The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 11

June 6, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


A Component Architecture for High-Performance Computing [pdf]
This preprint, written by researchers at Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, discusses some important design decisions involved in developing a high-performance computer architecture for scientific applications. The authors introduce the Common Component Architecture and its orientation toward the general computing needs of the scientific community, as opposed to other approaches that are suitable only for specific tasks. The proposed methodology illuminates many aspects of future generations of large scale computing efforts. [CL]
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Developing an Open Source Option for NASA Software [pdf]
A NASA technical report from April 2003 suggests that the agency switch to an open source software development strategy. This report, written at a very basic level, allows for a general audience to understand what constitutes open source and why it can be useful. The 52-page report gives several definitions and outlines benefits associated with such a switch from several different standpoints. Specifically, the implications for academia, software users and developers, and NASA itself are considered individually to show how they might be affected. After identifying several candidates for an open source license, the report recommends the Mozilla Public License. [CL]
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Using Virtual Environments to Study Earthquake Effects on Buildings [QuickTime]
This research paper presents the results of a joint effort between architecture and computer science faculty at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. A Virtual Structural Analysis Program was developed to allow researchers to "create and view realistic building models" in an immersive virtual environment. Taking into account many physical parameters and response criteria, different loads can be applied to the virtual buildings to simulate the effect of an earthquake. Based upon extensive analysis, the authors state that the program can be used to design more earthquake-tolerant buildings and minimize damage costs. [CL]
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MelbourneDAC [pdf]
The Fifth International Digital Arts and Culture Conference was held in May 2003. Nearly 70 papers presented at the event can be viewed online at this Web site. The papers cover a wide range of topics, including Internet shopping, virtual worlds, and multimedia animations. But, one of the most common themes of the conference's proceedings deals with the psychological and technical aspects of video games. Having seen enormous growth in the past few years, especially with the great popularity of online community games, this topic naturally drew the attention of researchers worldwide. Many interesting insights are given in the papers, including one that investigates the relationship between video games and art. [CL]
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KiRo: The Table Soccer Robot [pdf, postscript, Windows Media Player]
The RoboCup Competition was founded with the goal of creating a robot soccer team that can beat the human world champion team by 2050. While it still has a long way to go, progress has been made on another front: table soccer. More commonly known as foosball, the game now has a robotic system that can beat inexperienced players. The system is called KiRo. By "using a camera it perceives the playing field and, (depending) upon the current game situation, it decides how the rods under its control should be moved." KiRo's homepage has pictures and video of the system, as well as a research paper that was presented at the International RoboCup Symposium in 2002. [CL]
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Computer Immune Systems [pdf, postscript]
A research group at the University of New Mexico Computer Science Department is using an analogy to biological immune systems to develop similarly functioning computer security systems. This is a significant departure from existing methods. Computer immune systems are designed to detect and contain intrusions in the same way their biological counterparts deal with viruses and infections. The research group has a large collection of papers from conferences and journals available on its homepage. [CL]
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Power Delivery and Locomotion of Untethered Micro-Actuators [pdf]
The field of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) has gained significant attention in recent years, as micromachining processes and techniques have been refined. One area that has received little attention, however, is autonomous locomotion for MEMS. This research paper presents a method that accomplishes this task. Autonomous locomotion frees the MEMS device from restraining tethers used for power delivery, and results in significantly smaller actuator sizes. The proposed method uses capacitive coupling to power the device. The technique has been implemented and experimental results are provided. [CL]
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Scientific Computing on the Sony Playstation 2
Scientific computing installations traditionally use clusters of workstations for massively parallel processing. This research effort at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is using clusters of the Sony Playstation 2 (PS2) for the same purpose. Since the gaming console has special vector processing capabilities, it is a relatively low-cost implementation that is suitable for complex matrix arithmetic (an important characteristic of most scientific computing applications). Technical aspects of the PS2 are given on the project's homepage, as well as details about networking 65 PS2 consoles. [CL]
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Mathematics & NSA: A Long Term Partnership [pdf]
The National Security Agency (NSA) is said to be "the largest employer of mathematicians in the United States and perhaps the world." Therefore, it works to foster education and interest in mathematics for students at an early age. This page of the NSA Web site has several learning units for elementary, middle, and high school students. The learning units should probably be printed out for students to follow, since many of the exercises are accompanied by graphs or charts that need to be completed. Instructor guidance is not required, but could be useful to introduce each activity. [CL]
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The ASEE EngineeringK12 Center [pdf]
