The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 4, Number 1

January 14, 2005

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




Topic In Depth


Mathematical Constants [pdf]

This website features supplementary materials for a book called Mathematical Constants by Stephen Finch, a Clay Mathematics Institute Book Fellow. The book is a collection of stories about 136 mathematical constants that, according to one reviewer, "will startle us, intrigue us and nurture our quest of mysterious patterns amongst numbers and structures." On this website, the author has errata and addenda to the book as well as some sample essays on integer compositions, optimal stopping and Reuleaux triangles. Supplementary materials are organized by topic, which include Number Theory and Combinatorics, Geometry and Topology, Probability and Stochastic Processes, Real and Complex Analysis, and Inequalities and Approximation. The website also includes links to the book publisher and companies selling the book as well as some of the author's favorite websites. [VF]

Java Numerics [pdf, postscript]

The JavaNumerics website "provides a focal point for information on numerical computing in Java." The project is headed by the Java Grande Forum Numerics Working Group, and sponsored by the Mathematical and Computational Sciences Division of the NIST Information Technology Laboratory. Reports, presentations and proposed APIs for numerical computing from the JavaNumerics working groups are posted here, along with links providing information on Java-related meetings, proposals, and benchmarks. Links to general numerics and linear algebra libraries, along with other tools and utilities, are also provided. [VF]

Phil M. Ferguson Structural Engineering Research Laboratory

The Phil M. Ferguson Structural Engineering Research Laboratory at the University Texas at Austin is a facility "dedicated to research for improving the analysis, design and construction of buildings, bridges and special structures." Researchers use physical testing, combined with state-of-the-art analytical models, to evaluate the behavior and design of reinforced concrete, steel, timber, masonry, and composite structures. Some applications for the group's work include the performance of buildings, bridges, and offshore structures, and the repair and rehabilitation of structures. The research is possible through industry sponsorship and some of the reports from the lab's projects are posted online in the Library. Other Publications include Dissertations and Theses, FSEL Lab Report Series, and Journal Articles. [VF]

Berkeley Institute of Design [Microsoft PowerPoint, Windows Media Player]

The Berkeley Institute of Design (BID) conducts research and educational activities that emphasize an interdisciplinary approach to designing interactive environments. Under the topic of "environments," the website includes "architectural spaces, products, web sites, and other artifacts that support complex human activity." Given the current "era of ubiquitous technologies," the organization's approach combines technical and social/humanist perspectives drawing on psychology, social sciences and art practice. Its goal is to understand human behavior and the experience that technology should enhance, while remaining committed to social values and critical reflection. Projects include: MultiView Papier-Mch, Books with Voices, The Designers' Outpost, Digital Chemistry Project, SUGAR (CAD for MEMS), flexonics editorial, UCWISE, paradoxes in creativity, Organum, and Mobster. [VF]

Construction Engineering Research Laboratory

The Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) research facility is part of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (USAERDC) of the Army Corps of Engineers' research and development organization. CERL "conducts research and development in infrastructure and environmental sustainment." New technologies that the lab develops are used "to help military installations provide and maintain quality training lands and facilities for soldiers and their families." Some applications are also found in the private sector. The research is organized into numerous themes, including the study of enduring buildings, ecosystem management, land use planning, and seismic engineering. The website describes each of the themes and offers a link to its database of publications and products/capabilities. Visitors can also search the database by keyword. Another section of the website describes the portal software used to develop and maintain the website. [VF]

Image Processing Learning Resources [Java]

The Hypermedia Image Processing Reference (HIPR) offers a wealth of resources for users of image processing and an introduction to hypermedia (through use with Web browsers). HIPR was developed at the Department of Artificial Intelligence in the University of Edinburgh as computer-based tutorial materials for use in courses on image processing and machine vision. The material is available as a package that can easily be shared on a local area network and then made available at any suitably equipped computer connected to that network. The materials cover a wide range of image processing operations and are complemented by an extensive collection of actual digitized images, all organized for easy cross-referencing. Some features include a reference section with information on some of the most common classes of image-processing operations currently used, a section describing how each operation works, and various other instructional tools, such as Java demonstrations; interactive tableau where multiple operators can demonstrate sequences of operations; suggestions for appropriate use of operations; example input and output images for each operation; suggested student exercises; an encyclopedic glossary of common image processing concepts and terms; and other reference information. From the index, visitors can search on a particular topic covered in this website. [VF]

