Grades K-12." The importance of technological literacy is emphasized and several key practices are suggested to strengthen student understanding and ability in this area. [CL]
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First grade math students, college-level calculus students, and anyone in between will find many useful resources on this site. Most of the site's material is comprised of tables, formulae, and mathematical identities spread across many different topics. Tables for addition, multiplication, and fraction conversion are provided for children just learning the basics. More experienced students will find information on algebra, trigonometry, statistics, and more. The entire contents of the site can be downloaded as a single file for offline viewing. [CL]
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As its name implies, this site is intended for people who are new to computers and/or the Internet. The sections are organized in a way that will guide users through the most fundamental functions and on to more advanced topics. Rather than just explaining how to do a particular task, several screenshots show exactly what buttons to push and when to push them. Step-by-step instructions are given for searching the Internet, downloading and installing programs, and managing cookies, to name a few. More advanced users can learn how to write basic HTML code to create a personal Web page. An extremely active discussion board lets users post their questions or answer others. [CL]
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Simple Machines [Macromedia Flash Player]
This series of three interactive, multimedia activities introduce and demonstrate the properties of six simple machines. Specifically, the lessons show how levers, pulleys, inclined planes, screws, wheels and axles, and wedges can reduce the amount of work done by humans. After learning about the characteristics of each classification, users can try to find the simple machines that make up a lawn mower. By inspecting the mower from different angles, several simple machines are revealed and must be identified. The final activity lets users test their knowledge of the mechanics of simple machines. Following a builder through each stage of constructing a tree house, users can apply equations to determine the mechanical advantage supplied by using the tools. [CL]
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The V/STOL Wheel of Mis-Fortune [exe]
Vertical and/or short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) aircraft have historically been much less studied that their counterparts that need runways to become airborne. "The V/STOL Wheel is a graphic diagram of all 45 types of aircraft that have been built and tested." While clearly there have been more than that number of models designed and built by many companies, the wheel represents 45 classifications of this highly versatile aircraft. Pictures and descriptions are given for all airplanes and helicopters identified in the wheel. The tail sitters aircraft are especially interesting because of their outlandish designs. [CL]
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Distributed Intrusion Detection System [exe]
Internet worms and other malicious code often scan firewalls to determine which ports are unprotected. While firewall users have access to their port scanning data in the form of log files, most do not make use of it. The Distributed Intrusion Detection System remotely monitors trends in worldwide port scanning, and the data it has collected is available at this site. The data can be used by Internet professionals for early detection of worms or for implementing improved security measures. Firewall users can contribute to this project by downloading the free DShield Client, which automatically sends log reports for inclusion in worldwide data or by submitting logs online via a Web interface. [CL]
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The Tech Dictionary is one of the most massive online compilations of technical terms and jargon, but it has much more to offer than just definitions. Descriptions of virtually all domain name suffixes that appear in Web addresses (i.e., .com, .org, etc.) are given, including those that were recently added by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Hundreds of filename extensions are also listed for both PC and UNIX-based operating systems. The Tech Dictionary also serves as a news source, with links to technology and virus related news stories updated daily. [CL]
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World's Smallest Film Festival [QuickTime]
The World's Smallest Film Festival "is the first competitive showcase of digital video content for the new generation of mobile phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices." The event concluded at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association Wireless conference in March 2003, but the films that were submitted to the festival can be viewed online. Running up to seven minutes in length, the films demonstrate the rapid advancements in mobile multimedia technology. [CL]
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Beagle 2
In June 2003, the European Space Agency will launch its Mars Express spacecraft on a roughly two-year mission to gather data on the Red Planet. After its six-month journey, the Mars Express will release the Beagle 2 probe, which will land to conduct scientific experiments. The homepage of Beagle 2 contains plenty of information about the technology that was developed specifically for its advanced systems. For example, a "mole" is an attachment that can move away from the probe, burrow into the ground, collect a sample, and return to the probe. The mole is one of many innovations described online. Updates about the project's status are also available. [CL]