Developed by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), the EngineeringK12 Center provides resources for grade school students, parents, and teachers that promote the discipline. Most of the site's content is found in the Readings section, where users can browse articles from the ASEE Prism magazine and the Journal of Engineering Education, as well as papers presented at the ASEE Annual Conference. The remainder of the site offers links to engineering lesson plans, professional societies, and much more. [CL]
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The Technology Site
This diverse site contains a wide range of educational materials about design technology. Nearly twenty sections describe topics such as electronics, computer control, structures, and graphics techniques, to name a few. Each topic is introduced in a way that draws the readers in and enhances their understanding. This is accomplished with a series of questions, which are not difficult but they effectively reinforce key ideas. Images and figures are included to illustrate various concepts. [CL]
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Robert B. Ash -- Online Algebra Textbooks [pdf]
Robert Ash, a mathematics professor from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offers two graduate level textbooks on his homepage. The first is an introduction to abstract algebra. Roughly 400 pages in length, the book is divided into individual chapters so readers can download only what interests them. The second book, which was released in 2003, covers algebraic number theory. While significantly shorter, it incorporates many of the principles introduced in the abstract algebra book. Solutions to the sample questions scattered throughout each book are given in appendices. [CL]
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Dialog for Kids: Spy Technology [RealOne Player]
Dialog for Kids is a series on Idaho Public Television that lets children "phone, fax or e-mail questions to leading scientists to be answered live, on-air." The May 20, 2003 episode, which can be viewed in its entirety online, addressed various forms of spy technology. This Web site has educational material that complement the episode. Children can learn about the basics of espionage, cryptographic ciphers, and spy tools. A small glossary of terms is also included. After perusing the episode's Web site, users can visit other informative sites via a collection of links to the Central Intelligence Agency and other organizations. [CL]
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Linux/UNIX Tutorial Site
Anyone who needs to become familiar with a UNIX-based operating system will find this Web site very valuable. Through a series of ten key lessons, the user will learn the basics of logging in and browsing the directory structure as well as more advanced concepts such as networking utilities and system administration. Following step-by-step procedures, users can practice fundamental operations without worrying about getting lost. At the end of each lesson, an assignment is given to let users try a similar exercise on their own. A bulletin board is available for people to exchange advice and ideas with other UNIX users. [CL]
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Mathematics: Essays on Mathematical Topics
High school and college students are the target audience of this outstanding math site. The main topics addressed in the nine essays are trigonometry, algebra, and basic calculus. The author does a good job of introducing new concepts and working through examples; however, statements are occasionally made without much justification. Students at the intended level probably do not need detailed proofs for these rare instances, and for the most part, the material is presented in a very organized and comprehensive matter. [CL]
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In many programming languages, pointers are often a topic of much confusion for beginning and intermediate programmers. Rather than holding a specific value like other variable types, pointers hold a memory address that "points" to where a specific value is stored. This comprehensive discussion highlights proper uses of pointers in C and C++, as well as noting the differences in pointer representation between the two languages. Snippets of example code are given for both cases, which can be useful for novices or people with knowledge of only one of the two languages. The author also maintains tutorials on references and objects, array representation, and input/output tips. [CL]
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General The World Service for Nanotechnology [pdf]
This Web site is an information hub for news and developments in the world of nanotechnology. Besides monitoring nanotechnology research in industry, government, and academia, the site runs feature stories roughly every month to keep visitors up to date on some of the most important scientific breakthroughs. Conferences and workshops are also listed in an online calendar of events. Links to full text of many current research papers and articles are provided; however, some are restricted to subscribers. [CL]
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How does it Work??? [Flash]
As part of England's Royal Navy Engineering Sponsorship Scheme at the University of Southampton, this Web site illustrates "how some of the Royal Naval systems work." The material is divided into basic, intermediate, and advanced sections, and it covers topics such as helicopters, radar, sonar, and propulsion. The basic and intermediate sections are suitable for people with little to no prior knowledge of these systems, but the subsequent discussions go into theoretical proofs and more complex properties. Each module builds on the items introduced in the previous one, allowing users to understand one level of abstraction before moving onto the next. [CL]
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W3C: XHTML 2.0 [pdf, postscript, zip, tar]
Web developers will be especially interested in this sneak peek at the next incarnation of the Extensible HyperText Markup Language (XHTML). This is the fifth working draft of the XHTML 2.0 specification produced by the World Wide Web Consortium, an organization that creates standards that maintain interoperability. As can be seen from the list of issues, many unresolved points remain in the specification. However, the progress that has already been made is well documented and shows how the language is evolving. [CL]
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InfoWorld: From the Battlefield to the Enterprise
The recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated the effectiveness of many new technologies. Published on May 30, 2003, this series of special reports looks at the different technologies that were deployed to strengthen intelligence and military capability. The four categories examined are Communications, Security and Data Mining, Supply Chain and Logistics, and Robotics and Automation. Another article considers the history of battle-tested technologies and their subsequent emergence in the world of information technology. Lastly, a look ahead at future soldier equipment and warfare is given. [CL]
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JOONE [pdf, exe, zip, binary]
The Java Object Oriented Neural Engine (JOONE) is "a free neural net framework to create, train and test neural nets." Neural networks are most often used for prediction or "intelligent" computation. Available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems, the tool comes equipped with a graphical user interface and extensive documentation making it easy to operate. The source code for JOONE and all library files necessary to manually compile the software are also included. A short introduction about neural networks is given to help potential users decide whether JOONE suits their needs. [CL]
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IBM: User Engineering
In every kind of product development process, the end result is based solely on the user's experience. The product should be easy to use and suit the customer's needs. This Web site from IBM takes a general look at this principle and delves into the theory of user engineering -- defined as "a discipline for designing user experiences that match users' expectations." After discussing its motivation and phases of the design process, the site elaborates on user-centered design. The content of the site is not specific to any single product category; rather, it can be adapted to nearly any application. [CL]
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TLC: Junkyard Wars [Macromedia Flash Reader]
This is the fan site of The Learning Channel's exciting series, Junkyard Wars. Visitors can read about upcoming episodes and learn about the engineering and technology aspects unique to each week's feature. Junkyard Science is the most informative section, providing insights into vehicle design for land, air, and water. There are descriptions of jet skis, cannons, blimps, and many others with details about how they work and what components are required to make them. An interactive quiz lets visitors test their knowledge of "basic science concepts introduced in the challenges of Junkyard Wars." [CL]
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Chess Championship: Humans vs. Computer
This nine-page article, published on May 4, 2003, discusses the capabilities of computer chess programs and examines the possibility "that artificial intelligence is superior to human mind." Beginning with the realization that most chess grandmasters rely on computers for training, the article proceeds to analyze the dynamic of a game involving a human and a computer. The history of such matches is outlined, showing how computer chess programs have evolved and how the human opponent has to adapt his or her strategy to fit the computer's tactics. The article provides a fascinating insight into past events and future development of artificial intelligence. [CL]
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Topic In Depth

Radio Frequency Identification
1. RFID [pdf, Microsoft Word]
2. Transponder News
3. Security Technologies: Radio Frequency Tags [pdf]
4. Security and Privacy Aspects of Low-Cost Radio Frequency Identification Systems [pdf]
5. Bluetooth/802.11 Protocol Adaptation for RFID Tags [pdf]
6. The Best Thing since the Bar Code
7. EE Times: Navy to Use RFID Technology in Iraq
8. RFID News
Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a kind of automatic identification technology that allows virtually anything to be tracked without human intervention. It is often used in inventory management but has many other uses as well, including theft prevention and vehicle identification. The technology uses transceiver tags and an electronic reader to monitor items with radio communication.
A wealth of information about RFID is available at this site (1), ranging from background material to case studies. A discussion highlighting the myriad of uses for RFID is included. Transponder News (2) offers several articles that explore the technology in greater detail. Two in particular look at current and future trends, while others are editorial essays and technical notes. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (3) is involved in the development of advanced tags for RFID systems. The project's homepage outlines current research efforts for three different types of radio frequency tags, which are being designed for varying degrees of sophistication and functionality. While RFID technology can be very useful, the fact that information about items is collected remotely raises concerns about privacy and security. This issue is addressed in a research paper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (4). The authors review current RFID systems and their operation, and then propose a number of security mechanisms that could reduce the risk associated with their use. A paper presented at the 2002 European Wireless Conference (5) compares the performance of RFID systems that use ultra-high frequency (UHF) communications to those that use microwave communications. It is argued that although microwave-based devices, such as Bluetooth, are suitable for worldwide operation, systems that communicate in the UHF range have greater range and less interference. The introduction of RFID smart tags in goods is discussed in this article (6). Now that these tags are cheap enough to be attached to thousands of items, stores will be able to track goods as they are transferred from storehouses to retail shelves, thereby minimizing the possibility of loss or theft. RFID technology has found another use in the war with Iraq. An article from May 20, 2003 (7) describes wristbands embedded with an RFID chip. The status and position of a wounded soldier who is wearing such a wristband can be monitored while he or she is recovering at a medical facility. For additional updates on the development of RFID technology, RFID News (8) maintains current news about emerging standards, innovative applications, and general issues. [CL]
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From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2003.

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