The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 1, Number 20

October 18, 2002

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


National Virtual Data System
The National Virtual Data System is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's online source of data and related products. Visitors can search climate, geophysical, oceanographic, radar, and satellite data by several intuitive means such as keyword, product category, and geographical map, as well as a handy hierarchical regional search. Once found, the data, cd-roms, posters, publications, slides, and other products can be viewed online (if available) or ordered for delivery. Of the many large scale data search and access sites on the Web, the near seamless and glitch-free Virtual Data System is an uncommon delight. [JAB]
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The Passive Microwave Earth Science Information Partner
As a collaboration between NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and Remote Sensing Systems, The Passive Microwave Earth Science Information Partner "provides science researchers and users with the capability to interactively customize and receive hydrologic data sets derived from the latest space-based passive microwave instruments". Users can choose information on tropical cyclones; view information on tropical observations; view temperature images; review temperature trends; interactively choose and view data from multiple satellite sensors; and search, order, or download custom and predefined data sets. Researchers and scientists in the earth, atmospheric, and other relevant fields will find this unique collection to be an invaluable resource. [JAB]
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New York State Ambient Air Monitoring System
The Ambient Air Monitoring System: Near Real Time Data Web site is presented by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The collected data includes pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, and methane among others, as well as all common meteorological data. Records are collected and reported hourly, and can be viewed by parameter or by station, which are located throughout the state. One other interesting link gives the current air quality index for each site, including a qualitative "good," "moderate," or "healthy," as well as various charts and graphs that give the true numbers. For researchers and citizens alike, this site provides important information in a user-friendly and accessible way. [JAB]
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CSIRO Marine Research
Offered by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), CSIRO Marine Research Web site contains multiple levels of valuable information. The organization's mission is to "understand its oceans by conducting research in the sustainable use of Australia's marine resources, the ocean's role in climate, and the effective conservation of the marine ecosystem integrity." Visitors will find current news articles, research material including free modeling software, and various data and related products such as remote sensing information and publications. The strength of the site lies in the adaptability of its offerings to research and researchers around the world. [JAB]
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UM Weather
Sponsored by The Weather Underground at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, UM Weather bills itself as the "Internet's premier source of weather information." The site offers several general audience tools such as the Fast Forecast for any city in the US, ski weather, and weather cams. But, it also provides access to over two dozen weather software packages, a new computer model forecasts page, and most impressively a list of close to 400 other weather related Web sites. Professionals and researchers will appreciate the non-technical feel of the site and the valuable information they can procure from it. [JAB]
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The online equation search engine "eqndb" is made possible by Eric Lic Hang Lee. The equations are primarily from college physics and semiconductor physics, but are said to be expanding. The site allows users to search for equations by keyword and/or symbol, eventually rendering a list of related items. Once an item is chosen, the page shows the equation, describes each symbol, sites a reference, and allows users to add it to their "myeqndb" account. This free service of the site lets you add text and change the layout of the equation to suit presentation needs. [JAB]
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The National Academies of Science
The National Academies of Science was created in 1863 to advise the US government in scientific and technical matters. The Academy and its sister organizations "provide a public service by working outside the framework of government to ensure independent advice on matters of science, technology, and medicine." The National Academies Web site offers timely news articles and event information, as well as a wide array of reports and publications on various subjects including chemistry, earth science, the environment, physics, space, and more. Visitors of the site can freely view the information and even subscribe to the What's New section to keep on top of the latest knowledge being disseminated. [JAB]
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Frontiers 2002 Research Highlights
The Frontiers 2002 Research Highlights Web site is presented by the Argonne National Laboratory, which is operated by the University of Chicago for the US Department of Energy. The site contains information about the laboratory and offers a collection of research articles on various topics. The Pieces in the Scientific Excellence link has titles such as "Argonne sets world record for shortest wavelength ever from free-electron laser" and "Did molecular hitchhikers ride a comet to Earth?" The other sections contain material related to the Research Facility itself, such as "More Big Bang for the buck: Argonne physicists demonstrate Wakefield accelerator technology at Argonne" and on Energy and the Environment "Getting the dirt on storing carbon in the soil." Though short, the articles provide insight into the kind of work being performed at the Laboratory, which should be of interest to researchers working in various physical science fields. [JAB]
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Network Montana Project Instructional Materials
Montana State University maintains the Network Montana Project Instructional Materials Web site. The four subject areas covered include the atmosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and mountain environments. Each of these contain "Information Rich Problem Solving Activities" categorized by expertise level ranging from novice to expert. In the geosphere novice level, for example, the Exploding Mountain exercise lets students compare before and after volcano images, learn about lava, and explore locations of currently erupting volcanoes. The online lessons have interactive graphics, well-written text, and a fun overall feel that should encourage kids to keep learning. [JAB]
[Back to Contents] was created by the maps company Graphic Maps in an "effort to aid students, teachers, travelers and parents with their geography and map questions." The information-rich site lets users explore countries of the world through a wide array of maps, descriptions, current times, flags, populations, land size, and links to other relevant sites. Other items of interest include geography quizzes; a very neat list of the highest, lowest, biggest, smallest, tallest, deepest, oldest, youngest, richest, and poorest places on earth; a geography message board; and more. Although the site employs the use of an annoyingly large amount of pop-up ads, the quality of the material within definitely makes exploring worthwhile. [JAB]
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TEACH Great Lakes
The TEACH Great Lakes Web site is provided by the Great Lakes Information Network (last mentioned in the September 15, 1995 Scout Report). The site features online lessons specific to Great Lakes subjects such as the environment, geography, and pollution. Students can begin with the Introduction to the Great Lakes module and then move on to learn about water levels, shoreline geology, water pollution, and even explore the history and culture or careers and business areas as well. Geared for elementary through high school students, the activities present easily read material along with good photographs and other interesting graphics. Overall, the site provides good information on interesting topics with which students will enjoy becoming familiar as part of their science related curriculum. [JAB]
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Playtime Wizard
