The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 2

January 24, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Hydrology and Hydraulics Software Shop: Listing of Free Programs
The Hydrology and Hydraulics Software Shop offers several free software programs, including a new Culvert Analysis Program, on their Listing of Free Programs page. The Culvert Analysis Program is a US Geological Survey product that computes flow through culverts, can develop stage-discharge relationships for culverts, and determine discharge through them from high water marks. Other free software includes programs that calculate flood frequency, surface water profiles, pipe storage volume, estimate rainfall and discharge, and more. A suite of hydraulics utility programs is even offered for use on weirs, orifices, channels, culverts, and reservoirs, making the site a great source for free and independent software programs related to hydrological engineers and others working in related fields. [JAB]
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Natural Hazards Observer [.pdf]
The Natural Hazards Center of the University of Colorado Boulder offers a free online professional hazards publication called the Natural Hazards Observer. Readers will find information on current disaster issues; new international, national, and local disaster management, mitigation, and education programs; hazards research; political and policy developments; new information sources; upcoming conferences; and recent publications. The January 2003 issue (the latest of the bimonthly publication, which dates back to 1996) includes reports with titles such as Congress Passes Inland Flood Warning Bill and Dam Safety Act Passed. Those interested can view the issues online, download and view them, and even search their content by various parameters. [JAB]
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Software and Predictive Models
The Software and Predictive Models Web site is maintained by the US Geological Survey Fort Collins Science Center. The unique research tools offered free for download are products developed by scientists working at the center and are therefore only available from this site. An example is the Instream Flow Incremental Methodology for "approaching various issues related to developing an instream flow policy that incorporates multiple or variable flow rules to meet the needs of the aquatic ecosystem while considering habitat-flow relationships, timing of flow events, institutional arrangements, and water supply." Others include a moist-soil management advisor, a physical habitat assessment program for rivers, stream temperature models, and many other interesting physical and biological products that scientists from varied backgrounds may find useful and valuable for their research. [JAB]
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Links for Chemists
Links for Chemists, as part of the WWW Virtual Library, is a index of more than 8,400 chemistry resources found on the web. Users can browse the sites, which are organized into categories including university chemistry departments, companies and industry, literature, chemical information, employment, organizations, software, general topics, and others. The sheer number of subject-specific sites efficiently organized makes the site a great resource for researchers and professionals in the field, although site descriptions, a new sites section, and links that open in a new window instead of the slightly annoying frames would be helpful. [JAB]
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Organic Compounds Database
The Colby College Department of Chemistry offers the Organic Compounds Database, which was compiled by Harold Bell of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Visitors can search by the compounds melting point, boiling point, index of refraction, molecular weight, formula, absorption wavelength, mass spectral peak, chemical type, and by partial name. Once entered, results are returned with basically the same type of information that can be searched, plus any other critical information. References are provided for the close to 2500 organic compounds included in the database; yet, because the site was last modified in 1995, varying the data may be required to fully authenticate its accuracy. [JAB]
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Inventory and Review of Aquifer Storage and Recovery in Southern Florida
South Florida Information Access of the US Geological Survey has made available a recent Water Resources Investigations report entitled "Inventory and Review of Aquifer Storage and Recovery in Southern Florida." The report discusses which "hydrogeologic and design factors appear to be important to the performance of aquifer storage and recovery in the Floridan aquifer system." Chapters include an abstract, introduction, the inventory of data (primarily from wells located in Southern Florida), case studies, a summary, references, and a separate tables section. Besides being pertinent and interesting information, readers will appreciate the well designed layout and the attractive graphics, both of which are often overlooked in many online governmental reports. [JAB]
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Online Soil Survey Manuscripts [.pdf]