Numerical Recipes

The Numerical Recipes books are developed by Numerical Recipes Software and published by Cambridge University Press. The website provides information on how to purchase the books, which are part of a series entitled "Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing." "Numerical Recipes" is also a copyrighted computer software included in those books and sold separately. The books and software are available in a variety of computer languages, such as C++, C, and Fortran, and provide routines and recipes, along with explanations and "tricks and tips for scientific computing." Visitors can download the whole C (or Fortran) book for free, although the publisher hopes that after sampling a few sections people will buy the book. The website also provides news updates on the products as well as access to the Numerical Recipes Forum, where those interested in scientific computing can interact, ask and answer questions, and trade tips and tricks. Registration is free and a prize is offered to encourage people to join and offer valuable comments. [VF]

Econometrics Links

The website is a collection of Econometric Links offered by the Econometrics Journal. The links covered include time series analysis, microeconometrics, labormetrics, cliometrics, finance metrics, risk metrics, credit metrics, crash metrics, pension metrics, analyst metrics, Web metrics, econophysics, environmetrics, spatial econometrics, markometrics, marketing research, customer service metrics, inventory metrics, demand metrics, psychometrics, medicometrics, and other schools of applied statistics related to (inter)human behaviour. (Econometrics theory is not included). The website is intended to support anyone teaching econometrics. The links are organized so that newly added links are listed at the top of the page followed by a section listing Econometricians. The remaining sections provide links to Econometrics papers, such as preprints, articles and dissertations; econometric software; code and data; (metadata) data sources (which are listed alphabetically); news lists; conferences and summer courses, and journals. The entire table of contents can be searched using a Web browser. Visitors are encouraged to email their additions, especially conferences. [VF]


Cornell: Discovering Materials science and Engineering [pdf]

Materials science and engineering "is grounded in an understanding of why materials behave the way they do, and encompasses how materials are made and how new ones can be developed." This website relates to readers the importance of this field throughout history and in current times, noting that modern materials science focuses on ceramics, polymers, and semiconductors, as well as on older materials, such as metals and glasses. The website presents a booklet prepared by faculty members in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Cornell University and provides short descriptions of established areas of materials science as well as emerging fields. The site reviews areas of study such as magnetic materials and advances in biotechnology. The purpose of the booklet is "to provide a tool for helping students--and their families and teachers--to better understand the importance of materials now and in the world of the future." [VF]

Multiplication Facts

This website "contains the techniques, tips, and secrets used by master teachers" of mathematics. Based on research, the authors argue that rote memory is one of the least effective ways of memorizing. They offer more effective strategies for teaching students the times tables and some strategies for helping with memorization, such as using rhyming words, pictures, stories and other activities. Much of the material here is drawn from a book called Memorize in Minutes: The Times Table, which is available for purchase. A section on Teaching Strategies reviews what works and what doesn't, while the Teacher Helpers section provides a variety of classroom resources, such as activity ideas, worksheets, flash cards and information on helpful books, tapes and programs. Some games listed in the Games section may also be used to help students review and learn the times tables. [VF]

BBC: Little Animals Activity Center [Macromedia Flash Player]

The Little Animals Activity Centre from BBC Schools, an educational program of the British broadcasting giant, is "a fun way for 4-8 year olds to learn and play at home." Animal graphics are used as links to various activities that engage children in reading, spelling, art, and mathematics. Mathematics lessons in addition and subtraction are led by Count Hoot, an owl. The interactive games allow kids to solve simple number problems, with immediate feedback on their answers and options to move up to more advanced levels. To encourage quick thinking and practice in basic math skills, the games are timed. Puzzlesnuff, the Hedgehog, hosts another section where children have a chance to create postcards, solve riddles, and contribute their own riddles via email. These lessons help children learn to communicate in different ways. The Teachers and Parents section describes some of the other features on the website and explains the objectives of the curriculum. The suggested lesson plan for mathematics is a bingo game, for which worksheets are available to print and use. [VF]

Teach Engineering [pdf]

TeachEngineering is a resource for K-12 educators wanting to introduce students to engineering, even if they have no background knowledge of engineering. The project is a collaboration between four engineering colleges and is funded by the National Science Foundation. The resources provided here are intended to help teachers "enhance learning, excite students and stimulate interest in science and math through the use of hands-on engineering." The lessons connect real-world experiences with curricular content already taught in K-12 classrooms and link the content to educational standards. The collection of materials are included in a database that can be searched by keyword, grade level, educational standard or other criteria, or browsed by subject area, curricular units, lessons or activities. Educators are encouraged to submit reviews and create their own area on the website to easily access personal favorites. Only a few sample lessons were posted at the time of this report, but the database is expected to be available sometime in January 2005. Other sections of the website provide information and links to learn more about the field of engineering. [VF]

