The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 5

March 7, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


The NASA Astrophysics Data System
The NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) Web site, which is hosted by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is described as a Digital Library for Physics, Astrophysics, and Instrumentation. ADS maintains four bibliographic databases containing more than 3.2 million records that can be searched or browsed by various interfaces including a Journal/ Volume/ Page Service, Table of Contents Service, Article Service, Scanned Historical Literature Service, and a Scanned Books Service. The article service, for example, allows users to view the latest tables of contents from major journals including Astronomy and Astrophysics and Planetary and Space Science. As a resource for researchers and academics, the site does a good job of providing easy access to potentially valuable information. [JAB]
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Caltech Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory Technical Reports
The California Institute of Technology Library System and the Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory provides the Caltech Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory Technical Reports Web site. Visitors will find access to technical reports by browsing the categorized sets from the Center for Research on the Prevention of Natural Disasters, Dynamics Laboratory, Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory, and the Soil Mechanics Laboratory, as well as the section entitled Policy Documents. The materials can also be viewed by year (going back to 1952) or fully searched to gain access to the full-text reports, which include offerings like Impact of Seismic Risk on Lifetime Property Values. Although the topics covered are somewhat limited on the site, those interested will appreciate the well organized and informative resources provided. [JAB]
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Africa Data Dissemination Service
The Africa Data Dissemination Service (ADDS) provides data from several agencies that include Chemonics International, NASA, NOAA, and the USGS. The service, which is part of the Famine Early Warning System Network, "collects, analyzes, and distributes regional, national and sub-national information to decision makers about potential or current famine or flood situations, allowing them to authorize timely measures to prevent food-insecure conditions." Information offered on the site includes Satellite and Image Data; Digital Map Data of hydrology, vegetation, agro-climatic zones, etc.; Tabular Data; and Data by Geographic Region. The site does a good job of presenting the various data with few ambient distractions, making it easy to find and use what's needed. [JAB]
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Energy-Related Laboratory Equipment
The Used Energy-Related Laboratory Equipment(ERLE) Grant Program of the US Department of Energy "was established to grant available excess equipment to institutions of higher education for energy-related research." The corresponding Web site lets users search and find all the relevant information for various pieces of equipment, including its current availability, condition, contact information, and more. Examples of available equipment include x-ray scanners, flow meters, gas chromatograph analyzer, digital manometer, lasers, and many more. Other links on the site provide information on program guidelines, approval processes, FAQs, and other relevant facts for potential borrowers. [JAB]
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The Constants and Equations Page
The Institute of Physics, which was established to promote the advancement and dissemination of physics, sponsors the Constants and Equations Pages. The Web site is described as an on-going project to list together as many different constants and equations as possible. Visitors will find the resources within either the math, science, or astronomy categories. The science heading contains over 600 alphabetically listed constants, 450 equations, conversions, SI units, a periodic table, and a Java structurer. The astronomy category has planetary and constellation information, sunrise and sunset times, and moon phase tables. [JAB]
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Spectra Online
Spectra Online is a free spectral database comprised of collections of public domain and other data submitted by various institutions and individuals, which spans several different classes of compounds including drugs, common chemicals, polymers, petroleum products, and more. Users can search by compound name, CAS number, molecular weight, and spectrum matching. Results of the searches list the compounds name, formula, melting and boiling point, synonyms, and structure in an easy-to-read tabular format, along with links of spectral analyses for registered users. The free registration also gets users additional detailed information and allows them to upload individual data files directly into the database, all of which makes the site a valuable resource for chemical researchers. [JAB]
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Water Words Dictionary: A Compilation of Technical Water, Water Quality, Environmental, and Water-Related Terms
The Water Words Dictionary: A Compilation of Technical Water, Water Quality, Environmental, and Water-Related Terms is a helpful collection of resources for water researchers and professionals provided by the Nevada Division of Water Resources and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This extensive and freely accessed dictionary contains hundreds of words, which are organized alphabetically, making it perfect for searching and printing. Also provided are dozens of appendixes, abbreviations and acronyms, conversion tables and flow equivalents, and more. [JAB]
