The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 4, Number 2

January 28, 2005

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




Topic In Depth


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Nanoscience

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratorys nanotechnology programs focus on issues relevant to national security. Lab researchers drive the future of homeland security through innovations in biosensing and radiation detector materials, chemical absorbants, and biofunctional materials and other materials research. The website divides their work into three main areas: Bionanoscience, Nanofabrication, and Theory, Simulation, and Modeling. The website includes a brief description of each research area and links to related articles. The section on Bionanoscience includes links to journal publications, most of which require a paid subscription. Links to various laboratories housed within LLNL highlight additional contributions and research programs from those labs as well as information on their educational programs. [VF]

Higher-Dimensional Categories: An Illustrated Guidebook [pdf, postscript]

This book is an informal and illustrated guide about n-categories written by Eugenia Cheng and Aaron Lauda. Cheng, L. E. Dickson Instructor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Chicago, has been teaching Lauda, a PhD student at Cambridge University, about n-categories and they decided to write an expanded version of their discussions. The material was presented at an Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) workshop on n-categories in June 2004. The version posted here has been revised since the workshop and is being reviewed for publication. The guide gives an explanatory introduction to various definitions of higher-dimensional category with an emphasis on ideas and the intuitions that lead to the formalities. [VF]

System and Circuit Technology Working Group [avi, mpg]

The Heinz Nixdorf Institute is an interdisciplinary research center for Computer Science and Technology within the University of Paderborn in Germany. This website features research from the System and Circuit Technology Working Group. The research goal of this group is the design and implementation of innovative microelectronic systems. Its work focuses on the system and circuit level, both in digital and analog circuit technology, and paying particular attention to evaluating resource efficiency of massively parallel implementations. The authors define resource efficiency as careful treatment of the basic physical variables: space, time and energy. Some applications for this work include microelectronic systems used as real-time data servers, massively parallel neurocomputers, decentralized automation systems and autonomous mobile robots. They provide brief overviews of their work in Cognitronics, Mediatronics, and Microelectronics. Some sections include articles and videos providing additional information on their research program. Abstracts of research articles are posted in the Publications section. [VF]

AMS: Current Events in Mathematics [pdf]

The American Mathematical Society organized the Special Session on Current Events at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta in 2005. Posted here are the talks presented at the session. The papers include, The Green-Tao Theorem on Primes in Arithmetic Progression: A Dynamical Point of View, by Bryna Kra; Achieving the Shannon Limit: A Progress Report, by Robert McEliece; Floer Theory and Low Dimensional Topology, by Dusa McDuff; New Methods in Celestial Mechanics and Mission Design, by Jerrold E. Marsden (with Shane D. Ross); and Graph Minors and the Proof of Wagner's Conjecture, by Lszl Lovsz. [VF]

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology: Biologically Inspired Research Group [avi, pdf]

The School of Computer and Communication Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is one of the major European centers of teaching and research in information technology. This website describes the research of the Biologically Inspired Research Group. Its research focuses on the intersection between computational neuroscience, robotics, nonlinear dynamical systems, and adaptive algorithms. Inspired by biological systems and trained in the fields of modeling, optimization, and control, the researchers are working to produce novel types of robots with adaptive locomotion and sensorimotor coordination abilities, and in using the robots to investigate hypotheses of how central nervous systems implement these abilities in animals. The Research section describes some of the group's work in numerical simulations of locomotion and movement control, sensorimotor coordination, dynamic simulators of articulated rigid bodies, statistical learning algorithms, evolutionary algorithms, nonlinear dynamical systems, humanoid robotics, amphibious articulated robotics, and modular robotics. Some sections are still under construction. Journal publications, as well as descriptions of student projects and videos demonstrating their accomplishments, are posted online. [VF]

High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network

The High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) is creating, demonstrating, and evaluating a non-commercial, prototype, high-performance, wide-area, wireless network in three counties in California. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation, has installed backbone nodes at the UC San Diego and San Diego State University campuses, and a number of "hard to reach" areas in remote environments. The HPWREN is used for network analysis research and offers high-speed wireless Internet collaboration for field researchers from various disciplines (such as geophysics, astronomy, and ecology), as well as for educational opportunities related to rural Native American learning centers. The work also addresses networking requirements for first responders in remote areas. On this website are Public Information Materials, which include photos, facts, figures, and links to related research as well as ongoing updates about progress. [VF]

