The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 1, Number 21

November 1, 2002

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Energy Efficiency: Budget, Oil Conservation, and Electricity Conservation Issues [.pdf]
The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) works to improve the scientific basis for environmental decision-making. The NCSE Web site provides access to Reports produced by the Congressional Research Service, which is a branch of the Library of Congress that provides nonpartisan research reports to members of the House and Senate. Now available on the site is a recently updated report entitled Energy Efficiency: Budget, Oil Conservation, and Electricity Conservation Issues. The page provides a synopsis of recent congressional developments on the topic and an abstract of the report, as well as a downloadable file. Topics discussed include the Department of Energy's (DOE) strategic and performance goals, efficiency goals for federal buildings, the fiscal year 2003 DOE and EPA budgets, oil conservation, recent legislation and congressional reports, and more. Those interested in energy and policy related issues will appreciate the unique viewpoint the report provides. [JAB]
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GEOSCAN Database
Provided by Natural Resources Canada and part of the Earth Sciences Information Centre, GEOSCAN Database boasts a bibliographic database that contains "over 40,000 records covering all the publications of the Geological Survey of Canada." Users can search by basic keyword, title, author, subject, location, year, etc. Results can be displayed by various formats and can be selected for later review, and many include links to the publication's full text, which can be accessed free of charge. The ease of use and scope of material contained in the database provides researchers with a quality resource of information not readily available elsewhere. [JAB]
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NIST Data Gateway
From the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (last mentioned in the January 25, 2002 Scout Report) comes the NIST Data Gateway. The site provides "easy access" to scientific and technical data that cover a broad range of substances and properties from many different scientific disciplines. The dozens of free online databases range from the Atomic Transition Probability Bibliographic Database to the X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy Database. The gateway does a good job organizing and describing the various informational sources, which can be alphabetically browsed or searched by keyword, property, and substance name. If what you're looking for still isn't found, NIST also provides a set of PC databases for purchase. [JAB]
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GrayLit Network [.pdf]
The GrayLit Network, which was developed by the US Department of Energy's Office of Scientific and Technical Information, is described as a portal for technical report information generated through federally funded research and development projects. Searches can take place within any combination of the five databases, which include the Defense Technical Information Center Report Collection, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab Reports, DOE Information Bridge Report Collection, NASA Langley Technical Reports, and the EPA National Environmental Publications Internet Site. Search results are segmented by each particular database and include links for full-text downloads, making the network an easy to use and powerful research tool that many should find useful. [JAB]
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Riparian Areas: Functions and Strategies for Management
The National Academic Press "publishes over 200 books a year on a wide range of topics in science, engineering, and health, capturing the most authoritative views on important issues in science and health policy." These books are made available to read online for free. One of the latest offerings is entitled Riparian Areas: Functions and Strategies for Management, written by the Committee on Riparian Zone Functioning and Strategies for Management, Water Science and Technology Board, National Research Council. The Open Book page image presentation framework (which is the tool used to view the book) is fully browseable, searchable, printable, and unfortunately a bit clumsy to use. More books are being presented in PDF format, which should help in this regard; nonetheless, the offerings provide good timely information at a great price. [JAB]
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Where to Find Material Safety Data Sheets On the Internet
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are an invaluable information source for those working with dangerous substances such as chemicals. One problem often encountered, though, is having access to the sheet when needed; that's where the aptly named Web site, Where to Find Material Safety Data Sheets On the Internet, comes in. The site is provided by Interactive Learning Paradigms Incorporated and compiles around 100 links to free MSDS. The pages are categorized into general sites, government and nonprofit agencies, chemical manufacturers and suppliers, pesticides, and miscellaneous sites -- each with a brief description. The only downfall of the site is the lack of a MSDS search engine, which apparently is going to change in the future according to the Webmaster. Other items of interest include regulations, suppliers, software, a quiz, MSDS facts, books, and more. [JAB]
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Calculators Online Center