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The Los Alamos National Laboratories Research Quarterly
The Research Quarterly is published "to communicate the Laboratory's achievements and how they benefit our neighbors, our nation, and the world." Highlights of the Winter 2003 issue include reports on Improving Meteor Impact Predictions, Extending the Life of Nuclear Weapons, Modeling Bone Remodeling, Proton Radiography, Simulation Science, as well as a spotlight on two Los Alamos researchers. Those interested will find an interesting collection of timely research and information from one of the countries top science facilities that's certainly worth reviewing. [JAB]
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Maintained by educator David Rayner, the GeoResources Web site is a clearinghouse of quality geography links and other geography related information. The sites, which are geared toward kids age 7-9, contain subjects such as soil and erosion, rocks and weathering, earthquakes, volcanoes, rainforests, deserts, rivers, climate, weather, maps, and energy, to name a few. Each heading contains a list of the site names, short descriptions, and direct links. Other areas of the site include a Geo quiz, photo gallery, satellite images, additional links, and much more. Teachers and students alike will appreciate and find useful this continually updated and well designed site. [JAB]
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Hurricane: Storm Science
The Miami Museum of Science educational Web site provides a fun and interactive page called Hurricane: Storm Science. The main page consists of a clickable illustration that includes a Inside a Hurricane link where kids can learn what hurricanes are, how they form, and how to understand a radar image; see a cutaway picture of a hurricane; and more. The weather instruments page lets students explore and complete activities on wind, moisture, temperature, air pressure, and weather measuring tools. Other interesting areas of the site include how radar tracks hurricanes, an interactive exercise to learn how this is done, and even stories that have been submitted by people who have survived hurricanes and other disasters. [JAB]
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PBS TeacherSource: Science and Technology
PBS TeacherSource provides educational curriculum material that is developed by practicing educators for other educators. Several categories of material are offered including the Science and Technology page that lets users first choose a grade level from preschool through high school and then from one of a dozen plus subjects. These subjects include chemistry, ecology, electricity, geology, sound, water, and weather, to name a few. The quality materials offered are organized well within the attractive site, and even though some links are from outside sources, all seem to have been reviewed for content, which makes them and the original offerings worth being added to any science curriculum. [JAB]
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Wilmette School District: Resources
The Wilmette, Illinois School District Web site maintains several online educational materials for teachers on their Resources page. Materials are organized by grade level from kindergarten to eighth, and by various subject matter including science. The third grade science link, as an example, contains lesson plans and activities relating to force and motion, plants, and geology, with topics including Motion Energy and Simple Machines, Rocks and Minerals, Virtual Cave, and Science Made Simple. Other resources on the site worth mentioning include a free writing guide, a guide for teachers on evaluating Web sites, and news and weather links. [JAB]
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The CosmicQuest interactive learning Web site was developed and produced by Educational Web Adventures as part of the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. Three main activities are included on the site, the first of which is a Field Guide to the Universe. Here, students can explore fun facts and view interesting photographs of planets, spacecraft, and astronomers. Another activity lets kids design a space station by choosing what to bring into space to survive, what to eat and drink while there, and how to sleep and use the bathroom. The last offering describes an expedition to the North Pole, the highlights of the mission, and what was accomplished. Although all three activities are interesting, the Living in Space: Design a Spacecraft link is definitely the highlight. [JAB]
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Building a Microscope and Identifying Cells
The Brooklyn College Science Center offers several interesting activities, and within the Building a Microscope and Identifying Cells activity, kids get to learn how microscopes work and the science behind them. First, the activity calls for students to read about the properties of light, including lenses, refraction, magnification, reflection, colors and spectrum, and calculating the speed of light, among many other subjects. Then, students can use this knowledge to continue with the experiment and use a simulated online microscope. Although the site may be a bit difficult to follow for younger users, the quality and unique content, interesting concept, and colorful graphics make it well worth visiting. [JAB]
