The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 4

February 21, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Magnets: Design Guide
Provided by the magnet manufacturer Total Magnet Solutions, which offers engineering assistance, stock and custom magnets, and complete magnetic sub-assemblies in prototype to production quantities, the Magnets Design Guide Web page contains a wealth of physical information. Users can read about general categories of permanent magnet functions, magnet materials and their comparisons, units of measure for magnets and their conversion factors, design considerations, finite element analysis, the B-H curve, magnet calculations, and more. A well-designed and attractive site, it provides researchers easy access to practical and informative facts and, at the very least, interesting reading. [JAB]
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NRCS Technical Resources
Provided by the Natural Resource Conservation Service of the US Department of Agriculture, the Technical Resources Web site includes a large list of freely available tools and information to aid various types of research. The categories covered include erosion, air quality, conservation practices, maps and data resources, natural resource data and analysis, soils, streams, technical references, technical tools and models, water resources, and other biological resources. The technical tools and models page, for example, contains a water resources site analysis program, soil data viewer, and TR-55 software, among others. A great collection of relevant and valuable resources, this site should prove useful for scientists working in related fields. [JAB]
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TWRI Technical Reports
The Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), as part of Texas A&M University, "serves as a focal point for water related research at Texas universities, often encouraging discussion of statewide issues through meetings and conferences and stimulating multi-university studies. Its educational programs synthesize the latest information on critical program areas and bring an academic viewpoint to policy makers." The TWRI Technical Reports Web site offers abstracts of hundreds of reports that are published by the organization. The reports are categorized by year and contain a link for particular abstracts, all of which can be searched via the keyword search field at the top of the page. If interested in acquiring the full report, users can fill out the request form to have the publication mailed to them free of charge. 2003 report titles include "Brush Management/ Water Yield Feasibility Study for Four Watersheds In Texas;" "A Sensitive Determination of Iodine Species, Including Organoiodine, for Freshwater and Seawater Samples Using High Performance Liquid Chromatography and Spectrophotometric Detection;" and "Structure and Function of Old-growth and Disturbed Bottomlands Near Dallas, TX." [JAB]
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Water Environment Federation: This Week Worldwide
The not-for-profit technical and educational organization Water Environment Federation (WEF) has a vision of preservation and enhancement of the global water environment. Their Web site contains several excellent resources including the weekly newsletter This Week Worldwide, which is described as a weekly compilation of specific water quality issues being discussed around the world. The February 19, 2002 issue, for example, contains stories on the US EPA adopting a discharge rule for metal products and machinery facilities, how Washington state paper mills have succeeded in cutting dioxin discharges, and how several municipalities in Alabama and New York state have awarded zero or low interest loans through their respective state's Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan program. The short excerpts give all the basic facts regarding the story, including any relevant links or email addresses for additional information. Past issues going back to January 5, 2000, are also made available online and can be searched using the box at the top of each page. [JAB]
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Climatology Working Group
"The Minnesota Climatology Working Group exists to study and describe the climate of Minnesota," with partners drawn from government and academia. The group's related Web site offers visitors a myriad of helpful resources including current weather conditions throughout the state, historical climate data summaries, Twin Cities climate data, agricultural climate data, weather forecasts, precipitation maps, and much more. The historical data link contains such things as daily and monthly temperature, precipitation and snow data by target location, a storm event database, statewide tabular summaries of frost and soil freeze dates, and much more. Although specific to the state, the large amount of information that can be accessed on this well designed site will surely be helpful to those doing specific research on or in Minnesota. [JAB]
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Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center
The Earth Resources Observation Systems' Data Center of the US Geological Survey also maintains the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center to "process, archive, and distribute land-related data". The Center disseminates this data, collected by various satellite and aerial sensors, which include surface reflectances, land surface temperature, global geolocation angle, vegetation indices, thermal anomalies, leaf area index, net vegetation production, pointer files, and more. The data come in various forms and include complete descriptions as well as links to have it ordered or downloaded. [JAB]
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Desert Research Institute: Research