Published by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), soil surveys "furnish soil maps and interpretations needed in giving technical assistance to farmers and ranchers; in guiding other decisions about soil selection, use, and management; and in planning research." The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Web site provides free access to online soil surveys from 26 states and the Caribbean area. Wisconsin, for example, has six counties represented with reports that are hundreds of pages long and include any relevant maps, each of which can be downloaded. Even though not all areas of the nation are available, the increasing existence of such reports is welcomed by professionals seeking quick access to valuable information. [JAB]
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US Geological Survey Planetary GIS Web Server
The US Geological Survey, who maintains the Planetary GIS Web Server Analyzable Database, has a mission "to produce a Web-based, user-friendly interface aimed at the planetary research community that will support and integrate powerful Geographic Information Systems (GIS) graphical, statistical, and spatial relational tools for analyses of planetary datasets." Visitors will find online maps, data from the Mars Exploration Rover Project, global GIS data, and GIS tutorials. The datasets include vector and raster GIS data that covers everything from geologic age, faults, streams, springs, and oil and gas fields, to elevation and climate data. Researchers involved in GIS and astrology related pursuits will appreciate the unique offerings of this governmental site. [JAB]
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Conceptual Physics
From Prentice Hall and Pearson Education comes the online Conceptual Physics Tutorial. The site provides information for students on mechanics, properties of matter, heat, sound and light, electricity and magnetism, and atomic and nuclear physics. Each chapter contains subheadings and various described links to sites that focus on that particular subject. Under momentum, for example, more than a dozen sites are included under subheadings such as impulse changes, bouncing, conservation of momentum, collisions, and momentum vectors. Other highlights of the site include links to simulations found on the Web and questions of the week, along with their answer. Even though some of the provided links were dead, the repository of information should prove useful to visitors. [JAB]
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Atomic Orbitals [Chime]
The Atomic Orbitals Web site "was established as part of an (ongoing) project at Purdue University to develop 'visualization modules' for general chemistry students." Using the Chime plug-in, which allows unique and stunning visualizations, visitors can learn what an atomic orbital is; what the 1s, 2s, 3s, 2p, 3p, and 3d orbitals are; what hybrid orbitals are; and more. The combination of easy-to-read descriptions and educational graphics make the site a great learning resource for high school and even college level chemistry students. [JAB]
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Metric Conversion Factors
Brought to the Web by Washington State Department of Transportation, the Metric Conversion Factors site contains a wealth of helpful physical science and engineering information. As you might guess, all sorts of conversion factors are presented, such as for area, force, hard conversions for construction materials, length, mass, pavement, pipe, plate, power, pressure or stress, reinforcing steel, sheet metal, sieve, symbols, temperature, volume, and several others. Although it's not an online conversion calculator, all of the pages are set up for efficient printing so that students can have the information with them while doing homework. [JAB]
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Wired Antarctica
From the University of Washingtons Earth and Space Sciences Department, the Wired Antarctica Web site teaches about "the fragile environment of Antarctica, the science that takes place there, and the people who actually like working in this cold place." The site provides nine lessons for kids with titles such as Global Change and Ice Sheet Disintegration, Climate History and Sea Level Change, Real Glaciers Eat Rocks, Building a Research Station in Antarctica, Why Should You Care About Antarctica, and History of Exploration in Antarctica. Other links on the site describe what life is like for the scientists in Antarctica, which gives kids some fun facts in addition to the learning activities. [JAB]
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Fact Monster: Science
Fact Monster, the online reference and fun fact Web site, has some new and old features that kids interested in science will enjoy. The Almanac Section contains a wealth of information on everything from the environment, stars and planets, and weather, to other life science subjects. Special features include a daily weather fact, games and quizzes, a box to input a year to get interesting science facts that occurred then, and more. [JAB]
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Things of Interest: Downloads, Movies, and Images [Quicktime]
The University of California Berkeley Physics Lecture Demonstrations Web site contains a page entitled Things of Interest: Downloads, Movies, and Images. The highlight of the site is the downloadable movies of physics experiments that should be very helpful for time and/or money constrained educators. The ten experiments include movies of a chladni disk, Jacobs ladder, dippy bird, a person rotating in a chair while holding dumbbells, a person in a chair with a rotating bicycle wheel, gyroscopic precession, a superconductor, a levitator, jumping rings, and a Tesla coil. [JAB]
