The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 3, Number 25

December 3, 2004

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

A Note to our Readers




Topic In Depth

A Note to our Readers

Coffee Break Time? Head for the Scout Blog

In the course of our travels across the vast and wondrous expanses of the World Wide Web, Scout staffers too often come across sites of special, and sometimes stunningly special, interest that don't quite fit in the weekly reports but which are clearly noteworthy by any other standard. We've created the Scout Blog to showcase highlights among these "best of the rest." We welcome you to check out our growing collection at And, if you have a favorite "unknown" site to nominate for Scout blogdom, let me know. [CL]

Warm regards,

Chris Long
Managing Editor


The International Erwin Schrdinger Institute for Mathematical Physics [pdf]

The International Erwin Schrdinger Institute for Mathematical Physics (ESI) was founded in 1993 "with the aim of providing a meeting place for leading experts in Mathematical Physics and Mathematics in the international scientific community, nurturing the development and exchange of ideas not only in the international arena, but also in Austria through its affiliations with Austrian universities." Visiting scientists have contributed over 1,500 preprints, which are posted online by report number. The Evaluation section provides available data on the publication of the preprint articles in mathematical journals, showing that "in less than 10 years of the existence of the ESI, 144 ESI preprints have been published in top 10% journals." [VF]

European Commission: AGRIFISH Unit [pdf]

This website describes the Monitoring of Agriculture with Remote Sensing (MARS) project and also fisheries research from a unit of the European Commission Joint Research Center. The group's work draws on techniques such as Statistics, Image processing and interpretation, GIS management and Web-based information technology, Geomatics and GPS, and Agrometeorological models for "global agricultural monitoring and food security assessment." The techniques are used to gather and display an impressive amount of data on vegetation and meteorological information that has been used by European Members States and to support EU aid and assistance policies. Some examples of the group's work and guidelines for best practices in agriculture are posted online. Bulletins and forecasts can be viewed by country. [VF]

UC Berkeley Lab Notes [Windows Media Player]

The University of California at Berkeley College of Engineering publishes Lab Notes, a newsletter from the Public Affairs Office. The mission is "to illuminate groundbreaking research underway today at the College of Engineering that will dramatically change our lives tomorrow." Lab Notes is available online free of charge. Articles in the November 2004 issue highlight robot technology, satellite communications, and a radio observatory project. Each short article includes images or videos and links to related articles and researchers' websites. Previous issues are saved in an online archive. [VF]

Princeton University: Ceramic Materials Laboratory [pdf]

Princeton University's Ceramic Materials Laboratory conducts research on ceramic processing science and technology. It conducts basic and applied research to improve material systems with an emphasis on functionality and improved material performance. The introduction page describes the lab's work in terms of "bioinspired processing," a new paradigm in materials processing. Research projects address the areas of Biomimetics and Bioinspired Materials, Multifunctional Materials, as well as Nanoscale Science and Technology. Projects within each of these areas are described on the website. Many of the lab's publications, such as journal articles, conference proceedings, books, and patent information, are also posted online. [VF]

Vehicle Safety Research Centre [pdf]

The Vehicle Safety Research Centre is "the largest crash investigation research group in the world," and conducts research on the causes of accidents and injuries in real world crashes. The Centre is part of the Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute within Britain's Loughborough University and "brings together a broad range of expertise in the area of safety engineering and human factors." Abstracts and full reports of the group's research are listed chronologically in the Publications section of the website. Current projects, such as an assessment of cars for small drivers, and investigations of van and minibus accidents, are also described. [VF]

Center for Research in Scientific Computation [postscript]

The Center for Research in Scientific Computation (CRSC), based at North Carolina State University, aims to "foster research in scientific computing and provide a focal point for research in computational science, engineering and applied mathematics." The Center has developed a teaching experimental laboratory "where students are exposed to experimental design and data collection through demos and actual hands-on experience." The Center's multidisciplinary research addresses topics in scientific computation such as Numerical Optimization and Control, Numerical Solution of Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations, Mathematical Modeling and Analysis; Numerical Linear Algebra, and Parallel Computing. This website describes the Center's projects and offers links to the project websites. An online database makes available CRSC technical reports from 1992 to the present. [VF]

National Microelectronics Research Center

Ireland's National Microelectronics Research Center (NMRC) at the University College, Cork, conducts research on information and communications technologies. The organization identifies and addresses "key emerging technological challenges" and focuses on "the development of core technology competencies that will yield technology platforms for future high impact innovation and commercial exploitation." Research themes include microtechnologies, photonics, nanotechnology and research at the ICT/Bio interface. Images and short descriptions provide some background information on these themes, while more detailed research findings can be found on the individual research group websites. Some sections of the website were still being developed at the time of this report. [VF]

