The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 3, Number 26

December 17, 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

Scout Holiday Publishing Schedule

The Scout Project will not publish the NSDL Math, Engineering, and Technology Report on December 31. We will resume our regular publication schedule with the January 14, 2005 report. [CL]

Best holiday wishes,

Chris Long
Managing Editor


Decision Tree for Optimization Software

H.D. Mittelmann from the Department of Math and Statistics at Arizona State University and P. Spellucci from Department of Mathematics at Technical University Darmstadt have posted this guide entitled, Decision Tree for Optimization Software. The guide "aims at helping you identify ready to use solutions for your optimization problem, or at least to find some way to build such a solution using work done by others." The online document is organized into sections covering specific software problems, a collection of test results and performance tests, and example files to use with existing software. The authors also list information on available books and tutorials, some of which are online, as well as various software tools to assist in formulating an optimization problem or simplifying its solution. Those tools listed in the Web-submission section are available to try directly via the Internet. [VF]

Math BBS

Mathematical BBS, which began in 1993, is managed by a team of academics at the University of Ferrara. From this portal site, visitors can find links to associations, departments, commercial organizations, journals, and personal homepages relating to various topics in mathematics. The links are organized by topic and then by resource type and discipline. Some topics include bioinformatics, medical informatics, mathematical modelling in biochemistry, explorative statistics, genetic algorithms, neural nets, cluster analysis, random numbers, Lindenmayer systems, finite neighborhood spaces, and programming in computer sciences. The collection includes many websites from Europe, Canada, and the United States. The authors have also compiled a listing of newspapers and book publishers and sellers worldwide. [VF]

Mississippi State University: Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) [Microsoft PowerPoint]

The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) at Mississippi State University researches and develops "manufacturing and design means and methods for producing vehicles of superior quality with advanced features and functions at reduced costs and shorter product development times, exploiting the underlying technologies for broader industrial use." In the Alternative Power link, users can find Microsoft PowerPoint presentations illustrating CAVS projects with fuel cell and hydrogen powered vehicles. The website describes the Computational Manufacturing and Design Thrust project's incorporation of solid mechanics, materials, physics, and applied mathematics to improve the automotive industry as well as national defense laboratories, aerospace industry, and other governmental laboratories. Visitors can also learn about the current projects associated with traditional engineering disciplines of the Human and Systems Engineering group. [RME]

AERADE: Aerospace and Defense Resources [pdf]

Cranfield University offers access to over 5,000 quality aerospace and defense resources at this website. Users can easily search the materials by keyword, an alphabetical list, or by subject headings. Armed forces can find a special collection of military and defense sources at DEVISE, a customized subset of the main database. The website furnishes archives of historical reports from the Aeronautical Research Council and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Researchers can find the latest news, employment opportunities, and information about upcoming conferences and events related to aerospace and defense. [RME]

Cornell Fuel Cell Institute [pdf]

The Fuel Cell Institute at Cornell University takes "An Advanced Materials Approach to Fuel Cell Technologies." Materials experts at the Institute are examining ways to improve the efficiency of the main components of a low temperature (< 150C) fuel cell and adapt reformer catalysts for low temperature operation. The website reviews some of the basics on fuel cells and identifies the remaining research challenges, including questions regarding the materials used in the main components of a fuel cell, such as the anode, the cathode, membrane assembly and, the reformer. These components and their research approach are described further, along with pictures and diagrams to illustrate the processes. Recent publications are available to download. [VF]

UCSB Nanotech [Internet Explorer]

Nanotech is a nanofabrication facility located at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It offers expertise in "compound semiconductor-based device fabrication, encompassing the full range of processes including lithography, thin film deposition, and etching." The website describes the facility and lists some of the research projects involving fabrication that were performed there. Some of the research summaries include links to further research for more information on the topic. Note that the summaries should be viewed using recent versions of Internet Explorer. [VF]


The Awesome Library: Mathematics [pdf]

The Awesome Library is an Internet library database developed by Dr. R. Jerry Adams, currently the Executive Director for the Evaluation and Development Institute, which co-owns the database. This section of the database is devoted to mathematics and provides links to math lessons and other Internet resources, such as games, worksheets, and articles. The database is organized first by grade level, such as elementary, middle school, or college, and then by sub-topics, such as Algebra, Geometry, or Calculus. A section on Standards offers links to reports and facts on mathematics standards used across the United States. The resources listed in this website "have been reviewed and found to be of high quality for our users" and the top 2 percent of the Awesome Library's resources are given a star, indicating that they met additional selection criteria, such as comprehensiveness or organizational quality. The database is also available to browse in Spanish, French, German, Russian, Dutch, Malay, Arabic, Greek, Indonesian, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, or Japanese. [VF]