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Teach-nology: Science is "intended to bring educators into the world of teaching with providing links to valuable and useful information relative to current and best practices in the field of education." Visitors will find the links categorized by subject, including archeology, astronomy, chemistry, earth science, lesson plans, physics, sites to use with students, and several others. Each of these subjects then include several subcategories, listed along with brief descriptions of what is found within each. Although a date of review would be helpful with these descriptions, the site still does a good job of offering educators a helpful resource for navigating the thousands of education sites around the Web. [JAB]
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Learning from the Fossil Record
Another interesting and helpful resource from the University of California Berkeley Museum of Paleontology is the Learning from the Fossil Record Web site. Educators will find a list of over twenty fossil related classroom activities presented by different authors with titles such as Building a Topographic Model, Determining the Age Of Rocks and Fossils, Fossilization and Adaptation, the Dinosaur Body Structure, Microfossils, and other interesting subjects. The detailed descriptions include everything needed to complete the individual exercises including background information, procedures, and downloads. The unique collection should be a helpful addition to any junior high or high school science curriculum. [JAB]
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Chemical Warfare Agent Issues During the Persian Gulf War
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Web site offers an unclassified document for public review entitled Chemical Warfare Agent Issues During the Persian Gulf War. The introductory paragraph states, "This paper reflects the results of our multifaceted investigation into the Chemical Warfare (CW) issue, examining information on CW agent releases, Gulf war Iraqi CW deployments, and Iraqi chemical agents and weapons." One of the final paragraphs claims that the US still believes that Iraq did not use chemical weapons against Coalition forces. Although perhaps a difficult subject to read about, the one-page site does offer those interested a glimpse into one destructive use of science that humans have developed. [JAB]
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The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
Astronauts have taken photographs of the Earth from space since the beginning of the space program more than 30 years ago. Today, NASA's Earth Sciences and Image Analysis office offers nearly 400,000 of these images to the public on their Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth Web site. The database can be accessed in several ways including a clickable map of the earth, photo number, technical search, through the cities collection, by mission highlights, and by several other criteria. The site, which is quite addictive, includes some truly spectacular images that are surprisingly easy to browse and search especially through the clickable map interface. Although it does not contain much educational value, this unique resource is definitely worth exploring. [JAB]
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USGS Fact Sheets [.pdf]
As part of the US Geological Survey's (USGS) Water Resource Division, the USGS Fact Sheet Web site provides a full listing of scientific publications listed by state. The reports span water and non-water related topics with coverage that includes Coal Resource Assessments in the Northern and Central Appalachian Coal Region, The San Francisco Volcanic Field, Arizona, Pesticides in Ground Water, and Springs in Florida. The dozens of reports are either viewed online or downloadable and, although presented in varying formats, are mostly non-technical enough to be read and understood by interested laypeople. If you want to learn about scientific research in your state or just enjoy exploring science subjects in general, you should definitely check this site out. [JAB]
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Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe
NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe mission attempts to reveal conditions as they existed in the early universe by measuring the properties of the cosmic microwave background radiation over the full sky. Visitors can learn more about the particulars of the mission, explore the subjects of cosmology and the "Big Bang Theory" on the Universe link, view images of the probe and its launch in June 2001, and study the first detailed full-sky map of the oldest light in the universe. Although it may not seem it at first, this site contains a lot of material to browse, including an attempt in the FAQ section to answer whether or not there is there a conflict between science and religion. [JAB]
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Severe Weather Watcher Handbook
The Meteorological Service of Canada, which monitors and provides information on various weather related issues, offers the Severe Weather Watcher Handbook Web site. Described as a guide for identifying and reporting summer severe weather, the site explains thorough descriptions, photographs, and illustrations; the basics of thunderstorm life cycles; the anatomy of storms; and what to watch for in the sky that identifies dangerous storms. Other sections include information about tornadoes and funnel clouds, the stages of their development, examples of false funnels, safety tips, and what to report to officials when severe weather strikes. [JAB]
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Plastics Resource: Information on Plastics and the Environment