Hosted by the UCI Science Library, the Calculators Online Center Web site is presented by Jim Martindale. The site is an incredible collection of links to over 16,000 online calculators on nearly every subject imaginable, including science specific ones. Everything from archeology and biology to geology and meteorology is covered, each with its own brief description and direct link. Although it is a bit difficult to find specific calculators from the many listed (perhaps a search tool would be helpful), the site is a great accumulation of very helpful tools. [JAB]
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Energy Crossroads
The Energy Crossroads metadata Web site is offered by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. If you are interested in energy efficiency, the nearly 700 links provided by the site should make it easy to locate what you need. Visitors can browse by the many categories, which include research institutions, US federal and state government resources, university-based energy activities, energy software, industry and professional organizations, weather data resources, energy efficiency publications, and much more. The annotated links can also be searched by keyword, by URL, by title, by phonetically spelled words, by what's new (although an easier way to find newly added sites would be helpful), and more. Submissions to the site are encouraged, which will further its growth and help make it an even more beneficial resource. [JAB]
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Acoustics Laboratories: Active Noise Control Experiment
The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Department of Mechanical Engineering offers the Vibrations and Acoustics Laboratory Web site and the Active Noise Control Experiment. The homepage contains the Try An Active Noise Control Experiment link, which presents an explanation of the experiment, a paper written by C. R. Fuller and A. H. Flotow on the subject, and the download file to carry it out. The experiment demonstrates how active noise control cancels a sound wave by sending a single frequency wave to the right computer speaker, which represents the noise to be cancelled, and a control wave of equal amplitude and opposite phase to the left speaker to cancel the noise. Although younger kids will most likely need help from teachers or parents to set up or understand the experiment, the very interesting hands-on activity will be enjoyed by nearly every aged student. [JAB]
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Adventures in Science and Technology
Adventures in Science and Technology, part of the Government of Canada's Digital Collections Web site, contains great information and projects for kids. Visitors can learn the basics of physics, chemistry, biology, and other subjects, as well as try several activities within each subject. For example, the physics link contains a simple description of what physics is, a focus on astronomy and an astronomer, and six physics-related projects. Each hands-on lesson (which require adult supervision) includes its purpose, the theory behind it, procedures, and a conclusion. The descriptions on the individual pages seem to be geared for younger students, although many of the more involved projects can be enjoyed by a wide ranging audience. [JAB]
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Doing Science: An Introduction to Physical Science
The online tutorial, Doing Science: An Introduction to Physical Science, is offered by Susan Wyckoff of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Arizona State University. Visitors have access to seven chapters of text and graphics describing what science is, motion, force, properties of water, lightening, electricity, magnetism, and light. Also included are more than a dozen "personal labs" that offer easy-to-do experiments that help reinforce the learning, as well several appendices on experimental errors, significant figures, dangers of electricity, and more. As part of a course or just as a self-learning tool, the site provides a good way for students to discover many of the basic concepts behind physical science. [JAB]
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The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's Envirofun web site features Captain Earthworm, Captain Redbird, and Captain Bluegill to help show kids how to protect the earth's air, land, and water. The Our Earthship link takes kids through various pages that describe how nature (on its own) recycles air, land, and water. Another interesting set of pages lie within the Earthship Logs link, which provides stories, games, and advice related to environmental problems such as litter and water resources. The last link on the main page takes visitors directly to the games, quizzes, and other fun stuff provided on the site such as the interactive litter hunt game. Kids get to learn the best way to dispose of items, such as plastic and candy wrappers, after clicking on them within the picture. Overall, the site does a great job of providing a fun and accessible place where kids can explore and learn about these environmental topics on their own and at their own pace. [JAB]
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The strange but addictive Sodaplay Web site was developed by a London-based design company called Soda Creative Limited. Visitors get to build, save, manipulate, and even race their very own wire frame creatures around the computer screen. The construction window allow users to adjust parameters such as gravity and friction to see how it affects the beast and also lets them be creative and add or manipulate various body parts. Directions should be read to fully appreciate the capabilities of the site, although jumping in and playing around is also a lot of fun. This very unique site does a great job of presenting a fascinating free activity that students (who will hardly realize they are learning) will love to play and experiment with. [JAB]
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What's That Stuff?