Intrigue Technologies, The Vision Sensor Company [pdf]

Intrigue Technologies, led by Vladimir Brajovic, has developed software that can intelligently correct for common illumination problems in photography. The technology the firm is developing makes it possible to balance exposure across images, creating cleaner images and improving contrast. A news release posted on the website describes the product more generally. Also available from this site is an online demonstration of the company's software plug-in, the Shadow Illuminator, which includes a presentation of the images that have been adjusted using the software, a manual explaining how the software works, and a sample version of the product to download and try free of charge. The company's goal is to create an optical device that will work more like a retina than a standard imaging sensor. Researchers anticipate that future developments will improve robots visual-sensing, allow for piloting vehicles in extreme weather, and improve the reliability of machine-vision systems, such as those for biometric identification, X-ray diagnostics and space exploration imagers. [VF]

Carnegie Mellon University: Autonomous Helicopter Project [avi]

The goal of the Carnegie Mellon University Autonomous Helicopter Project is to develop a vision-guided robot helicopter that can self-start, take off, safely fly to a designated area, search for and locate a designated object, track or pursue objects, and return home, all within any weather conditions and using only on-board intelligence and computing power. Recent flight tests of the linear robust controller for the Yamaha R-50 Robotic Helicopter are presented along with some animation videos. Some applications for the technologies are also described and include search and rescue, surveillance, law enforcement, inspection, mapping, and aerial cinematography. In addition, the site discusses some of the capabilities project researchers have developed over the years, such as vision-based stability and control, autonomous takeoff, trajectory following and landing, aerial mapping, and object recognition and manipulation. Publications are listed online and available upon request. [VF]


Engineers Week: Future City [Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word]

The National Engineers Week Future City Competition provides a fun and exciting educational engineering program for seventh- and eighth-grade students that combines a stimulating engineering challenge with a hands-on application to present their vision of a city of the future. The competition is intended to foster engineering skills, such as teamwork, communication and problem solving skills, as well as to inspire students to explore future careers in engineering. Using the commercial software SIMCITY to design their ideal city, students interact with each other, and with teachers and engineer mentors and also learn about the multi-disciplines within the engineering profession. The website has more information about the competition, as well as a handbook providing helpful tips and techniques. Examples of accomplishments from previous competitions are posted and CD-ROM video is available from regional coordinators to give more background on the competition. [VF]

Concepts in Digital Imaging Technology [Java]

The Optical Microscopy Division of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL) is part of a collaborative initiative among Florida State University, the University of Florida, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (See also see the August 4, 1999 Scout Report for Science & Engineering ) This section of their Molecular Expressions Photomicrography Primer provides an overview of several concepts in digital imaging technology. Java tutorials provide additional information on some critical concepts and demonstrate various digital imaging techniques. [VF]

Mathworld: The Mathematics of Tsunamis

Mathworld, hosted and sponsored by Wolfram Research, Inc., offers a large collection of online mathematics resources intended for students, educators, math enthusiasts, and researchers. (See also November 30, 1999 Scout Report for Science & Engineering ) In light of the impact of the recent tsunami in Asia, the January 2005 News section discusses the mathematics of tsunamis. Noting that the full-scale physics and modeling of tsunamis would require the use of supercomputers and complicated custom software, the authors of this article use Wolfram Research's Mathematica software to demonstrate how a number of approximations can be made that render the problem of tsunami propagation tractable for a computer of modest power. The authors present and explain the system of coupled partial differential equations used to approximate the behavior of real ocean waves and explain how they simplified the solution process to create the tsunami visualization pictured on the website. [VF]

University of South Carolina: Center for Engineering and Computing Education [Microsoft Word]

The University of South Carolina (USC), Center for Engineering and Computing Education, works to improve engineering- and computer science-related education at the precollege, undergraduate and graduate levels with the ultimate goal of developing a technologically literate population and workforce in South Carolina. The Center supports the research, development and implementation of improved teaching methods, promotes hands-on, inquiry-based learning, and facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations. Although many of the workshops and programs are specifically for students in South Carolina, visitors will find information on several programs available to teachers and students across the U.S. The Center has also posted a collection of lesson plans developed by teams of USC engineering students and K-12 teachers. The lessons topics include: Light, Magnetism, and Electricity; Forces, Motion, and Design; Physical Science; Earth and Space Science; Plants and Animals; and Computer Science. Each lesson plan is available to download in Microsoft Word format and includes an overview of the lesson, such as suggested grade level, concepts covered, length of the lesson, and materials required. A section on K-12 Project Ideas offers links to other lesson resources available online. Also posted are findings from a survey of centers in the United States that are engaged in engineering, science or mathematics education that were used to develop a set of best practices for engineering education centers. [VF]