Operating as the nonprofit research campus of the University and Community College System of Nevada, the Desert Research Institute (DRI) conducts more than $27 million in environmental research each year with the help of its approximately 400 research faculty and support staff. The informational research page of the main Web site offers descriptions; publications; links; and other relevant facts from the various arms of the institute, which include the Division of Atmospheric Sciences, Division of Earth and Ecosystem, Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Center for Arid Lands Environmental Management, Center for Watersheds and Environmental Sustainability, and several others. [JAB]
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Australia's National Tidal Facility: Data Inventories
Australia's National Tidal Facility is a "fully self-supporting agency within The Flinders University of South Australia specializing in tidal predictions, sea level monitoring and contemporary marine science issues." Their Data Inventories page contains links to products including Australian Baseline Array Sea Level and Meteorological Data, South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project Sea Level and Meteorological Data, the Southern Ocean Sea Level Centre Database, and more. Although free registration is required to access some of the datasets, users should find the provided resources worth any inconvenience. As a side note, don't miss the very cool interactive water ripple that follows your cursor on the home page of the site. [JAB]
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Mars Exploration Rovers: Home Demos
The Athena Project is collaborative and international effort to land a series of rovers on Mars in 2003. The Mars Exploration Rovers Web site chronicles these efforts, as well as offering various facts and learning activities like those found on the Home Demos page. The seven demos teach kids various things about Mars such as how scientists know there used to be water on Mars; how Mars seems to orbit back and forth; how difficult it is to land on Mars; what the soil on Mars is comprised of; how to create a volcano similar to Mars Olympus Mons, which is the largest known volcano in the universe; how wind effects soil on Mars; and if there may be life on Mars. Each activity includes an explanation of what is needed and how to complete the experiment, as well as how it relates to the Athena Project. [JAB]
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Fabulous Facts about Australia: Australias Distinctive Landscape
Presented by Geoscience Australia, the national agency for geoscience research and geospatial information, this Web site is called the Fabulous Facts about Australia: Australias Distinctive Landscape Web site. The Dimensions link on the page describes the continents coastline length; oceans and seas; continental physical extremes; the area of Australia, its states, and territories; climatic extremes; and more. The landforms link tells about the continents deserts, mountains, and waterfalls, while the maps link allows kids to zoom in and out of features, view different map themes, and print them all. The easily read descriptions and attractive photographs and illustrations make this site a great educational tool for kids of all ages. [JAB]
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Idaho Geological Survey: Earth Science Education
The Idaho Geological Survey (IGS) operates and maintains the Earth Science Education Web site, which contains many interesting original and outside linked resources for students and teachers. The activities offered by IGS include topics on astronomy, earthquakes, general earth science, hydrogeology, landslides, volcanoes, and weather and climate. Other links on the site are geared toward professional development for educators, including a curriculum development project and an online clearinghouse publication of professional development courses, workshops, and conferences. Although the layout and design of it make it a bit difficult to use efficiently, the site contains many quality features and is worth exploring. [JAB]
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Science Books and Films
Science Books and Films bills itself as "the authoritative guide to science resources, bringing you the expert information you need to make the best decisions when choosing science materials for your library, classroom, or institution." The subscriber section of the site allows access to more than 9,000 science reviews that can be shaped into personalized bibliographies by subject area, grade level, and author. For non-subscribers, articles from past years are offered, including the Best Books for Children, Best Books for Junior High and High School Readers, and Best Videos and Software. [JAB]
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The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County: Online Exhibits
Provided by The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the Online Exhibits Web site provides numerous interactive educational activities covering several subjects. The physical science exhibits are entitled: An Insider's Look at Silicates, Fossils of Rancho La Brea, Project Patagonia, Savage Ancient Seas, Visit a Fossil Dig, and a Why Study Prehistoric Animals Movie. The Insiders Look at Silicates activity, for example, contains twenty two slides that explore the mineral structure of silicates using descriptions and various illustrations. Other exhibits on the page worth looking into include biology, art, history, and scientific illustration subjects. [JAB]
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The Black Hole Gang