More fun activities from the US Geological Survey's Learning Web Site (last mentioned in the January 25, 2002 Scout Report) can be found on the Playtime Wizard page. The site has a couple of featured links along with a collection of other USGS and non-USGS sites. The two items of interest include the Learning Web Trivia Game and Topo Bingo. The Trivia Game contains interactive quizzes on earthquakes, amphibians, mapping, and water. Each quiz asks a series of questions and links to pages that contain the correct information. The Topo Bingo page lets students or educators download various maps for the activity, which teaches kids about topographic maps and the symbols used on them. Nearly any aged student learning about the world around them will find these activities enjoyable. [JAB]
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The Funology Web site hopes to teach kids how to make things, explore the world, and discover skills they never knew they had. The site contains pages of science facts, quizzes, games, experiments, and more. In particular, the laboratory page contains links to simple experiments kids can attempt at home on physics, chemistry, biology, and weather topics. The activities -- such as water bending light, making a rainbow, and ringing fork -- are clearly described on each page. Although each individual piece of the site is not extremely in-depth, younger students especially should enjoy the colorful pages and informative activities. [JAB]
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Weather One
From the University of Illinois Extension comes the Weather One instructional Web site for kids. The lesson consists of six pages that cover various weather related topics including seasons, clouds, the atmosphere, wind, global warming, and storms. Each page describes the particular subject, provides related photographs, and contains several activities that reinforce the learning. For example, the clouds page shows how kids can make a cloud and create a collage out of simple material found around the house. The effective organization and clean look of the site will surely make it easy for students to follow and enjoy. [JAB]
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Fun Activities: Science and Nature [RealPlayer]
Another great site from, the Jay Jay the Jet Plane Science and Nature activities page offers ten great lessons. Each is geared toward very young children and demonstrate scientific principles that relate to their everyday world, such as day and night, water, air, weather, rocks, gravity, and more. The topics begin with a page worth of text that describe the particular principle, and then each provides a related movie clip that stars Jay Jay the Jet Plane. The exercise of reading or being read the easy-to-understand concepts and then watching a fun and attention grabbing clip that reinforces the learning should prove meaningful. [JAB]
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Coalbed Methane [.pdf]
The US Department of Interior Web site offers a hot topics section that currently includes information about coalbed methane. The links include a fact sheet entitled "Coalbed Methane--An Untapped Energy Resource and an Environmental Concern." A documents link takes visitors to a page maintained by Wyoming's Bureau of Land Management that contains several reports related to the topic, including information about Atlantic Rim Coalbed Methane Projects and Coalbed Methane and Water Monitor Well Data. Lastly, the page contains statements by Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management for the US Department of Interior, Rebecca Watson, on related energy topics that are also worth exploring. [JAB]
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Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Program [.pdf]
The General Land Office of Texas, the state's oldest agency, strives to balance economic development with preservation of its natural resources. The Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Program of the agency has an interesting Web site with information about the state's shorelines and its continuous efforts to slow erosion and maintain its beaches. Although many of the links on the page are about specific programs and regulations related to coastal erosion, the site also offers a new document entitled "Historical Shoreline Change on Big Reef Galveston Island," maps that document the changes, current digital photographs of the coast, a glossary of beach and erosion terms, and more. [JAB]
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Explore the Universe [Flash, QuickTime]
The new online exhibit, Explore the Universe, is provided by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The site "presents the major discoveries that have given us our current scientific view of the universe, illustrates how the universe is taking shape and probes the mysteries that remain." The exhibit, which is especially interesting when viewed with necessary browsers and multimedia software, delves into the history of space exploration from Galileo and the earliest ideas about the universe to the digital technology of today. The visually stunning exhibit should be enjoyable to explore and offers people of all ages a great way to learn about the human need to know what lies beyond. [JAB]
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Browse Our Digital Map Collection
Presented by the University of California Berkeley's (UCB) Earth Sciences and Map Library, the Browse Our Digital Map Collection Web site lets visitors do just that. Several thousand scanned maps from the collection are available and can be searched via the UCB Library Pathfinder program. After orientating oneself to the peculiarities of the search program, which seems more daunting than it actually is, the vast collection can be accessed quite easily. The extensive aerial photographs, historical maps, and other similar offerings make the search worth the effort. [JAB]
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The October 7, 2002 liftoff of the Space Shuttle Atlantis for the mission dedicated as STS-112 occurred without a hitch. The NASA Human Spaceflight Web site gives up-to-date information on what the shuttle and its crew is up to. The mission included several spacewalks to further the construction of the International Space Station, as well as the first ever external camera view of the launch from the shuttle itself. The site offers several links to articles, photographs, and other multimedia material, which chronicle the often underappreciated scientific achievements taking place in space. [JAB]
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Created by Dr.Steffen Weber, the Quasicrystals Web site provides an introduction to this relatively new field of crystallography. Although much of the site is highly technical, those interested in related subjects will find exploring the thorough descriptions and interactive Java applets rewarding. The introduction explains what quasicrystals are, their types, experimental techniques, morphology, and more. The Crystal Gallery link provides the most unique offering of the site, which allows users to view three-dimensional crystal shapes, move them through space, and change their appearance. Other links include publications, software, teaching aids, and more. [JAB]
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Gulf of Mexico Integrated Science
The US Geological Survey Gulf of Mexico Integrated Science Web site contains information on the collaborative project being undertaken to assess and monitor Gulf of Mexico estuaries. "The key to understanding complex estuarine systems lies in understanding the interactions between geological framework and biological, geochemical and hydrological processes." The site provides information on the Tampa Bay pilot study, Galveston Bay Wetland Inventory Project, and the Atchafalaya and Mississippi River Delta Study. Other interesting links lead visitors to maps and aerial photographs of the areas, photo tours, reports, posters, and more. Anyone living near or interested in these unique habitats will find the site a good source of information. [JAB]
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El Nino
Offered by Environment Canada, the natural resources arm of the Canadian Government, the El Nino informational Web site explores the enigmatic weather phenomenon. The site includes El Nino history and science, Canadian and worldwide effects, its current status and forecast, and La Nina facts, as well as links to further information. The Comparing El Nino page offers tables listing the years of onset of El Nino and La Nina years and links to sites containing regional information. The easy to understand descriptions and attractive graphics and animations make the site accessible to a wide range of audiences. This site is also reviewed in the October 18, 2002 Scout Report.
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Topic In Depth