What's That Stuff? Well, the Web site provided by Chemical and Engineering News answers this question on many of those everyday items that are just a bit curious. For example, Silly Putty is a "dilatant compound, which means it has an inverse thixotropy--that is, as a viscous suspension or gel, it becomes solid under the influence of pressure." The site explains the history and characteristics of this and over twenty other substances such as sunscreen, cheese whiz, baseballs, fluoride, new car smell, ink, lipstick, bug spray, and licorice. The individual articles are non-technical for the most part and are presented in fun way that students will enjoy. Also, if a reader's curiosity is sparked, many of the pages offer links to outside sources of additional information. [JAB]
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The Chesapeake Meteor
Presented by the US Geological Survey, The Chesapeake Meteor Web site chronicles the impact created by the meteor. The site explains how the sixth largest crater on earth was formed and also provides ten related lessons on its activities page. Educators will find lesson plans dealing with graded sediments and impact events, meteor showers, aquifers, Eocene astroblemes, seismographs, growing dinoflagellates, and more. Each contains simple directions, related questions, and other pertinent information in a very easy-to-follow format. The main attraction of the activities presented on the site are the unique topics covered that can help expand any "tired" geology or physical science curriculum. [JAB]
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Franklin's Forecast
As part of the Franklin Institute of Science Museum, the Franklin's Forecast Web site provides several weather-related activities and information geared to kids. Visitors can learn about El Nino, lightening, weather satellites, and radar; build a weather station; check what the weather is right now; and more. As part of making a weather station, kids can surprisingly build a barometer, hygrometer, rain gauge, weather vane, and compass, all from (mostly) ordinary objects around the house. Students are also encouraged to begin a weather journal along with the weather station to learn how to collect and compare data among themselves and other sources, like those found within the site. As a learning tool and information source, Franklin's Forecast does a good job of providing everything that may be needed for students to grasp the basic concepts of weather and meteorology. [JAB]
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The World Fact Book 2002
New from the US Central Intelligence Agency comes The World Fact Book 2002. This annual publication contains a wide range of information on every recognized country in the world. Once chosen, visitors can view a map of the country and its flag, as well as read facts on its geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues including international disputes and illicit drugs. Geographic information provided includes brief descriptions of the country location, coordinates, area, climate, terrain, land use, and more. One of the interesting features of the site is the flags of the world link, which displays every country's flag on one page, with links to larger pictures of each and a description. As a public domain document, the publication can be freely downloaded, printed, and viewed by anyone. [JAB]
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David Rumsey Map Collection
The David Rumsey Map Collection, which is provided by Cartography Associates, "contains to date over 7,180 maps online and focuses on rare 18th and 19th century North and South America cartographic history materials." The vast material provided for viewing and printing for personal use includes atlases, globes, books, maritime charts, and a great deal more. Because of the large number of pieces, the site offers three ways to view the material including a type of Web browser; a downloadable JAVA client; and a GIS browser, which can be integrated with other spatial data. Although the potential for a great Web experience exists with the site, the viewing methods may be overly cumbersome to some (especially those with slower modem speeds). [JAB]
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Heavens Above
The aim of the Heavens Above Web site is "to provide you with all the information you need to observe satellites such as the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle, spectacular events such as the dazzlingly bright flares from Iridium satellites as well as a wealth of other spaceflight and astronomical information." After users enter their location, they get all the specific satellite and astronomical viewing information required for where they are. Astronomy buffs will appreciate the invaluable resource the site provides as well as the additional features such the sky charts, planet data, comet information, and more. The developer and maintainer of the site, Chris Peat, is surely revered by his fellow stargazers. [JAB]
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Glossary of Energy Terms
The California Energy Commission's Web site contains a great resource entitled the Glossary of Energy Terms. If you're interested in energy topics or happen to come across an unfamiliar term, this tool will be of great use. Simply choose the letter of the term and hope that it's included -- for example, DAYLIGHTING, which is defined as "The use of sunlight to supplement or replace electric lighting." If you quickly get through the hundreds of terms within the dictionary, the main page offers a link to another similar page called the Electric Power Industry Glossary. [JAB]
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WebElements: Periodic Table Scholar Edition [Real Player, QuickTime]