Usable GUI Design: A Quick Guide

Benjamin Roe, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Process Scheduling at the Centre for Process Systems Engineering, Imperial College, has posted this article on Usable GUI Design strategies. The author presents five key points that Open Source software (OSS) developers should consider when designing Graphical User Interfaces (GUI's). The points are drawn from the author's experience in using and writing OSS software and consulting books and websites on the subject, which are listed in the references of the article. Although he uses actual examples to discuss user interface issues, he notes that the comments are meant to serve as constructive criticisms and not to offend anyone. The FAQ section includes a selection of comments from readers and his responses to questions and concerns they have raised. [VF]


Platonic Realms [Macromedia Shockwave Player, pdf]

The Platonic Realms website is a project initiated by a small group of math and math education graduate students, led by B. Sidney Smith, at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The group's goal is "to provide high-quality mathematical content for secondary-school and college students that was free, motivational, and instructional." The introductory page features a historical note, a daily quotation, a daily mathematics challenge, humorous articles, and a "math moment" which uses multi-media technology to illustrate a mathematics topic, such as prime numbers. The Interactive Quotes Database allows visitors to search quotes by author, topic, and key phrase. Visitors can also browse the PRIME Math Encyclopedia, which has almost 1,000 entries of contributed by "associate editors from university math departments around the world." The MiniTexts section of the website presents articles on mathematics topics, such as infinity or math anxiety, at an introductory level. Another section offers teaching aids, games, and articles to download for a small fee. The site notes that the group's privacy and content policies are very strict, so there are no annoying advertisements. However, a few select sponsors are listed in the link library and help keep the project running. [VF]

Interactive Nano-Visualization in Science and Engineering Education [Macromedia Shockwave Player]

Interactive Nano-Visualization in Science and Engineering Education (IN-VSEE) is a consortium of university and industry scientists and engineers, community college and high school science faculty and museum educators. Together they have created this website, or "laboratory without walls," offering instructional resources on the "remote operation of advanced microscopes and nano-fabrication tools coupled to powerful surface characterization methods." The program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), combines research, education and outreach to help prepare students "for the work force in the imminent nanotechnology revolution." Visitors will find interactive IN-VSEE modules that ask students to draw on key concepts and fundamental principles from science, math and engineering to design experiments. Educators and researchers can use SPM Live!, an online tool that broadcasts images and allows for remote control of the visualization instrument. The Visualization Gallery offers images "that illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of modern science and engineering and the value of integrating research into education." Visitors can browse the Gallery by image type (Photographs, Schematics, Animations, and Micrographs taken from Scanning Electron Microscopy or Scanning Probe Microscopy) or use the keyword search. The project is ongoing and some of the images are still without explanations, but the database is extensive and the modules are clear and easy to navigate. Information on workshops offered by IN-VISEE and related publications are also available from this website. [VF]

Math Addicts Anonymous

This website was initiated by Cory Futrell, a self-acknowledged math addict, who is currently a sophomore math and physics dual major at the University of Oklahoma. A key feature of the website is an encyclopedia with short definitions of over 100 mathematical terms. Visitors are also invited to offer their comments on the articles written by contributing authors and covering topics such as Numerical Systems, Binary to Hexadecimal, a Description of the CSS Cipher, a Proof of Euler's Equation, and a Mathematica Tutorial. The website uses MathML embedded within XHTML to show equations as text rather than as images, so visitors may need to download special fonts or upgrade Web browsers to view the equations. [VF]

This website, which uses a Web version of Mathematica software, "supplements text books by giving you step-by-step solutions to the two basic operations of calculus:" derivatives and integrals. The Director of Planning and Project Management at Wolfram Research, Inc., the company that sells Mathematica, developed this Web version of the product that gives Wolfram Research an alternative source of product-testing data and provides Internet users a way to use the software for free. For example, visitors can request online solutions to derivatives, long multiplication and long division without registering. Other features, such as step-by-step solutions for indefinite integrals, determinants and matrix inverses, or systems of linear equations are available only with a paid subscription. The website will also create a graph of a function and its first and second derivatives, but only partial solutions are provided for free. A section with examples of derivatives instruct the user on the proper input format for Mathematica. The website is also available in French, Spanish, Japanese, and German. [VF]