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Black Smokers
The Black Smokers Web site is offered by the American Museum of Natural History. The site "chronicles the adventures of the Museum's scientists, engineers, and educators as they collected a black smoker sulfide chimney from the ocean floor." The visually stunning site gives information on what a black smoker is and where theyre located through animations, photographs, and simple descriptions. The Take a Dive interactive game lets users test their knowledge of map reading, water pressure, and life forms found around black smokers at deep sea hydrothermal vent sites. Lastly, the site provides additional and equally interesting links that explain the world ocean ridge system, underwater life forms and tools, and more. [JAB]
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Internet Weather Links
The Internet Weather Links is a collection of lesson plans provided by the Utah Education Networks Weather Report Web site. The activities are organized by grade level from kindergarten to fourth grade and include such topics as Sunny Colors, Weather in a Box, Changes Due to Freezing, and Geological Features. Each lesson is well organized with explanations of its objectives, intended learning outcomes, and instructional procedures. Downloadable documents, related links, extensions to the lesson, and even rating systems for teachers are also provided, making it a great resource especially for use with younger students. [JAB]
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GPS Basics
The Federal Aviation Administration maintains the graphically impressive Global Positioning System (GPS) Basics Web site. From the history of the global positioning system and how it works to governmental policy that controls its use, this site does a good job of explaining all facets of what GPS is about without being overly technical. Interested visitors can explore some of the other links that cover satellite navigation topics as well, such as GPS programs; a library of documents, fact sheets, press releases, and news; frequently asked questions; links; and more. Anyone interested in mapping, navigation, or similar subjects will enjoy exploring the interesting information provided on this well designed site. [JAB]
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Welcome to Planet Earth
The Welcome to Planet Earth Web Site is a project of NASA and Rice University's Department of Space Physics and Astronomy. Offered is a collection of links from around the web on topics such as current and severe weather, climate, pollution, general resources, and movies of such things as an ocean fly-by and of ocean water vapor and topography. Other links describe the projects that Rice University is involved in including other Web educational resources. The highlight of the site has to be the impressive graphics of various worldwide physical processes gathered into one collection from primarily governmental sources for public education and enjoyment. [JAB]
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Northern Alaska Environmental Center
The Northern Alaska Environmental Center works to "promote conservation of the environment in Interior and Arctic Alaska through advocacy, education, and sustainable resource stewardship." The well designed site describes through text and breathtaking photography the natural wonders and issues that threaten the Alaskan wilderness, including the arctic region, the boreal forest, and the Denali wilderness area. Issues highlighted on the site cover the economics of mining in the area, air and water quality, recycling, and up-to-date political activity that is affecting the region. Anyone interested in learning about one of the most unique natural areas of the United States, as well as whats being done to protect it, will certainly be interested in exploring this site. [JAB]
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Inside Chiquibul: Photographing Central Americas Longest Cave
From National comes the Inside Chiquibul: Photographing Central Americas Longest Cave Web site. Well known is the exquisite photography that accompanies National Geographic publications, and this site provides similar products free to online visitors, along with special features that only can be produced on a Web site. The main map page shows a perspective map of the cave, along with indicators where either a regular picture is available or where an iPEX 360 degree image was produced. The various subject matter includes the cave entrances, repelling in the cave, stalactites and stalagmites, other rock formations, and more. The descriptions and visuals presented on the site make it a must visit. [JAB]
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Selected Papers of Great American Physicists
The Center for History of Physics presents the Selected Papers of Great American Physicists Web site. Seven physicists are featured: Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Henry, Albert Michelson, Henry Rowland, Josiah Gibbs, Robert Millikan, and Arthur Compton. Each page contains a biography and various documents produced by the scientist, a letter commenting on experiments and observations on electricity in Ben Franklins case. Although several of the individuals featured are fairly unknown to the lay person, the works highlighted are relatively short and well displayed, which make them very interesting and worth investigating. [JAB]