UCSB Science Line

The UCSB ScienceLine is a program that allows students and teachers, primarily from their local K-12 schools to "Ask a Scientist" science and engineering questions. The questions are automatically forwarded to designated scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and responses are usually sent back within about week. The questions and answers are then posted in the archive. The archives can be searched by keyword or browsed by topic. Some current topics include astronomy, biology, computers, electronics, geography, geology, materials, mechanics, optics/light, physics, and science careers. Also posted on the website is a list of the scientists available to answer questions and a webcast, which at the time of this report featured the Nobel Laureate Sir Harry Kroto talking about the discovery of Buckyballs. [VF]

The Web and Wireless Provide New Tools for Assessing Student Learning

The UC Teaching, Learning & technology Center (TLtC) Webzine & Online Forum is published by the University of California and highlights news and events across the UC campuses. This article reports on a strategy used by professors at UC Riverside to assess student progress in a large lecture course. The article points out that quizzing students in large introductory science courses is time consuming and often does not provide students and teachers immediate feedback. The UC Riverside professors have found that online quizzes are an effective way to assess student understanding of key concepts throughout the term in a timely manner. Another strategy discussed in the article is the use of a wireless computing system in the lecture hall to conduct anonymous quizzes during class time. The article concludes with a short discussion of another innovation under development known as "smart homework," which tailors itself to the student's ability level in order to give real-time feedback to the student. [VF]

GCSE Maths

This commercial website, developed by GCSE Answers Ltd., offers short tutorials on various topics in mathematics, such as algebra, trigonometry, and measurement. The tutorials include a short overview of the topic interspersed with quizzes. A "maths index" allows visitors to browse the list for a particular subtopic. The Coursework section includes some tips for students on completing science assignments and provides a link to "free graph paper," which is set up for British paper sizes, but should still be useful for American-sized paper in an emergency. The other sections of the website focus on physics and chemistry lessons. [VF]

University of California, Irvine: The Geometry Junkyard-Lesson Plans and Teaching Materials [pdf, Macromedia Shockwave Player]

This collection of online geometric teaching materials and lesson plans was assembled by David Eppstein, a professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of California, Irvine, and creator of the Geometry Junkyard (reported on in the June 9, 1999, Scout Report for Science & Engineering). This site offers links to an eclectic assortment of educational lessons and resources including a French geometry hypertext; a site with activities for middle school students based on M.C. Eschers artwork; an online book addressing dynamic software for geometry; a freeware geometric construction software for Windows (Wingeom); and a site containing cool geometric activities with Tangrams, Symmetry, Polygon Tessellations, Geoboards, and more. It should be noted, however, that links to some websites are not currently connected. Teachers, students, and others will also want to check out other sections of the Geometry Junkyard for more educational resources. Eppstein has organized geometry-related links by such topics as Origami, Geometric Models, Rectilinear Geometry, and Spirals, to name a few. [NL]

Chaos Hypertextbook [JavaScript, gif]

High school teacher Glenn Elert wrote the original edition of the Chaos Hypertextbook for his M.S. degree in secondary science education at Teachers College, Columbia University. After graduation, Elert put the hypertext on the Internet for the benefit of people interested in mathematics, chaos, non-linear dynamics, and fractals. While the hypertext does require some mathematical knowledge, it is geared towards a wide audience. The hypertext addresses a variety of interesting topics including one-dimensional iterated maps; fractal construction; applications and definitions of dimension; and a comparison of non-linear and linear dynamics. The site also offers information about print, software, and Internet resources as well as a fun Eye Candy section. Site visitors can also link to other hypertexts by Elert including The Physics Factbook (an encyclopedia of scientific essays written by high school students), and the Physics Hypertextbook, which is currently under construction. [NL]


Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University: The Heritage Project [RealPlayer, pdf]

Founded in 1925, the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has taught people the science, practice, and business of aviation, aerospace, and engineering for close to 80 years. With a rather intriguing history, it is not so surprising that the school has recently started a heritage project to preserve its history, including valuable photographic holdings and other relevant materials. Currently, one of the highlights of the site is the online archive, which contains over 1,600 photographs and other such items of material culture. Visitors may search the archive by keyword, subject, proper name, or item type. While the site doesnt currently have many thematic collections, there is a nice selection of historical photographs available that includes photographs of the first headquarters in Cincinnati and early Embry-Riddle planes. Also, in the section titled The Embry-Riddle Story, users of the site may read a historical document about the early years of the school and watch a short video about its history. [KMG]

