The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 15

August 1, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Artificial Life VIII: The 8th International Conference on the Simulation and Synthesis of Living Systems [pdf]
The International Society for Artificial Life presented the Artificial Life VIII conference in December 2002. The conference's homepage has been updated with complete proceedings from the regular sessions and specialized workshops. Both theory and application are addressed in the papers, which discuss self-replication, robots, collective behavior in dynamic artificial systems, and much more. In addition to the large collection of papers, several links to online literature, software, and tools related to artificial life are included. [CL]
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The State Broadband Index [pdf]
While high-speed Internet subscriptions are becoming more common, they are still very expensive and often are not available in many areas. This report "examines the key role that states can play in helping to make broadband available to all Americans." By using supply-side and demand-side promotion and deployment regulations as criteria for evaluating state policies, the report finds that Michigan leads the way in broadband initiatives. A case study of Michigan is presented, followed by a roadmap of best practices stemming from the case study. This roadmap identifies a sequence of actions that states can take to implement effective policies and maximize broadband availability. [CL]
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TEK Search [pdf, Postscript, Microsoft Word, exe, tar, zip]
Time Equals Knowledge (TEK) is a project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that is developing "a low-connectivity search engine for use by people at the far side of a bad telephone connection." Intended primarily for less developed countries where Internet access is limited and slow, the TEK client allows users to submit search queries and retrieve compressed Web content relevant to their query at a later time. A complete overview of the system is given on the project's homepage. A few publications detailing TEK research are available, and the TEK client itself can be downloaded. However, the client is currently a work in progress and is mainly recommended for experienced software testers. [CL]
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Report of Findings: X-43A Mishap [pdf]
Released on July 23, 2003, this report details the causes of the failure of NASA's X-43A flight vehicle. The mishap occurred in June 2001 and was immediately followed by the organization of an investigation board, which is the source of this document. An overview of the Hyper-X Program and X-43A mission are presented, describing the components and configuration of the vehicle. The report then identifies which systems failed, when they failed, and how they affected the vehicle's operation. Much of the report's contents are fairly technical in nature, but there are nonetheless some interesting insights into the unfortunate event that are suitable for a general audience. [CL]
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Open PINO Platform [pdf, zip, Windows Media Player]
PINO was originally a humanoid robot developed by the Japan Science and Technology Corporation, but it is now the foundation of a "project to accelerate the research and development of humanoid robots." The Open PINO Platform offers free access to complete technical information about PINO's design. With details about the system's mechanical architecture, components, wiring diagrams, and pictures, the project can be a valuable starting point for building new humanoid robots. A brief registration is required to browse the site. [CL]
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Two on Electronic Voting
Study: E-Voting Flaws Risk Ballot Fraud
Analysis of an Electronic Voting System [pdf]
A July 25, 2003 news article from CNN makes note of a potential flaw in a kind of electronic voting machine used in several U.S. states. The flaw was discovered and publicized by researchers from Johns Hopkins and Rice Universities, and it purportedly can make the machine vulnerable to security breaches that would allow a single individual to cast multiple votes. The conclusions of the researchers are outlined in a 24-page study. After providing an overview of the voting system in question, which requires users to insert a smart card to cast a vote, the report suggests that homemade smart cards could be used to gain an unacceptable level of access. Examples of violations include, as was mentioned above, the ability to submit multiple ballots, as well as "viewing partial results and terminating the election early." [CL]
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The Electronic International Journal: Advanced Modeling and Optimization [pdf]
This free, refereed journal is published between two and three times each year. It focuses on computational methods, algorithms, and applications related to modeling and optimization. The papers are quite diverse in topic, since many scientific and engineering disciplines fall within the journal's scope. The second volume of 2003 includes a paper on iris recognition for biometric security, as well as a paper that presents an "Economic Order Quantity" model for perishable goods. Each regular volume is fairly modest in size, averaging about four papers; however, a special issue on financial optimization published in 2002 was significantly longer. [CL]
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Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories: Marginalizing Out Future Passengers in Group Elevator Control [pdf]
Despite being in existence for over a century, modern elevators have an underlying problem that is anything but easy to solve. When multiple elevators are being used in a single location, it quickly becomes a daunting task to create an intelligent control system that optimally meets the needs of its users. This paper, which will be presented at the 2003 Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence in August, proposes an algorithm that attempts to model the waiting time of passengers at the lobby. An excellent problem formulation is outlined, effectively demonstrating how computationally intensive the task of controlling an elevator can truly be. Many other papers can be freely downloaded from the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories Web site. [CL]
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Nanotechnology Now
This Web site provides an outstanding introduction to the world of nanotechnology. Many standpoints of the topic are discussed, from current and future applications to the "ethics of nanotechnology." Scattered throughout the site are historic, visionary quotes and excerpts from notable journals and publications. Transcripts of interviews with prominent researchers give readers an idea of the diversity of views on the subject within the scientific community. Several essays and links to off-site articles are also given. [CL]
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Techies by Necessity, Not by Choice