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Information for New and Home Users [pdf]
The CERT Coordination Center, which specializes in computer security issues, maintains this site to help home computer users understand the importance of proper security practices. Anyone who is setting up their first system or who has put off learning about this critical subject should consider following the advice presented here. The first section, Home Computer Security, contains the bulk of the site's information and "provides examples, checklists, and a glossary you can use to secure your home computer." The remaining four sections are shorter articles that offer important insights into safe practices online. [CL]
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Getting Connected: Your Home and the Internet [RealOne Player]
Bob Vila, the well known home repair and improvement guru, teams with the Internet Home Alliance (IHA) to offer a series of articles covering new technologies that can enhance the Internet connectivity of a house. One of the most interesting articles pertains to emerging home wiring techniques that combine device feeds such as power, Ethernet, telephone, and cable in a single wire bundle and multi-port outlet. Other features, including remote energy management and wireless networking, are also covered. Several short video clips with Vila and the president of the IHA can be viewed. [CL]
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Space Shuttle: The Next Generation,12543,443762-1,00.html
In a May 2003 online feature of Popular Science magazine, several potential candidates for replacing NASA's aging space shuttles are examined. Although budget problems have made the outlook somewhat bleak for any new designs in the near future, a number of existing proposals are outlined. An especially eye-catching concept is an enormous flying wing, which would climb to 40,000 feet and serve as a launching pad for a rocket. Another possibility, which would be an intermediate step before the full-fledged shuttle replacement, is the Orbital Space Plane. This would likely be less complex than the shuttle while serving as a manned or unmanned taxi to space. The five-page article also describes NASA's changing needs and how the shuttle no longer meets them. [CL]
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Topic In Depth

Electronic Surveillance
1. Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act: AskCALEA [pdf]
2. Center for Democracy and Technology: Government Surveillance
3. American Civil Liberties Union: Q&A on the Pentagon's "Total Information Awareness Program"
4. Information Leakage from Optical Emanations [pdf]
5. The Register: Secure Phones No Obstacle to Wiretapping - US Govt
6. Workplace Privacy - An Oxymoron [pdf]
7. CALEA: Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act
8. Feds Look to Expand Electronic Surveillance,aid,109293,00.asp
Electronic surveillance technologies have been used legally -- and sometimes illegitimately -- by government organizations and corporate bodies for many years. Since September 11, 2001, the topic has drawn significant attention from people both supporting and opposing the development of more advanced, more widely reaching surveillance practices.
The FBI maintains a Web site (1) that explains the purposes and ramifications of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). In addition to discussing the telecommunication industry's role in supporting the act, the site defines electronic surveillance and offers several documents regarding associated legal issues. An excellent source for government surveillance information comes from the Center for Democracy and Technology (2). The material includes an overview of wiretapping and details about government interceptions of Internet communications. Shortly after the terrorist attacks, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency began the Total Information Awareness (TIA) Program. This highly controversial project is introduced by the American Civil Liberties Union (3). The site does a good job of describing the objectives of the TIA, and several links to other sources of information are given. In a technical paper published in August 2002 (4), researchers show that optical emanations from telecommunications devices can be monitored remotely. Light emitting diodes, often used as indicators in modems and other data transfer equipment, flash in distinct patterns that could compromise otherwise secure data transmission. Despite being easy to exploit, the authors point out that this vulnerability would generally be simple to fix. A news story from May 16, 2003 (5) highlights a recent US Government report stating that secure telephones can be wiretapped nearly as easily as standard phones. The article is accompanied by links to the original report and an essay on security. Companies often monitor employee computer and email activity. A law professor from Bentley College writes about workplace privacy in an essay from 2003 (6). Citing a number of hypothetical examples, the author weighs the employees' rights versus those of the company. The technical implementation of the aforementioned CALEA is described in a detailed article from May 2003 (7). The needs of law enforcement are compared to what is achieved with the resulting systems and technology, and a few statistics are included to show that electronic surveillance can be effective. Lastly, an article from PC World (8) reports that the US Government is seeking to increase its surveillance of email and Web usage. The article includes a link to the 120-page draft of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003. [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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