Discovery Channel: Teaching Tools

The Discovery Channel has compiled this collection of teaching tools to use in Arts, Math, Business/Careers, Science, English, Social Studies, Health, Technology, and Language instruction. For example, several worksheets on Algebra, Geometry and math vocabulary are posted online and include a link to a solution page. Teachers can take the worksheets posted as samples and use the online form to create a custom worksheet. Similarly, the puzzles and quizzes can also be custom designed to suit particular instructional goals. Those who complete the free online registration form can use the Discovery Channels Custom Classroom tool to save worksheets, quizzes or puzzles in a personal account. A Clip Art Gallery makes it easy and free to spice up classroom materials. Some sections, such as the discussion forum, require registration. The site notes that it is regularly reviewed by practicing classroom teachers in elementary school, middle school, and high school to ensure the material is relevant. Advertising on the website is minimal and its producers say they are working on adding more tools. [VF]

International Schools Cyber Fair 2005 [RealPlayer, Microsoft Word]

International Schools CyberFair is an international program used by schools and youth organizations to provide learning experiences that encourage youth "to connect the knowledge they learn in school to real world applications." Through the Web, youths can conduct research, publish their findings, connect with peers worldwide, and discuss global issues. Participants are eligible for an award within one of eight categories: local leaders, businesses, community organizations, historical landmarks, environment, music, art, and local specialties. The program is sponsored by the World Future Society, a nonprofit, nonpartisan association, although the website also boasts that the program is endorsed by the White House. The theme for the 2005 CyberFair is "Prepare and Unite!" and addresses conditions that will affect communities worldwide. Registration forms for the July 2005 fair are available online along with additional information on rules, suggested timelines, and previous winners. The Success Stories section provides some examples of the ways in which the program has benefited students. [VF]

Kids and Computers

This website was developed by a father and his two daughters as they explored computer programming for kids using the Microworlds Project Builder, which seemed to provide the most engaging learning environment for the children. The curriculum that this father followed with his daughters began with using point-and-click drawing tools and advanced into programming movement, providing his 3-year-old daughter with an introduction to animation. The website takes the reader through a story about how they got started on programming and provides images to help explain how the Microworlds Project Builder programming tools work and what kids are able to do with them. Although the website is very much an advertisement for the software, which can be purchased from the author, the lesson plans provide some basic information on programming for kids. Although most of the documents at the site were produced in 2001, the author is working on a set of lessons called "Learning to Program for Beginners" aimed at beginners over 12 and teachers. Using an online form, visitors can request to be notified when that publication is ready. [VF]

Educause: Educating the Net Generation [Internet Explorer Browser]

Educause, a nonprofit organization "whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology," has made available this video file of a talk by their Vice President entitled "Educating the Net Generation" The online abstract describes the presentation as an exploration of "the implications of the Net Generation for colleges and universities as well as how to address the generation gap between faculty or administrators and the Net Gen." The presentation is about 43 minutes and includes slides that can be printed out. [VF]


Mathematical Fiction

Alex Kasman, Associate Professor in the College of Charleston Department of Mathematics, has compiled this list of Mathematical Fiction. The books and stories listed here may be of interest to teachers or anyone wanting to read about mathematics from a literary perspective. The collection is organized so that visitors can browse by medium (which includes 22 entries that are categorized as "Available Free Online"), genre, motif, or topic. Some motifs include Evil Mathematicians, Female Mathematicians, Insanity, Math as Beautiful/Exciting/Useful, and Math as Cold/Dry/Useless. Some examples of topics listed include Algebra/Arithmetic/Number Theory, Mathematical Physics, and Probability/Statistics. The category with by far the most entries is Science Fiction with Not Science-Fiction, Fantasy or Horror coming in at a close second. Visitors can also search the entire database, view entries by Title or Author or Year, or check out the 30 most recently added or modified entries. Each entry is followed by a sentence or two describing the article or book and some include a website link to the article or to for ordering information. Proceeds from sales made through the website go to the College of Charleston Department of Mathematics. [VF]

Two on Cell Phones

This first article from the Korea Times discusses recent arrests in an examination cheating scam that involved the use of cell phones and camera-installed pens. The article reports that about 100 students were involved in the cheating scandal, in which "students who excelled at certain subjects sent their answers to first-year and second-year students outside the classrooms through short message services and they relayed the answers to others." The second article discusses a novel way of disposing of old cell phones that University of Warwick researchers have devised. [VF]

Website 101

Website 101 is designed to teach small business owners about using the Web and "to gain funding, exposure and visibility in the very crowded world of eBusiness." The site's contents address ecommerce issues, offer advice from experts, and provide a variety of articles and tools "to get your business online." As such, the website is a good resource for basic information and tutorials on topics such as domain names, cookies, and CGI, in addition to topics relevant for small business owners, such as health insurance and business plans. For example, the HTML tutorial includes a form that can be filled out and used to easily convert standard text into HTML. Note that there are a number of advertisements and products offered through this website. [VF]