This article and accompanying lesson plan from the New York Times Learning Network examines how consumers have self educated themselves about technology, especially in regard to computer applications and networking. Even if a person does not work in a technical field, he or she is still likely to operate computers on a regular basis. The infeasibility of seeking professional training has resulted in many people being forced to learn about technology on their own. This phenomenon is explored in several discussions and activities suggested in the lesson plan. [CL]
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What Good is Math? [hqx]
This Web site from the University of Richmond attempts to impart a greater appreciation of mathematics by demonstrating a variety of scenarios that require basic math skills. The material is mainly geared for grade school students. Users can learn about averaging by following the step-by-step process of calculating final course grades, or see how quick calculations can help shoppers better budget their spending money. The concept of interest is also explained in a series of activities on banking. Another section, called Mathletics, shows how mathematics in involved in four common sports. [CL]
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IOL: InterOperability Lab
The University of New Hampshire has compiled this excellent collection of resources on networking and computer technology. Over twenty categories are represented, including emerging technologies such as 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Very high rate Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL), and wireless standards. Many of the resources are papers or tutorials written by researchers at the UNH InterOperability Lab, while others are links to various academic and industry efforts. The site is suitable for a broad audience, as it has basic introductory information as well as more advanced white papers. [CL]
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Tutorial on Optimization Theory and Difference and Differential Equations by Martin J. Osborne
This online tutorial is intended for college students taking an early course in mathematical optimization or linear differential equations. Although it is written by a professor of economics, little economic theory is presented. This keeps the material centered on the mathematical aspects of optimization and differential equations, which have a wide range of scientific applications. The text is very well organized and is accompanied by illustrative figures. No prerequisites to the tutorial are listed; however, a fairly strong background in undergraduate calculus would probably be useful. [CL]
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Lessons in Electric Circuits [pdf, ps, zip, tar]
Six massive volumes comprise this comprehensive online reference of electric circuits. The first three volumes cover analog circuits, including direct current, alternating current, and semiconductors. Digital systems are the topic of the fourth volume, and a quick reference guide to frequently used equations and practices constitutes the fifth. Each volume can be downloaded as a single file for easy printing. Lessons in Electric Circuits, while extremely thorough, are still being updated with new chapters and supporting material. [CL]
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Welcome to the Visual Basic Section [zip]
Visual Basic is a versatile, high-level programming language that can be used to develop standalone applications or add a degree of flexibility to existing ones. A general tutorial covering the structure and controls of Visual Basic is given on this site, with a target audience of new learners. The tutorial is divided into three lessons that help readers become acquainted with the development environment and start creating applications. Several short programs can be downloaded as source code, providing a good basis to compare coding styles and learn the ins and outs of the language. [CL]
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Trigonometric Delights [pdf]
Far from an ordinary, cut-and-dry trigonometry textbook, Trigonometric Delights provides a unique discussion of the subject with "entertaining stories, scientific curiosities, and educational insights." Written by a history of mathematics professor, the book contains an account of the use of math in ancient Egypt, as well as highlights of remarkable, but often overlooked, mathematicians. Only portions of the book are dedicated to historical perspectives, as most of the chapters describe trigonometric theory in an almost lighthearted manner. Reading the book online is allowed; however, permission must be obtained to store or print any of the material. [CL]
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DARPA Grand Challenge [pdf, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint]
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is sponsoring a competition that will award $1 million to the team that successfully builds an unmanned vehicle capable of autonomously navigating from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in the shortest time. Dubbed the Grand Challenge, the competition is described in detail on its homepage. Several news releases about its rules and proposed routes are available online, as well as presentations and background documents outlining the government's military interest in the competition. Many of the teams registered for the Grand Challenge are listed on the site, and links to their homepages are given. The competition is scheduled for March 2004. [CL]
[Back to Contents] Truth about Computer Security Hysteria
Citing common misconceptions and the deliberate distribution of misinformation about computer security, the Vmyths Web site serves as a reference to refute virus hoaxes and, more generally, to eliminate widespread hysteria by educating the unaware. False email warnings can cause the recipient to delete important system files, thinking they are infected with a virus. This is just one situation that Vmyths helps prevent. The site is updated regularly with news about genuine viruses as well as hoaxes, and many articles are available that attempt to dispel virus myths. Some simple practices to spot and help stop the spread of email hoaxes are outlined. [CL]
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Communicating Using Technology: Free Articles
Communicating Using Technology is maintained by a professional speaker who specializes in computer-aided presentation applications. This collection of articles shares some of his insights into such tools, helping readers use them more effectively. Although Microsoft PowerPoint is used as a baseline for reference in many of the articles, most of the suggested techniques and strategies can be applied to any presentation software. A smaller selection of articles on other topics is available, including topics such as video conferencing, Acrobat document authoring, and email technologies. [CL]
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AUVSI Online: US Military Robots Employed in Iraqi War