What Works Clearinghouse: Middle School Math Curricula [pdf]

The What Works Clearninghouse was established by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences "to provide educators, policy-makers, researchers, and the public with a central and trusted source of scientific evidence of what works in education." The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has posted the results from its review of interventions based on a curriculum, which contain learning goals that spell out the mathematics that students should know and be able to do, instructional programs and materials that organize the mathematical content, and assessments. The reviews are organized into three WWC Topic Reports that cover interventions for middle school mathematics, elementary school mathematics, and high school mathematics. As of this report, the organization has published findings from its review of 77 studies of middle school mathematics interventions. For each intervention with at least one study that "Meets Evidence Standards" or "Meets Evidence Standards with Reservations," the site provides a short review of the study and the findings. The site notes that, intervention reports are one component of the decision-making process, but should not be the sole source of information when making educational decisions. [VF]

Colorful Mathematics

Funded by Industry Canada's SchoolNet initiative with the cooperation of the Canadian Mathematical Society, Colorful Mathematics takes a game-oriented approach to teaching K-12 mathematics. The project has developed five coloring games that teach children about problem solving, and pattern identification, which are all at the very heart of mathematics. The coloring approach makes difficult graph concepts that are still the subject of active research by mathematicians, computer scientists and industry researchers more accessible to children. The software program, which is available for free from this website, is set up to check for mistakes and challenge students to improve on their results. A Teachers Corner section gives an overview of the games, some sample questions for discussion with the curious student, and an overview of terminology used in the software program. The website is also available in French. [VF]

University of Washington: Center for Engineering, Learning, and Teaching

The Center for Engineering, Learning, and Teaching (CELT) at the University of Washington College of Engineering is a collaboration between educational researchers, colleagues from the University of Washington and other U.S. institutions to conduct research that advances engineering education. The website highlights current research activities, which focus on ways to improve teaching and learning in design engineering as well as developing and evaluating instruction that enhances knowledge integration. A third area of research examines the ways in which faculty incorporate research on engineering student learning into teaching. A review of the relevance of the project for engineering education and significant findings are posted for each research area. Consultation services are described and a listing of the publications can be searched by key word. [VF]

The Math and Physics Help Home Page

This is a collection of papers that high school teacher Kenny Fleder and his brother Gary, a professor in the Physics Department of Smith College, wrote to explain various concepts in math and physics. Some of the mathematical concepts addressed here include: "Why is it when you multiply two negative numbers you get a positive number?," base eight calculations, an overview of trigonometry, and an explanation of how to use select models of scientific calculators. They invite visitors to email them and let them know if the papers have been helpful or if theyd like other concepts explained. [VF]


Lemelson-MIT Program: 2005 Invention Index [pdf]

The Lemelson-MIT Program, which focuses on making invention and innovation more accessible to young people, has posted its 2005 Invention Index. The study gauges Americans attitudes toward invention and innovation and found that nearly 20 percent of American adults say they think most creatively in their cars. One press release gives an overview of the findings while another describes the project's collaboration with CNN. The CNN 25 Top 25 Innovations program is an hour-long CNN special that premiered Jan. 16. The list, which the Lemelson-MIT Program helped to compile, consists of the Top 25 non-medical innovations that have become widely used since 1980, are readily recognizable by most Americans, have had a direct and perceptible impact on everyday life and could dramatically affect the future. A link to CNNs website provides the final ranking and an opportunity for viewers to rank the innovations themselves or provide their thoughts and memories on how these innovations changed their lives. [VF]

The Moscow Times: Putin Plans to Award High-Tech Tax Breaks

This article from the Moscow Times reports on President Vladimir Putins plans to develop the high-tech sector with tax incentives for investors in special economic zones. The new technology parks are intended to diversify Russias economy and make the country more competitive in international markets. The author outlines the proposed structure and tax breaks on imports, exports, and profit taxes. The article concludes with some comments from critics skeptical of the likelihood that the plan will improve the countrys economic situation. [VF]

