The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 14

July 18, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Economic and Social Council: First Annual Report of the Information and Communication Technologies Task Force [pdf]
This report from the United Nations' Information and Communication Technologies Task Force summarizes the group's objectives and findings in its first year of operation. It gives an enlightening view og the world's technological growth, with comparisons between developed, emerging, and impeded economies. Several notable trends are examined, and specific technologies, such as mobile telephones and the Internet, are addressed. The information is presented to serve as a resource for advancing "the global effort to bridge the digital divide and foster digital opportunity." [CL]
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Transportation Research Circular: Future Aviation Activities [pdf]
The 12th International Workshop on Future Aviation Activities was held in September 2002, and this collection of presentation transcripts was released the following January. Many references to the September 11 terrorist attacks are made, especially concerning airport security measures and changes in the public's views of flying. Speakers also addressed long-term trends in air transportation, such as airspace capacity and general aviation growth. Nearly every kind of aviation was discussed; ranging from domestic to international activities and airports to manufacturers, the event had implications for the industry as a whole. [CL]
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BSA: Global Software Piracy Study [pdf]
The Business Software Alliance published its eighth annual Global Software Piracy Study in June 2003, which reflects the spread of illegal copyrighted software distribution in many countries around the world. The study's homepage features regional highlights that summarize piracy rate trends, while the study itself can be viewed by following the easily overlooked link on the right side of the page. In addition to providing statistics for over 90 countries in 2002, the document also includes historical figures that show how each country has been affected by piracy over the previous eight years. [CL]
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Emerging Wireless Technologies: Bluetooth and Ultra-Wideband [pdf]
Ball State University's Institute for Wireless Innovation is the source of this white paper that compares two of the most prominent wireless technologies. Rather than addressing each one simultaneously, the authors effectively separate the paper into two disjoint sections. The first deals with Bluetooth, a fairly well established communication specification that allows for fast and relatively inexpensive wireless links. Ultra-wideband is outlined in the second section. This technology has emerged as a wireless candidate much more recently, and it is still being developed for personal and commercial applications. The nearly 50-page paper is an outstanding introduction to the differences, both in benefits and drawbacks, of Bluetooth and ultra-wideband technologies. [CL]
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Integrating Content Management with Digital Rights Management [pdf]
This white paper, published in May 2003, explores the task of effectively managing digital content while incorporating and protecting the digital rights associated with the content. The authors begin by defining a content management system as it is discussed in their paper and outline the key components and capabilities of such a system. After touching on the foundations of digital rights, the paper then argues for the adoption of a "Rights Expression Language" to integrate digital rights information throughout every stage of content creation and distribution. [CL]
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Mimesis [pdf]
As part of the North Carolina State University Department of Computer Science, Mimesis is a project that "explores the use of computer game test-beds for research in artificial intelligence, interactive entertainment and educational software." A detailed overview of the Mimesis system architecture can be found on its homepage, as well as a few examples of virtual worlds created with the system that demonstrates different application areas to which it can be applied. A large collection of recent research papers are available for public access, offering greater insight into the theory behind interactive narrative models and virtual cinematography. [CL]
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"Smart" Base Isolation Systems [pdf]
Published in the October 2002 issue of the Journal of Engineering Mechanics, this research paper proposes a novel method of seismic base isolation. This technique is used to mitigate "the effects of an earthquake by essentially isolating the structure and its contents from potentially dangerous ground motion." The authors compare their method to several established base isolation strategies by simulating each under varying conditions for historical earthquakes. They show that the derived system provides significant improvement over the other candidates. [CL]
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Dartmouth Symposium on the Future of Computer Music Software: A Panel Discussion [pdf]