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has compiled a list of fifteen aerial, ground, and underwater vehicles that were used in the Iraqi War. The vehicles served a variety of purposes, ranging from surveillance to special operations, such as chemical and biological sensing. Photos and specifications of each vehicle are given on this site, as well as a general discussion of their methods of operation and the missions in which they were used. [CL]
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FSO: Free Space Optics [pdf]
This enlightening Web site introduces the concept of Free Space Optics (FSO), a method of optical communication that uses lasers or light-emitting diodes as a means of data transmission. As long as there is a direct line of sight between two locations, there exists a potential for using FSO technology. Since the speed of light in air is faster than in the glass of fiber optics, "it is fair to classify Free Space Optics as optical communications at the speed of light." A good collection of applications notes and white papers are available to users of this site upon completion of the free, online registration. Several other resources are accessible without registering, such as diagrams of network technologies, frequently asked questions, and a glossary of terms. [CL]
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Engineering Times
Engineering Times is a monthly publication of the National Society of Professional Engineers. Access to many of the articles, editorials, and special features are freely available online, while others are restricted to members only. Each issue contains relevant news stories, industry trends, engineering ethics focuses, and much more. Two regular sections are Engineering U and Stateside, which highlight noteworthy university-level research and state-specific news. The July 2003 issue includes an article focusing on the prospective job market for engineers. Readers can brush up on their math skills by trying to solve the monthly Mathcounts Take 5 problem (solutions are provided). Over a year of back issues are available from the archive. [CL]
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The PC Webopedia "is a free online dictionary for words, phrases and abbreviations that are related to computer and Internet technology." While the collection of terms is reasonably impressive, the site offers many other resources that possibly outshine the dictionary itself. A new feature is Wireless LAN Standards, which compares the specifications and performance of eight of the most prevalent wireless local area networking technologies. Another interesting section is Did You Know, a collection of informative articles on topics such as preventative computer maintenance and the different DVD formats. Although no pop-up advertisements accompany this site, there are several banner ads that are mildly distracting. [CL]
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I, Cringely
Robert X. Cringely is an established author on technology-related issues, and this Web site is comprised of a large collection of essays he has written for PBS Online. Each week a new essay is published, as well as five links to material relevant to the current topic (these can be found in the I Like It! section). In the July 27, 2003 column, Cringely identifies several legal, technical, and business considerations that will likely need to be addressed when designing a feasible music downloading service. By integrating these considerations into a unified model, he outlines a fascinating, albeit hypothetical, implementation of the Son of Napster, or Snapster. About five years of back issues are accessible from the I, Cringely archive. [CL]
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Topic In Depth

Intelligent Transportation Systems
1. Wikipedia: Intelligent Transportation System
2. Intelligent Transportation Systems Benefits and Costs
3. Detection and Classification of Vehicles [pdf]
4. Homeland Security and ITS [pdf]$file/PPRA_Security_Final.pdf
5. Intelligent Transportation Systems [pdf]
6. Intelligent Vehicle Initiative [pdf, Microsoft PowerPoint]
7. Inside the USDOT's "Intelligent Intersection" Test Facility
8. Tech to Help Drivers Brake Sooner,1452,57966,00.html
An intelligent transportation system (ITS) is a general term for a wide range of technologies incorporated into traditional transportation infrastructure and vehicles. These systems can include roadway sensors, in-vehicle navigation services, electronic message signs, and traffic management and monitoring. ITS technologies are being widely deployed to maximize transportation safety and efficiency.
Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, has an entry that briefly outlines the US program to develop intelligent transportation systems (1). A fairly comprehensive list of ITS technologies and applications are also included. An analysis of specific ITS implementations, published in May 2003, gives a much more thorough explanation of how ITS impacts surface transportation (2). The benefits of such systems are compared to their costs, and many of the results come from studies conducted by various research institutions. Some examples of the technologies evaluated in the analysis are driver assistance services and collision notification systems. An alternative to conventional traffic management systems is proposed in a research paper from the University of Minnesota (3). Rather than using hard-to-install magnetic loop devices to count vehicles, the authors propose a system of cameras that can keep track of not only the number of vehicles, but also lane changes and vehicle classifications. ITS also has applications for homeland security, as is described in a report from the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (4). The 36-page document outlines ways to use ITS for identifying potentially vulnerable areas within the transportation system and maintaining efficient surface transportation during emergencies. The University of Washington has an active ITS research program (5), and its homepage has many news articles and formal papers that are mainly centered on decision support tools for travelers. The research done by faculty and students has resulted in the development of software and tools that let commuters know the status of traffic and public transportation systems. The Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (IVI) of the U.S. Department of Transportation (6) focuses on minimizing the distraction of in-vehicle technologies and creating advanced crash avoidance systems. Many resources are available on the IVI Web site, but one of the most recent features is a section containing presentation from the 2003 National IVI Meeting. Information about the new Intelligent Intersection test facility at the Federal Highway Administration's Highway Research Center can be found in this news article (7). The facility, which opened in June 2003, is intended to test new technologies for preventing crashes at intersections. Lastly, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hopes to develop a system that will prevent pileups and accidents caused by sudden changes in traffic speed. His conceptual description of such a system, which may incorporate global positioning system and wireless communication technologies, is described in this article (8). [CL]
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