The American Plastics Council (APC) maintains the Plastics Resource: Information on Plastics and the Environment Web site. The APC, which is a major trade association for the US plastics industry, works to promote the benefits of plastics and the plastics industry. Visitors to the site can learn the development history of plastics and how they contribute to our health and safety in the Plastics 101 link. They can also find out how plastics are actually environmentally friendly, how much they really contribute to landfills, how plastic can protect the groundwater, and much more. Although the site is well designed and enjoyable to explore, readers should understand the likely biases associated with organization presenting the information. [JAB]
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State and County QuickFacts
The US Census Bureau Web site, State and County QuickFacts, provides "quick, easy access to facts about people, business, and geography." Users can choose a state from the clickable map or the pull down menu to access data on people including the populations of various groups, average travel times, and education levels; business information such as employment and sales per capita; physical geography facts of land size; and other data sets on a wide variety of subjects. The tabular format of the data makes it easy to view and find the specifics you're interested in, and the information link next to each row provides a full explanation and definition of that particular parameter. All of these things culminate in making the site a helpful resource that citizens should find beneficial. [JAB]
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Environmental News Link
The Environmental News Link Web site is published by Capital Reports, which was founded in 1980 by former lobbyist Brian Sturtevant and is self described as a pioneer in specialized environmental policy reporting. Offering an alternative to mainstream sites, visitors can read timely articles on some of the most important environmental news stories of the day. A few of the recent entries include stories about new toxic air emission rules, potential changes to BLM grazing regulations, and how the EPA is providing tools to improve septic system management. Although the articles are very succinct and no links are offered for additional information, those seeking quick updates will appreciate the well laid out and easily read articles. [JAB]
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Topic In Depth

Space Debris
1. Space Debris
2. Space Junk: The Stuff Left Behind
3. Nature's Tiniest Space Junk [RealPlayer]
4. Simulation of Orbital Debris Shielding Performance at High Impact Velocities
5. Hypervelocity Impact Test Facility: Orbital Debris and Micrometeoroids
6. Pelted by Paint, Downed by Debris
7. Protecting the Space Station from Meteoroids and Orbital Debris
8. Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies
This Topic in Depth begins with a Web site maintained by Dr. Richard B. Gomez of George Mason University called Space Debris (1). The site is offered as a slide presentation, which explains what space debris is, where it comes from, if it's dangerous, what is known about it, and what can be done about it. The very interesting site is perfect for non-experts because of its simple descriptions and abundance of graphics. The second site from is an article written by Robert Roy Britt entitled Space Junk: The Stuff Left Behind (2). Visitors can read about the number of objects being tracked (at the time the article was written), what the total weight of these objects is, view a table of the number of various pieces of space junk by country, and even find out it if there is a risk of getting hit in the head by these objects. The next site, Nature's Tiniest Space Junk (3), is offered by NASA's news portal Science@NASA Web site. The page describes how scientists are monitoring tiny dust sized meteoroids that are constantly flying around our planet that have the potential to be quite dangerous. For those really interested, the site lets people listen to audio files of the meteor radar in action. The fourth site on space junk, maintained by the Texas Advanced Computing Center, is a Simulation of Orbital Debris Shielding Performance at High Impact Velocities (4). The page highlights the work of Dr. Eric Fahrenthold, who is simulating orbital debris shielding performance at high impact velocities. A basic description of the work is offered along with the simulation itself, which shows a piece of space debris striking a surface. Next, from NASA's Hazards Assessment Web site, comes the Hypervelocity Impact Test Facility: Orbital Debris and Micrometeoroids (5) page. Readers can find out more on the problem of space junk, why NASA feels its so important to study simulating particle impacts on spacecraft, the lightweight shields that are in place on the International Space Station, and more. The sixth site is an article that appeared in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Joel Primack called Pelted by Paint, Downed by Debris (6). Although there's not a large amount of content on the site, it does give some interesting information on a different aspect of the subject. The author describes how any missile defense program could be detrimentally affected by space debris and suggests the need for space agencies to take active steps to prevent its buildup. The National Academies Press offers the next site, which is actually an online book on Protecting the Space Station from Meteoroids and Orbital Debris (7). Contents include risk management strategies for the space station, debris modeling, shielding the station, collision warning and avoidance, and more. The last site is from the Aerospace Corporation and its Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (8). Visitors will find an introduction to the Center, the basics of space debris, what happens during satellite reentry, re-entry data and predictions, additional links, and more. [JAB]
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