Nielsen NetRatings

Nielsen NetRatings, Inc. offers "the global standard for Internet audience measurement and analysis." The same company that does the television ratings also provides data on Internet usage. From this website, visitors can select a country and view statistics on the Top 10 Internet companies and average web usage in that country. For most countries, the statistics are broken down for home and work usage. A pie chart indicates the genres of websites most frequently viewed and rates Internet ads. The Global Index provides usage statistics worldwide by month and estimates the "Current Digital Media Universe." Press releases provide summaries of the organization's analysis of various findings and can be browsed by month and year or by country. [VF]

Grain Elevator Book
The Urban Design Project, based at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York, is "devoted to service, teaching and research in the pursuit of a critical practice of urban design." This 2004 report entitled Rediscovering the Concrete Atlantis: Buffalo Grain Elevators, is a collection of essays by scholars in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area. Some examples of essays include" Silo Dreams", which addresses the relationship of the Grain Elevators to the Modern movement in architecture, and "Where is the Fun in a Grain Elevator", which takes a "more populist approach to presenting the potential for these iconoclastic structures." Note that the file is large and may require a high speed Internet connection. [VF]

A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation [pdf, QuickTime]

Wayne Carlson has posted this website for his course at Ohio State University entitled A Critical History of Computer Graphics and Animation. The author provides a historical timeline for the development of computer-generated imagery that begins with the Chinese abacus and goes on to highlight various other computer-graphics related inventions. The Short History of CCRG/ACCAD, which highlights the developments of the Computer Graphics Research Group (CGRG) and other projects at Ohio State over the years, is accompanied by images and videos of animation. The CGI Family tree lists the various institutions and individuals that have contributed to the discipline along with a short description of those contributions. The Supplementary section provides links to related articles and technical papers available online. [VF]

How Stuff Works: Inside and Electric Motor

This website from How Stuff Works (see also Scout Report for Science & Engineering, September 16, 1998) provides images and articles showing how an electric motor works. The article explains the basic components of a simple DC electric motor by dissecting an electric motor similar that found in a typical toy. Each part of the engine is pictured and then described. Links to related topics are also provided. [VF]

U.S. Consumer Safety Protection Commission [pdf]

Recognizing that technology is not perfect, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provides safety tips and product information for consumers. From this website, visitors can learn about product recalls and safety news, report an unsafe product, sign up for free email announcements about new recalls and safety information, or become part of the Neighborhood Safety Network, which is designed to "help all Americans become aware of lifesaving safety information." CPSC publications are also available online, addressing topics such as clothing, electrical, and holiday safety. A few publications are available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Portuguese. CPSC also conducts and sponsors research projects "in furtherance of its activities to improve product safety and reduce or eliminate potential hazards associated with consumer products." The findings from such projects may inform voluntary and mandatory product safety standards and assess the potential for emerging technologies to enhance consumer product safety. Research Reports on topics such as the Detection of Abnormal Operating Conditions in Electric Clothes Dryers and A Review of the Sound Effectiveness of Residential Smoke Alarms are posted online. [VF]

Topic In Depth

Internet Search Engines

Evrsoft Developer Network: Search Engine Optimization
Web Reference: A Brief History of Search Engines
Submit Today: Search Engines 101
Search Engine Watch: Kids Search Engines
SUNY at Albany: How to Choose a Search Engine or Directory

If you are reading this Internet Scout report, you most likely have used a search engine before and may have wondered what makes some websites show up on Google and others not. This Topic in Depth provides some background information on search engines. The first website from Webopedia gives an overview of how search engines work (1) provides more information on the mechanics of search engines and debunks some common myths. If any terms used in the article are new to you, this website (3) offers a thesauras of key terms along with tips to help you improve your chances of getting your website to show up on search engines. This brief history from Web Reference (4) provides some perspective on how the technology began, while this article (5) gives some basic information on where we are today with search engine usage and technology. Search Engine Watch offers this listing of kids search engines (6). The University at Albany 7) offers a list of suggestions on how to choose a website for various uses and searching preferences. [VF]

Below are the copyright statements to be included when reproducing annotations from The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology.

The single phrase below is the copyright notice to be used when reproducing any portion of this report, in any format:

From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2004.

The paragraph below is the copyright notice to be used when reproducing the entire report, in any format:

Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2004. 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.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, or the National Science Foundation.

Internet Scout Project Team
Valerie Farnsworth Editor
John Morgan Managing Editor
Rachael Bower Co-Director
Edward Almasy Co-Director
Nathan Larson Contributor
Max Grinnell Contributor
Debra Shapiro Contributor
Rachel Enright Contributor
Todd Bruns Internet Cataloger
Barry Wiegan Software Engineer
Justin Rush Technical Specialist
Michael Grossheim Technical Specialist
Andy Yaco-Mink Website Designer

For information on additional contributors, see the Internet Scout Project staff page.