The Black Hole Gang Web site is authored by fifth grade teacher Stephen Kramer and illustrated by Richard Torrey. The main page of the site contains pictures of the five members of the gang, which, when clicked, bring up another scene with the character in a room with various objects such as a rock collection, map, chemistry set, poster of Albert Einstein, telescope, and other science related items. Once an item is chosen, students read a brief description of it and can explore a variety of informational material and links relating to it. Although some of the pages only contain one link to an outside source, the design of the site is good at getting the attention of students and will hopefully spark an interest in them to continue learning. [JAB]
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Pieces of Science
Developed by online museum educators, Pieces of Science is described as "an online gallery of sixteen educational resources related to a collection of historical science objects." The sixteen subjects are organized by grade level and include such topics as lighting rods, Apollo 8, a lunar module, Priestleys physics project, and penicillin. Each page contains a variety of resources, but the lighting rod page, for example, explains the history of how Benjamin Franklin used lighting rods to study electricity, contains a photograph of one of these early rods, has an activity that shows how to make your own, additional links for on and offline activities, a bibliography, and a curriculum link for teachers to reference. Although good for physical science subjects, other resources on Pieces of Science are equally as interesting and should be explored by educators as well. [JAB]
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One of Australias largest electricity companies, Ergon Energy has a Web site that contains a good educational area called Energy. Kids can learn how energy is created using coal, geothermal power, hydro power, landfills, nuclear power, solar power, sugar cane, wind power, and wave-tidal power. Other links on the site provide quizzes and activities categorized by age group with titles such as make a solar water heater, make an electromagnet, school energy audit, and make an electric motor, among others. The quizzes allow kids to input their name to personalize their work, answer questions that come from previous readings, and then click to see how many theyve gotten right and of course find out the correct answers. One problem encountered with the site was an incompatibility with Netscape browsers, although Microsoft Explorer worked fine. [JAB]
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The Emergency Email and Wireless Network
As a free public service, the Emergency Email and Wireless Network provides citizens with email, cell phone, or pager notifications from your local, regional, and national government sources. Users can choose to receive information about severe weather in their area; electric, gas, and water outages; daily weather forecasts; national disaster news; and more. On the registration page, visitors input their email address, home county, zip code, and the type of notification they would like, and can even block the service during certain times of the day. [JAB]
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Online Science Books
The University of South Carolina Library Web site offers the Online Science Books page. The site lists dozens of free online books from a variety of outside sources such as the National Academic Press,,, and others. Books are categorized by various science subjects including astronomy, chemistry, environment, geology, marine science, physics, statistics, and biology. Included in these are a few science classics including Darwins The Origin of Species and Aristotles The History of Animals. Although the subject matter of the books vary widely and those seeking specific titles may not find a specific text, the ability to access publications for free and read them online is hopefully going to be a growing trend. [JAB]
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The Lab
The Lab is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's online gateway to science information. Visitors will find a daily science news service (with articles from Australia and around the world), special learning features such as the interesting exploring dinosaurs and fossils link, Karls great moments in science section, various science games for kids of all ages, and more. As a layperson-friendly informational resource on science, this site is a great place to visit time to time to get up to date science news and information presented in a fun and non-technical format. [JAB]
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The Rocky Mountain Institute: Home Resource Efficiency
The Rocky Mountain Institute offers an informational Web site entitled Home Resource Efficiency. Visitors can learn several tips and tricks on how to keep their home as energy efficient as possible with link titles such as Energy Efficiency: First Things First; Appliances and Lighting; Home Cooling; Household Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Savings Measures; Household Water Efficiency; Resource-Efficient New Home Construction; Environmentally Friendly Building Materials; Renewable Energy: Solar, Wind, Micro-Hydro; Indoor Air Quality; and Recycling. Each page contains some basic information about the subject, what we can do to help with energy efficiency, and additional helpful links. [JAB]
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US EPA Watershed Atlas
The US Environmental Protection Agency's Web site is so expansive that highlighting specific pages occasionally should help surfers find some of the more unique features it offers. An example of this is the Watershed Atlas page, which is described as a catalog of geospatial displays and analyses of information and data important for watershed protection and restoration. Visitors can find and view maps with various themes including acid rain, air quality, aquifers, coasts, dams, drinking water, effluent, floods, groundwater, hazardous waste, lakes, land use, minerals, stormwater, watershed management, and many more. Various search methods are offered to find the specific information you're interested in and, once found, are presented by different organizations in a variety of formats -- all of which are freely available for viewing. [JAB]