Physics of Sailing
1. The Physics of Sailing
2. Sailing Simulator
3. Why Wing Sails?
4. Basic Sail Theory and Concepts
5. Sailing to the Stars
6. The Quest for the Perfect Shape
7. Sailing Through Bernoulli
8. How a Sailboat Sails into the Wind
This Topic in Depth explores the Web's offerings on the physics of sailing. The first site by Joe Wolfe of the School of Physics at the University of New South Wales is entitled The Physics of Sailing (1). Here, visitors will learn how boats can sail upwind, how they sail faster than the wind, and why large boats never sail directly with the wind. The one-page site offers simple descriptions, good illustrations, and some basic calculations that correspond with the physics. The second site is an interactive online sailing simulation (2) presented by This very addicting activity lets users adjust the sail and rudder direction of the boat to see how fast it will go in various directions. It also explains the various positions of the boat and the best tactics to maximize speed. The next page is from the DynaWing Company Web site called Why Wing Sails? (3). The page explains why wing sails have a better lift-to-drag ratio than traditional sails and illustrates airflow, foils, the venturi effect, and more. The American Model Yachting Association maintains the next site titled Basic Sail Theory and Concepts (4). The site describes the physics of the sail and the centerboard of a boat, which projects downward into the water. Visitors of the site will also learn about the three forms of wind that affect a boat (apparent, true, and induced) and even some basic sailing terms. The fifth site is an article from NASA about the possibility of using sails to propel spacecraft called Sailing to the Stars (5). The August 2000 article reports how NASA scientists believe a "spacecraft could deploy 'sails' and be propelled through our solar system using the pressure of photons (light) from the Sun." The next site is from WB-Sails called The Quest for the Perfect Shape (6), which explores how the shape of sails effect a boat's performance. The page describes the heeling force of wind, the design wind, and the parts of a sail, and even has a link to a sail power calculator. From ESPN comes a physics lesson plan called Sailing Through Bernoulli (7). The lesson plan teaches kids about the Bernoulli principle, which explains how wings produce lift. One of the activities suggests students hold one hand out the window of a moving car and as they change the angle of their hand they can experience a lift force on their hand. The last site is maintained by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Aerodynamics and Astronomics Department called How a Sailboat Sails into the Wind (8). The site tells a bit of the history of sails from the first square sails dated 3000 BC to the present designs. Other things of interest include explanations of several equations and forces related to sailing. [JAB]
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From The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2002.

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