This article, which appeared in the winter 2002 issue of the Computer Music Journal, is an edited transcript of the Dartmouth Symposium on the Future of Computer Music Software. The topics discussed at the event varied widely, but most were centered on experimental software as opposed to normative utilities like mixers and virtual studios. By following this subject track for the symposium, participants shared their viewpoints about the evolution of computer music software and highlighted current projects that are developing such software. Both panel members and audience participants contributed to the discussion, which allowed for a broad range of opinions and musical backgrounds. [CL]
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BOWest Pty Ltd: Electrical & Project Engineering
An Australian consulting company maintains this valuable Internet resource for electrical engineers. Many theorems and formulae are included, ranging from fundamental voltage and current laws to transformers and three-phase circuits. The site lists common practices for reducing circuits into simpler representations, which facilitates the process of circuit analysis. Anyone who designs or evaluates analog circuits can benefit from the material, and engineering students can make use of the site by printing each page as a quick reference sheet. Unfortunately, no diagrams accompany the discussions, and this is one area in which the site is clearly lacking. [CL]
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According to its author, this site was created to provide the public with an "'upper secondary' math tutorial." It is immediately apparent that this can include many different subject areas and, indeed, the site addresses topics ranging from trigonometry to linear algebra to calculus. Each concept is introduced with clear, concise explanations and illustrative figures, and several sample problems are given with accompanying solutions. The only minor fault with this site is the use of plain text to represent formulas; although they can still be fairly easily interpreted, an equation tool would be better. Apart from the tutorials and problem sets, the author also provides links to many other educational math Web sites. [CL]
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Learning Technologies Project [Macromedia Flash Reader, exe, zip, pdf, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Powerpoint]
The NASA Learning Technologies Project (LTP) showcases many initiatives that "incorporate NASA content with revolutionary technologies or innovative use of entrenched technologies to enhance education in the areas of math and science." The Education Resources section features three software titles that can be freely downloaded, mainly consisting of three-dimensional visualization activities for planets and the solar system. Extensive information about current projects under development is given, and links to the homepages of completed projects lead users to other educational material. The LTP does an excellent job of bringing some of the most enjoyable and high-tech learning projects to light, and it exemplifies NASA's longstanding role in teaching the public about its diverse work. [CL]
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Automated Manufacturing Systems; PLCs [pdf, Microsoft PowerPoint, rtf]
An engineering professor at Grand Valley State University has made available his book on programmable logic controllers (PLC's), which are widely used to control all kinds of electrical devices. The 800+ page book is presented free of charge and can be downloaded in one large file or in individual chapters. Readers can learn everything from high-level concepts, like Boolean logic and operational design planning, to physical details such as PLC specifications and connectivity. The author explains different methods of programming PLC's and offers suggestions for selecting the right PLC for a particular application. The book is a work in progress, so a few "to do" notes are scattered throughout the text. [CL]
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Agilent Technologies: Engineering and the Guitar
This series of five introductory modules comes from Agilent Technologies' massive Educator's Corner Web site. It is mainly intended to teach high school students about some of the most fundamental principles of engineering, using a guitar to demonstrate concepts like frequency and tensile strength. At the same time, the material stresses the importance of critical thinking and taking an analytical approach to problems -- characteristics that are the sign of a good engineer. To encourage this mentality, the modules lead the user through a basic derivation of the formula for the frequency of vibration of a guitar string. This is initially done with very little hard math; rather, the derivation is primarily based on intuition, and it can be verified with mathematical analysis. [CL]
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Girls Tech [pdf]
Girls Tech is a program of Douglass College at Rutgers University. Its goal is to create a methodology for evaluating "electronic information resources to judge their likely appeal to girls and young women and stimulate their interest in science and technology." The Girls Tech homepage gives an overview of its recommended model for evaluating Web sites, software, and other material. Additionally, two research papers are presented; the first describes the process used to derive the evaluation model, while the second focuses on the role of computer games in attracting young people to computer technology. In particular, the latter paper considers the implications stemming from the fact that computers are generally viewed as boys' toys. [CL]