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Satellite Images of Israel and the Middle East
The Israel Science and Technology Homepage is the national database and directory of science and technology related sites in Israel. Within this site is the Satellite Images of Israel and the Middle East page. Visitors will find a list of stunning images (acquired from the NASA Johnson Space Center) of the area during the day, at night, its physical features, a topographical view, specific country images, and links to a map of Israel and its cities. Other areas of the site provide lists of organizations; databases; and additional information regarding chemistry, earth and environment, physics, and more of the area. Although limited in scope, the site does give some interesting resources within a specific subject area that some may find helpful. [JAB]
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National Earthquake Hazards Program
From Natural Resources Canada comes the National Earthquake Hazards Program Web site. Those interested in earthquakes in general or specifically about physical science topics in Canada will appreciate the many informational offerings on the site. Readers can learn about historical earthquakes in Canada and how frequent they are, find out how earthquake hazards are evaluated, how to survive an earthquake, earthquake research in Canada, and much more. The Products and Publications link contains several interesting downloadable reports including monthly earthquake summaries, among others. All of these culminate in an interesting accumulation of seismic information and facts presented in a straightforward and easily read format. [JAB]
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Be in the Know...Get With the Flow! [Flash]
A great offering from the nonprofit technical and educational organization Water Environment Federation is the Be in the Know...Get With the Flow activity. Using Flash technology, users get to experience an interactive and graphically interesting Web site that shows how water moves from homes and businesses to water treatment facilities and finally back to rivers and lakes. When various parts of the system are clicked, a new page is brought up that contains an animation such as the sewer system with moving water and cars driving overhead. Along with this comes a brief but informative tidbit of facts about how much water each person contributes to sewers per day and how the sewers work. Although the information provided is not very in-depth, the site does a good job of offering a creative and interesting way to learn about a topic many may not be familiar with. [JAB]
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Topic In Depth

1. Basics: What You Need to Know About Lubrication
2. Slippery Substances -- Lubricants
3. High Temperature Solid Lubricant Coatings
4. About Lubrication
5. Lubrication Theory and Practice
6. Engine Lubrication
7. Lubricants: EZ Search
8. Lubrication Recommendations
The first Web site related to lubrication is presented by and its relevant page is entitled Basics: What You Need to Know About Lubrication (1). Visitors can learn why lubrication is so important to mechanical devices, why oil needs to be changed in your car, what synthetic oils can do, and more. Although the site is for a manufacturer of synthetic oil, there is a good amount of interesting physical science information. The second site provides an educational resource activity by The Explorer, called Slippery Substances -- Lubricants (2). Students in grades 5 through 8 get to compare the "slipperiness" of various substances tested, read how a lubricant works, and identify objects that need lubricants to work correctly. All information needed to complete the activity is provided, including a short list of easily attained materials. Next, from NASA's Oil-Free Turbomachinery Program Web site, comes the High Temperature Solid Lubricant Coatings page (3). Visitors can read about a new chrome oxide based coating, which has been shown to provide good friction and wear properties to very high temperatures. The page contains descriptions, photographs, and even a link that shows the US patent for the "Self-Lubricating Composite Containing Chromium Oxide." The fourth site, About Lubrication (4), is maintained by Machine Care Systems. The page contains an informative explanation on the definition of energy release and lubricated components, and answers the questions what energy release is and if oil ever wears out. The next site, offered by the lubrication manufacturer Lubrizol, is called Lubrication Theory and Practice (5). As the title states, the site gives detailed explanations of friction reduction, lubricant viscosity, heat removal, suspension of contaminants, and other lubrication topics. offers the next site, which is an interactive animation of an Engine Lubrication System (6). As you move your mouse over the various parts of the engine, the lubrication critical part names reveal themselves and can then be clicked for additional information. If you happen to be in the market for a lubricant, the seventh site can definitely help you out. The Lubricants EZ Search (7) page, offered by, contains 99 categories of lubricant manufacturers, descriptions of what they offer, and direct links to their Web sites. The last site related to lubricants, Lubrication Recommendations (8), is maintained by Infomedia. Here, visitors can choose from more than a dozen of machine categories and specific models to find out the type of lubrication they require as well as any notes related to that machinery such as crankcase capacity. [JAB]
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