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Geyser Cinema [QuickTime]
If youre interested in geology, geysers, Yellowstone National Park, or similar subjects, youll really enjoy the Geyser Cinema Web site. Provided by Gigagraphica, the 100-plus movies of course include Old Faithful, but also many other not so well known geysers such as Artesia, Daisy, Purple Pools, and White Dome (with more being added continuously). Each page contains a description, a photograph, a movie, and information on who the movie is from. If youre inspired to capture one of your own movies of these gaseous geysers, the site allows anyone to contribute a movie of their own by simply contacting the maintainers of the site. [JAB]
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Crown of Africa: Unlocking the Secrets of Mt. Kilimanjaro [Flash], the outdoor equipment provider, maintains the Crown of Africa: Unlocking the Secrets of Mt. Kilimanjaro Web site. The program lets users discover the mountains' climate zones (which include the lower and upper montane forest, the heath and moorland, the alpine desert, and the summit), the history of and current routes of mountain trekkers, and a description of the mountains' geology. Although it's most likely been created to sell mountaineering gear, the site does provide some intriguing visuals of the peak and interesting information about its natural state. [JAB]
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Alfred-Wegener-Institute: Click and Learn
The Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Germany's Institute for Polar and Marine Research, offers the Click and Learn frequently asked questions Web site. Visitors will find answers to questions submitted to the institute by universities, publishers, the media, and schools. Questions and their respective answers are organized by subject and include the Arctic and Antarctic, climate, whales, ice, ships and stations, and more. The ice section, for example, has questions such as how do icebergs form, how old can they be, what temperature does chilblain set in, and what is a B-15 iceberg. Each question is answered by various scientists from the institute, making them varied and interesting for anyone captivated by the earths poles. [JAB]
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Topic In Depth

Frozen Soil
1. Tundra
2. Permafrost
3. Permawhat?
4. A Year in the Life of Your Soil
5. Earth Science Photographs
6. Permafrost: Insights From a New Northern Hemisphere Map
7. Tundra: The Not-So Barren Land
8. Active Layer at the Soil Surface
This Topic in Depth explores the world of frozen soil, including permafrost and tundra. The first site is provided by the Missouri Botanical Gardens Web site, entitled Tundra (1). This kids focused site does a good job of clearly explaining what tundra is, where its located, and what types of plants and animals are found within tundra areas, as well as offering a photo gallery. The second site, Permafrost (2), is a lesson plan that teaches kids about freezing and thawing soil. Maintained by Newtons Apple television shows companion Web site, teachers are given a complete activity description including vocabulary, additional resources, and instructions for completing the lesson plan. The next site, from the PBS Denali Web site, is another Activity for the Classroom called Permawhat? (3). Objectives of the lesson include having students identify the contents of permafrost found in Alaskas Denali Wilderness, creating their own permafrost in the classroom, comparing summer and winter permafrost, and finally experimenting with the results of warming permafrost. The fourth Web site, A Year in the Life of Your Soil (4), is offered by the University of Minnesota Extension. The single-page site explains what physically happens to soil over a one-year period due to climatic conditions. For example, during the winter, surface soil may freeze and thaw several times, but subsoil only freezes once. Other topics covered include structure, temperature, nutrients, organisms, and plant activity. The next Web site from the US Geological Survey is called Earth Science Photographs (5). The collection of twelve permafrost pictures are from various areas within Alaska, and show some of the interesting effects that the freezing and thawing of soil has on surrounding landscapes. From the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the Permafrost: Insights From a New Northern Hemisphere Map (6) Web site offers some unique information. Visitors will find a description, a map, and a graph that explain the extent of permafrost toward the north pole. The seventh site, Tundra: The Not-So Barren Land (7), is maintained by UC Berkleys Museum of Paleontology. The one-page site explains the general characteristics of a tundra biome and what the difference is between arctic and alpine tundra. The last offering is from the US Fish and Wildlife Service called Active Layer at the Soil Surface (8). The site focuses on the thirteen steps of freezing and thawing that tundra soil experiences. Each step is illustrated and explained from spring to winter, and the entire process is shown as an animation at the bottom of the page. [JAB]
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