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This collection of Java applets comes from a mathematics professor at Kennesaw State University. Most of the utilities are used to demonstrate graphical representations of different kinds of equations. For example, the Quadratic Functions section contains applets that let the user change the values of the equation's parameters, and the graph is updated to show how the underlying function changes. There are also applets that help users visualize the processes of differentiation and integration, as well as tools for performing regression analyses on user-defined data. [CL]
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The New Color of Money: Smarter, Safer, More Secure [RealOne Player, Windows Media Player, Macromedia Flash Reader, mp3, pdf]
On May 13, 2003, the United States "unveiled a new $20 note design with enhanced security features and subtle background colors." This Web site features an Interactive Learning Center, where users can discover the anti-counterfeiting technologies that are incorporated into the bill's design. An archived Webcast of the live unveiling event can be viewed, and a glossary of terms defines items like color-shifting ink and microprinting. In addition to a wide variety of materials on the new bill, there are educational resources about general currency and the role of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. [CL]
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The Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) is a method of compressing audio data. Whereas the widely known MP3 format sacrifices sound quality for a smaller compressed size, FLAC does not lose information in the encoding process. FLAC is an open source software project, and its homepage contains downloadable encoding utilities for most common operating systems. An excellent overview of the FLAC format is given, which explains the underlying architecture and features of the codec. This section also provides links to background information and research papers upon which the development of FLAC was based. Thorough documentation is included online. [CL]
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Microengines: The Batteries of the Future [Windows Media Player]
Researchers at the University of Birmingham School of Engineering have developed microengines, a breakthrough in nanotechnology that has the potential to eventually replace the conventional battery. This short video summarizes the characteristics and uses for this remarkable innovation. Microengines reportedly have "over 300 times more energy than an ordinary battery, and are much lighter and smaller." They have an extraordinary range of applications, such as mobile phones or powering microrobots for military reconnaissance operations. One of the researchers describes the microengines as being able to run off cigarette lighter fuel while being much more energy efficient than current batteries. Several other fascinating research projects are highlighted on the Research-TV Web site. [CL]
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Society for Experimental Mechanics [pdf]
The Society for Experimental Mechanics offers this large collection of articles that were selected from one of its primary publications. Each article is either part of the Back-to-Basics series, which provides an informative guide to common practices, or "a feature series based upon a unifying technique, application, or theme." The content is suitable for professionals, students, or anyone with a decent background in the principles of mechanics. Nearly 80 articles are available free for download. [CL]
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NetSeminar Services [Windows Media Player, RealOne Player]
NetSeminar is a valuable resource for industry professionals or anyone working in a high-tech field. The Web site serves as a hub for Webcasts delivered by a multitude of prominent companies, including Texas Instruments, Intel, and IBM. Most days of the week have one, and often more, live events scheduled and they are free to anyone who completes a brief registration. The Webcasts are generally between 60 and 90 minutes in length, and there is an option to submit questions interactively during the broadcast. Users can view past events via the online archive. [CL]
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Turbulence: Commissions and Supports Net Art [Macromedia Flash Reader]
The Turbulence project acts as an online gallery for Internet artwork. Since it was formed in 1996 by New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc., it has "commissioned, exhibited and archived over 60 original works." When browsing the collection, visitors will notice that the themes of the works vary widely, ranging from highly expressionistic to more analytical in nature. Many of the items incorporate interactive elements or multimedia animation, but they all stem from Internet related theory and technologies. In addition to displaying the artwork, Turbulence includes interviews with the artists and reviews of their works. [CL]
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RF-ID Information
Radio Frequency Identification (RF-ID) is a fairly well established technology that, until recently, has not seen widespread penetration into product identification and tracking markets. However, the past couple years have seen significant growth in RF-ID applications, as it has become preferable to systems based on barcodes and serial numbers. This Web site is designed to give people a better understanding of what RF-ID is and where it can be used. An excellent overview of the technology is presented, showing the general architecture and communication between the tag and transponder. Possibly the most useful part of the site is the Application Examples section, which discusses RF-ID uses in airline baggage systems, automobile security, and even "beer keg tracking." A few short articles are also given, but they are a bid dated. [CL]