Materials Information Gateway [Macromedia Flash Player]

The Materials Information Gateway offers this section of news and links devoted to materials science. The website is hosted by the Materials Research Society, a nonprofit scientific association intended to "promote interdisciplinary goal-oriented research on materials of technological importance." Posted here are links to articles from various publishing sources on the Internet covering recent advances and applications in nanoscience, smart textiles and more. A link to the Strange Matters section invites visitors to "discover the secrets of everyday stuff." Strange Matter is a traveling exhibition developed by the Ontario Science Centre and presented by the Materials Research Society, made possible by support from the National Science Foundation. The exhibition highlights the advanced materials used in "the stuff of everyday life - from cell phones to cameras, from duct tape to dinner plates and canoes to kayaks" and "provides a glimpse of where the future of materials research might take us. [VF]

Mathsite [Macromedia Flash Player, Java]

Mathsite is "an interactive source for seeing, hearing, doing mathematics." The materials were developed by a professor of mathematics at UC Berkeley and supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The website is organized by exhibits covering topics in applied math and pure math, which are intended for people of all ages who want to learn more about mathematics. As of this report, the exhibits available are entitled, "Dissecting Triangles and Squares," and "Sorting Bricks and Sticks." The website is clear and easy to navigate, but requires Flash and Java, and preferably broadband Internet connectivity, to run. Links are available to download these programs for free, along with some alternative versions of the exhibits for certain browsers. [VF]

Mathematics of the Chinese Calendar [pdf]

A mathematics professor from UC Berkeley, currently on sabbatical and at the National University of Singapore, has posted this information about the Mathematics of the Chinese Calendar. Professor Helmer Aslaksen gives some background on why he has developed this webpage, noting that "Chinese New Year is the main holiday of the year for more than one quarter of the world's population; very few people, however, know how to compute its date." Having little success in finding any information on the rules of the Chinese Calendar, he decided to work it out himself. Posted here are some of his papers on the Mathematics of the Chinese Calendar, along with an overall explanation of his method of calculation and several astronomical Java Applets and Animations to help explain the motion of the Earth and the Sun. His website on Heavenly Mathematics provides further ideas on ways to teach astronomy in a cultural context. [VF]

Cynthia Lanius' Fractal Unit

Cynthia Lanius, a former mathematics teacher who currently serves as Technology Integration Specialist for Sinton Independent School District in Sinton, Texas, has posted numerous lessons online. This website features a Fractals Unit for elementary and middle school students (although adults are also welcome to enjoy the lesson). The lesson includes a discussion on why one might study fractals and then provides step-by-step explanations on how to make fractals using Java, along with some challenging mathematics questions to consider. Samples of student work are also posted. A section for teachers provides an overview of the unit objectives along with links to other resources and materials to use in the classroom. [VF]


What is Financial Engineering?

Financial Engineering News is a publication geared towards professionals in the fairly new field of financial engineering. This section offers non-professionals in the field some explanations of what financial engineers do. For example, one CEO describes it as involving "the development and creative application of financial theory and financial instruments to structure solutions to complex financial problems and to exploit financial opportunities." The financial engineers quoted here use science-based mathematical tools, such as derivatives, to make decisions about saving, investing, borrowing, lending, and managing risk. The authors offer some historical background and discussion of why they use the term "financial engineering" as opposed to "financial analyst." Other financial engineers are invited to send in their definitions of financial engineering to be included on this website. [VF]

Earliest Math Symbols

This website, maintained by a teacher at Gulf High School in New Port Richey, Fla., reviews the Earliest Uses of Various Mathematical Symbols. Listed here are the names and information for the first individuals to use some common mathematical symbols, including symbols of operation, grouping symbols, symbols of relation, and symbols used in geometry, trigonometry, calculus, probability, number theory, and logic. The main source used for the information provided is a book by Florian Cajori entitled A History of Mathematical Notations. Links to other pages on topics in mathematics history are also provided. [VF]

EE Times: Preparing for the Next 'DARPA Grand Challenge'

This article from EE Times tracks the status of Team Overbot, "a group of enthusiasts, engineers, and partners" who are building an autonomous robot vehicle for the October 8, 2005 DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Grand Challenge. The annual Challenge, sponsored by DARPA, requires designers to develop an autonomous robot vehicle that can successfully make a trek through all kinds of terrain covering about 150 miles. The prize of $2 million has proven difficult to win, with none of the vehicles finishing last year's course. The article describes the contest and this team's design methodology. [VF]