Math in the Movies

There are many learned (and not-so learned) professions that get a bad rap in the world of cinema. Scientists, and mathematicians in particular, tend to be portrayed alternately as either evil madmen or troubled geniuses. Through this website, Arnold Reinhold offers his informed and honest appraisals of mathematicians (and their math, of course) in various films. To get a sense of the project, visitors may want to begin by listening to an interview with Reinhold, provided by the Studio 360 radio program on National Public Radio. After listening to the delightful interview, visitors will want to browse through the reviews, which offer a star rating for the film overall, and of course the portrayal and accuracy of the math in the film. Some of the films profiled are A Beautiful Mind, Straw Dogs, Good Will Hunting, and of course Pi. Overall, a site thats worth a few visits, and quite a bit of fun. [KMG]

New Scientist: Construction of Worlds Largest Tower to Begin

This article from the New Scientist talks about the building of the world's tallest building in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The tower construction will be completed in 2008 and will result in a structure 800 meters tall. The article discusses how the building has been designed to address a primary concern for buildings of this height--wind. [VF]

Mathematicians of the African Diaspora

Professor of Mathematics Scott W. Williams has created this website dedicated to the ancient and modern achievements of the peoples of Africa and the African Diaspora within the Mathematical Sciences. One of the purposes of this website is to disprove proclamations by some that "The Negro is incapable of succeeding." Some examples of such false statements are provided along with a longer list of accomplishments. The website includes a collection of Profiles of 500 Black Mathematicians, describes the accomplishments of "the greatest Black Mathematicians," and offers separate sections highlighting research mathematicians, Black Women in Math Sciences, and Black Mathematicians outside the U.S. Additional historical information and current statistics are also available in various formats, from posters, to articles, to historical timelines. [VF]

British Computer Society: Offshoring Report [pdf]

The British Computer Society (BCS) is "the industry body for IT professionals," and has members in over 100 countries around the world. This report on the offshoring, or the concept of transferring professional IT actitivies to overseas workers, is likely to be relevant to many in the field of computers and information systems. The authors, a BCS working group on Offshoring, identify offshoring as "an opportunity to source IT services at low cost" as well as a "controversial trend." The report presents offshoring as both a challenge and an opportunity for the UK's IT profession, arguing for "upskilling and visible adherence to professional standards through retraining and internationally recognised qualifications." [VF]

American Public Media: Change for a Buck [RealPlayer]

American Public Media and its Sound Money production crew have developed this website about the value of a dollar. As part of the series, the producers "break down one of your consumer dollars to see why things cost what they do." The files are all audio recordings of the radio program and talk about topics such as gasoline and cigarette costs from production to distribution. From here, visitors can learn more about where the money paid for airline tickets goes or hear the results of the producers' investigation of the cost of raising a child. [VF]

Topic In Depth

Wireless Downtowns

Wireless World: City WiFi Networks Growing
Wireless Philadelphia: Fact Sheet
NYCwireless: Network Map
Case Study:, Chaska, Minn. [pdf]
Gainesville Digital Downtown [pdf]
Sacramento Bee Editorial: Go Wireless Downtown

Coming soon to an urban center near you: wireless connectivity for your laptop or PDA, brought to you by City Hall. At least that's the hot trend among U.S. municipalities, 48 of which now offer wireless access, according to a recent report. Most municipal systems are the result of public-private partnerships, and many offer some level of free access. The first website (1) is an overview of the wireless downtown phenomenon which notes the importance of such systems for local economic development. The second link (2) is to a fact sheet about Wireless Philadelphia, which, as one of the first and largest downtown wi-fi projects, helped spark the national trend. The third website is a node map of NYCwireless (3) and the 147 access points where that municipal network currently can be accessed. The fourth link leads to a case study of (4) , which provides wireless access to the 7,500 homes and 18,000 residents of that Minneapolis suburb. The fifth website is a pdf (5) of a slick brochure produced by the city of Gainesville, Fla., to promote its Digital Downtown project. The sixth link is to a Sacramento Bee editorial (6) making the case for downtown wireless. The seventh website is a free database listing 10,840 wireless access points in 767 locations worldwide (7) , organized by geographic region. [CL]

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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.

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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.

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Internet Scout Project Team
Valerie Farnsworth Editor
Chris Long 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.