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CircuiTree [pdf]
CircuiTree is a monthly magazine that covers technical news and developments related to the printed circuit board (PCB) industry. Most of the magazine's content can be freely accessed from its homepage, and additional Web-only features are also available. Common topics addressed in each issue include flexible circuitry, optoelectronics, packaging trends, and much more. The July 2003 edition has an interesting cover story on the U.S. military's use of electronics in its advanced devices, and the aging PCB's and component technologies associated with such electronics. CircuiTree also hosts an active forum for users to exchange ideas, however a brief registration is required to participate. [CL]
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World Federation of Great Towers [Macromedia Flash Reader]
The World Federation of Great Towers (WFGT) "is an association of international monuments which join together to foster global awareness and develop international opportunities for promotion." The organization provides this eye-catching site that contains detailed information and pictures of over twenty towers from around the world. After giving a brief background summary of each tower's location and notable characteristics, specifications and technical data are provided to give an impression of the scale of the structures and the engineering skill that was needed in their construction. Although only the buildings that are members of the WFGT are featured online, the collection does a good job of capturing some of the most impressive towers in existence. [CL]
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Topic In Depth

Power Grid Issues
1. How Electricity is Created [Macromedia Flash Reader, pdf]
2. What is Electricity?
3. Fuel Cells vs. The Grid [pdf]
4. Popular Science: Dreams of the New Power Grid,12543,198150,00.html
5. Impediments to Survivability of the Electric Power Grid and Some Collaborative EE-CS Research Issues to Solve Them [pdf]
6. SecurityFocus: Sparks over Power Grid Cybersecurity
7. Clean Coal Technology: The JEA Large-Scale CFB Combustion Demonstration Project [pdf]
8. Integrated Energy and Communications System Architecture [pdf]
Modern power grids are truly remarkable engineering feats. Spider webs of transmission lines and thousands of generators supply our homes and businesses with electricity, usually without interruption. The 20th century saw the worldwide proliferation of power grids, but the 21st has shown that they are not finished evolving.
Tampa Electric (1) offers animated illustrations that show how electricity is created and distributed. The first lets the user see the main components of a power plant, while the second outlines what is involved in transmission from the power plant to the destination. A less flashy but more detailed description of the electricity generation process is provided by the Energy Information Administration (2). This site goes more into different generation methods, such as coal, nuclear, and solar power. A few Energy Information Sheets and other resources are also available. Fuel cells are commonly discussed in terms of alternative fuel vehicles, but they might find their way into the power grid before they become standard in cars. This possibility is explored in an eight-page article (3) that highlights examples of hydrogen-powered energy systems. A similar topic is addressed in a February 2003 article in Popular Science (4). However, instead of dealing with large-scale fuel cell power plants, the article introduces fuel cells that can produce enough energy for a single family. Equipping every home with such a cell could make transmission lines obsolete, but the fact that this is currently infeasible is acknowledged. A research paper from Washington State University (5) identifies a number of risks to the power grid that could be exploited by terrorists. The authors propose specific research areas on which to focus in order to mitigate these risks, mainly dealing with communications and grid control. Related to this paper is an April 2003 article describing security measures that are being implemented to strengthen the computer systems used to operate generators and other grid components (6). The additional measures were necessary because of known weaknesses that made the systems vulnerable to intrusions. Since coal is one of the cheapest and widely available natural resources, Los Alamos National Laboratory is researching ways to make coal burning generators cleaner. The Clean Coal Technology project began several years ago, and this is one of several reports discussing a particular aspect of the project (7). The Integrated Energy and Communications System Architecture (8) is an initiative to combine the development of the power grid with advanced distributed computing technologies. The goal is to create a more efficient grid with capabilities of self-healing and intelligent management. An overview of the initiative is given on its Web site, as well as a more detailed white paper. [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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