Two Reviewing 2004 in Technology

MSNBC: The Year in Technology
Technology Research News Top Picks's_Top_Picks_122904.html

As is common with the end of another year, recent media coverage includes several articles reviewing what happened in 2004. These two articles review technology in 2004. The first article from MSNBC provides a general overview of some of the issues covered in the media throughout the year, including biometrics, broadband, spam, viruses, and the iPod. The second article highlights the Top Picks from Technology Research News (TRN). The article reviews just a few of a long list of scientific and technological research papers published in 2004. The key research areas of 2004 include notable advances in biotechnology, communications, computing, engineering, energy, security, nanotechnology, applied physics and the Internet. Each area is discussed briefly and links are provided to related articles from TRN. [VF]

BBC: Gadget market 'to grow in 2005'

This article from the BBC website provides some predictions for growth areas in technology for 2005. The author reports on the January 2005 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which took place in Las Vegas and "featured the pick of 2005's products." The article highlights hybrid devices such as this camera with wi-fi, and other digital devices. Industry leaders report on trends in consumer desires for portability and fashionable designs. The author briefly reports on some of the disappointments of the show as well, including the poor showing of advances in game technology. [VF]

Historic Bridge Foundation: U.S. Bridges [pdf]

Bridge enthusiasts will enjoy this website, dedicated to bridges constructed in the United States. The Foundation offers a listing of links to websites that provide historical information on bridges found across the country. From here, visitors can also find a selection of photos of notable bridges around the world. Another section reviews some of the different ways bridges are constructed. Images posted here "can be used to help identify bridges you may see in your travels." Other interesting features include a discussion forum, a regularly identified "success story" in bridge preservation, and the XFile. The Xfile collects information on unknown bridges. If anyone recognizes the bridge or has information the bridge's history or location, they are encouraged to email the Foundation with the information. Previously identified bridges from the Xfiles are also described in this section. [VF]

Maths Symbols

This British website provides a listing of symbols used in mathematics as well as other useful information. The website is published by the Institute of Physics, which maintains a range of websites to support physics and physicists. The listing of symbols is divided into two categories: Greek Alphabet and Mathematical Symbols. The symbols are listed on a single page, making it possible to search for a particular term using a web browser. Other sections of the website review common formulas used in Algebra, Trigonomotry, Calculus, limits, and complex numbers. The section on Matrices was under construction at the time of this report. A secion on SI Units provides some standard conversion information. [VF] Automobile History provides this review of Automobile History. The article covers the history of cars, famous automobile makers, and identifies the different models and automobile accessories/parts. The timelines section includes a link to a chronological history of the automobile. The feature article begins with the first steam, electrical, and gasoline-engine cars and goes on to tell of "the controversy behind discovering who was really first in car history" and to help visitors understand the importance of the internal combustion engine. Other interesting aspects tell of the lives of famous automotive makers and assembly line workers, as well as the origins of the name automobile. After reading the article, visitors are invited to try their "fun automobile trivia quiz." Related information on Motorcycles, Tractors, Roads, and Engines is also provided. [VF]

Topic In Depth

Tsunamis and Technology

SmallBizPipeline: Tsunami Scams Have Got Me Steamed
National Geographic: Can Satellites Aid Earthquake Predictions?
World Socialist Web Site: The Asian tsunami: why there were no warnings
Why Files: Perilous Predictions
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program: Latest Earthquakes
Princeton Earth Physics Project
Christian Science Monitor: A Low-tech Solution to Tsunamis

A writer from the SmallBizPipeline recently wrote an article reviewing some of the ways technology has been used to facilitate aid distribution and locate those missing after the Tsunami that hit several countries in Asia on December 26, 2004. This article ((1)) provides a link to the earlier article in SmallBizPipeline and updates readers on recent developments in tsunami con schemes online. Unfortunately, it seems that using the Internet leaves the door open for such scams. Of course, a major beneficial role for technology is the development of early warning systems. This article from National Geographic ( discusses how satellites might be used to improve early warning systems, while the next article (1) reports from a socialist perspective on the reasons why there was no early warning for the people who suffered from the recent tsunami, many of which are not related to a lack of technology. Nonetheless, predicting the next big earthquake is still beyond the control of scientists, according to this article from the Why Files (4). This website from the USGS (5) provides an overview of the magnitude of the most recent earthquake and links to other pages that help put the catastrophe in perspective in terms of previous earthquakes. This next website (6) proposes a lesson plan for calculating the magnitude of an earthquake, with links to some related information. Finally, this article (7) from the Christian Science Monitor highlights a low-tech way to minimize the effect of Tsunamis --mangroves. [VF]

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