Billed as the first periodic table on the World Wide Web, WebElements: Periodic Table Scholar Edition is authored by Mark Winter of the University of Sheffield, England. Although many similar online periodic tables can be found, this offering is unique in that the material is presented in a light hearted and interesting way. The main page contains the table and all the common associated information, but each individual element, when clicked, contains a wealth of additional facts including various multimedia files. For example, the sodium (Na) page has a picture, an audio description, movies of an experiment using Na, and even a cartoon. This and the fact that nearly every descriptive term on the site has an explanatory link makes it well worth exploring. [JAB]
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2001 Annual Energy Review
The US Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) describes itself as providing policy-independent data, forecasts, and analyses to promote sound policy making, efficient markets, and public understanding regarding energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment. The EIA Web site provides many informational pages and publications including the newly released 2001 Annual Energy Review. The report covers fossil fuels, nuclear electricity, renewable energy, and total energy by key activity -- all of which can be viewed online or downloaded. One handy feature of the site is the What's New link that contains all of the most important content changes that took place in this year's report. [JAB]
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Absolutely Astronomy
The earth's diameter is 12,756.3 km and its revolution period is 1 year. You probably knew the last fact, but most likely not the first. The Web site Absolutely Astronomy can provide this and a large amount of other facts about planets, moons, stars, constellations, messier objects, nebulas, and galaxies. Visitors can browse via the pull-down menus or search by a particular question. The basic information provided on each topic is not extensive by any means, but for those interested in "just the facts," the site will be sufficient. [JAB]
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National Park Service Cartographic Resources Visitor Use Maps
The National Park Service Cartographic Resources Visitor Use Maps Web site contains a wealth of free maps to view and download. The dozens of National Parks represented on the site include all of the most popular ones (Yellowstone, Smokey Mountain, Rocky Mountain) as well as many of the little known parks such as Wupatki National Monument, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and Glen Echo Park. The highlight of the site is the number of choices users have to view or download the maps. For example, browsers looking for maps of Yellowstone National Park can choose from five map versions and three file formats including an Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Illustrator, or JPEG file. If your planning on visiting or just interested in viewing some of the countries greatest natural wonders, this site is for you. [JAB]
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Topic In Depth

Soap and Bubbles
1. Soaps and Detergents
2. Bubble Engineering
3. Lye Soap
4. Looking at Bubbles
5. The Art and Science of Bubbles
6. Bubble Games
7. Soap Power
8. Bubble Hydrodynamics
The first Web site, from The Soap and Detergent Association, is called Soaps and Detergents (1). Visitors learn about the chemistry of soap and detergent, their history, how they're manufactured, and more. The easily read text and fun illustrations make this site a great place to start for this topic. The next site, called Bubble Engineering (2), is provided by Bubble Town. The page describes the physics of a cone-shaped bubble blowing device and how its shape reduces the velocity of air being blown through but not the volume of air moving through it. Other links on the site describe what the contents of the best bubble soap mixture. The third site is provided by Kevin Dunn of Hampden-Sydney College Department of Chemistry called Lye Soap (3). The site describes how soap was invented, the chemistry of lye and soap, how to make your own lye, and more. The fourth site highlighted is part of called Looking at Bubbles (4). The site, which is a lesson plan, is geared towards students between grades 6 and 8. The main objective of the chemistry activity is to explore what things can be added to soap to make the bubbles last longer. All procedures are provided to view online or to print. The Art and Science of Bubbles (5) Web site is maintained by the Soap and Detergent Association. Many great features can be found on this and other pages within the site, including washing hands with soap, the history and chemistry of soaps and detergents, the environmentally smart way of using and disposing of cleaning products, and more. The sixth site related to soap is entitled Bubble Games (6), which is maintained by Three free games are offered here including Tic-Tac-Bubble, Bubblechase, and Bubble Wrap, which counts how many bubbles you can pop in twenty seconds. Next, from the Homeschooling page of comes the Soap Power (7) activity. This unique lesson plan details how to power a model boat using soap as a result of its surface tension. Lastly, the Bubble Hydrodynamics (8) Web site is maintained by Visitors get an introduction to bubble hydrodynamics and also learn about the relationship between temperature and bubbles, surfactants and bubbles, and even oscillations and bubbles. [JAB]
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Below are the copyright statements to be included when reproducing annotations from The NSDL Scout Report for the Physical Sciences.

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From The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2002.

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Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2002. 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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