NASA: Images from the Spacecraft and Telescopes Gallery

This website from the Jet Propulsion Lab provides over 100 images of NASA's spacecraft and telescopes. The original caption that was released with the image is posted along with the date of the image. The images can be sorted by mission, image release date, name, mission, instrument, or image size and can be downloaded in TIFF or JPEG format. At the time of this report, the sorting function was a bit erratic, but visitors can also refine their search using drop-down menus and a search function. [VF]

Martindale Calculators

Martindale Calculators is a Web-based tool collection that contains over 19,000 online calculators created by over "3,450" very "creative" individuals, businesses and tax supported entities world wide. The collection is organized by the following topics: mathematics; statistics; science A-Z; chemistry; physics, astrophysics and astronomy; engineering A-Z; and electrical engineering, computer engineering, & computer science. Each section includes a wealth of websites to explore, all related to mathematical calculations, mostly course materials and articles. Another section lists online calculators relevant for various industries, such as aviation, cosmetics, insurance, and library science. The list is organized alphabetically and creatively stretches the meaning of calculator to include such things as name translators and databases on animal breeds . [VF]

Science Cartoons Plus

This website features cartoons by S. Harris. His cartoons have been exhibited at museums in the U.S. and Canada since 1984, including San Francisco's Exploratorium and the MIT Museum. Some have appeared in periodicals such as Discover, American Scientist, The New Yorker, Natural History Magazine, and Playboy. The gallery includes several cartoons organized by topics such as Astronomy, Computers, Environment, Government, Math, Physics, and Sociology. The drawings can be purchased, but the link for information on how to purchase the drawings was not available at the time of this report. [VF]

AMS: Math in the Media

Math in the Media is a monthly publication of the American Mathematical Society. Writer Tony Phillips reviews and summarizes stories about math found in publications such as the New York Times and Time magazine. Another section includes reviews of books, plays, movies and television shows that are related to mathematics. Also featured is an image of the month and regular feature column from AMS, which at the time of this report addressed the topic Euler's Polyhedral Formula. [VF]

Chicago Museum of Science and Industry: 2005 Black Creativity

From Jan. 14 to Feb. 28, 2005, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry is featuring 2005 Black Creativity as part of the Engineering the Future exhibit, where visitors can unlock the secrets of amazing engineering feats. The exhibit highlights engineering superheroes and explains the science behind accomplishments of these African American engineers. Visitors are encouraged to join comic-book personalities to solve a variety of fun, interactive engineering challenges. This website gives an overview of the exhibit, the sponsors, as well as some fun facts and links to various resources on careers in the field. Event and workshop schedules are also posted. [VF]

IBM: Programming and Poetry

This article reviews a Poetry vs. Programming panel sponsored by IBM to continue a 2004 discussion from the Innovation Days speaker series. Panel participants, which included poets Thomas Lux and Vijay Seshadri, and IBM researchers John Richards, Josh Scribner and John Vlissides, discussed whether or not "writing code is like writing poetry." The panel was also broadcast to IBM's U.S. labs. The author provides quotes from the participants and describes the conversation as lively and dynamic. Links to related websites provide additional information on the speakers and their work. [VF]

Topic In Depth

Women in Science and Mathematics

Yahoo News: Harvard President Criticized for Remarks
Harvard University: Letter from President Summers on women and science
Social Forces: Gender Differences in Mathematical Trajectories
Society of Women Engineers: To the Editor
Engineers Week: MentorNet Founder Responds to Harvard University Presidents
Comments on Women in Science
Nelson Diversity Surveys
Institute for Mathematics and its Applications: Career Options for Women in

Recent comments by Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers, regarding women and mathematics have spurred numerous articles and responses. The first article from Yahoo News (1) gives an overview of the event, his comments, and some reactions. The comment most at issue is whether or not innate sex differences might leave women less capable of succeeding at the most advanced mathematics. The second website (2) offers Summers apology and clarifies his comments. The third article (3), although from 2001, reviews some previous research on gender differences in mathematics and discusses findings from a study that, based on longitudinal data, found that gender differences are slight, late developing, and subject-specific. This response from the Society of Women Engineers (4) offers some further insight on why there are fewer women than men in mathematics and science careers. This next website from Engineers Week (5) invites others to join the discussion forum on this issue. This website (7) posts the Nelson Diversity Survey, which gives 2005 statistics for diversity in science and engineering facilities at research universities, while the next website looks to the future (6) and offers some short abstracts describing some prospective Career Options for Women in Mathematics. [VF]

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