The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 6

March 21, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


ARS Water Database
From the Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) comes the ARS Water Database Web site. The database is a collection of precipitation and streamflow data from small agricultural watersheds in the United States, including variable time-series readings sufficient in detail to reconstruct storm hydrographs and hyetographs. Users can choose from any US state to view available data. Each station is listed along with its location, coverage area in acres, dates of operation, latitude and longitude, and links to its related data. Although data is not available for every station listed, the site can still be a valuable resource for those looking for quick access to hydrological data from around the country. [JAB]
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Gflow 2000
Gflow 2000, which was developed by Haitjema Software, is described as a highly efficient stepwise groundwater flow modeling system. It is based on the analytic element method and models steady state flow in a single heterogeneous aquifer using the Dupuit-Forchheimer assumption, and is particularly suitable for modeling regional horizontal flow. The free educational version of the software is available for download from the site, as well as descriptions of the analytic method, stepwise modeling, surface and groundwater interactions, interface flow, the theory of inhomogeneities, and other relevant information regarding the software. As a free resource for researchers or academics, the Web site is at least worth a read for the software's potential applicability and usefulness. [JAB]
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Geophysical Studies of the Las Vegas Urban Corridor
The Geophysical Studies of the Las Vegas Urban Corridor Area are part of an integrated effort to "geologically characterize the seismic hazards, water resources, and crustal structure of this rapidly growing urban corridor" by the USGS. The informational Web site contains a gravity map of the Las Vegas region, an aeromagnetic map, and a publications link with a list of over a dozen references. Seven of these publications are freely available for download with titles such as "Aeromagnetic Survey of the Amargosa Desert," "Nevada and California: A Tool for Understanding Near-Surface Geology," and Hydrology and Principal Facts for Gravity Stations in the Vicinity of Coyote Spring Valley, Nevada, with Initial Gravity Modeling Results." An interesting collection of unique resources, the site should be of interest to professionals in a wide variety of fields. [JAB]
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Degrees, Minutes, Seconds, and Decimal Degrees Latitude/ Longitude Conversions
The Federal Communications Commission, which is charged with regulating interstate and international communications, maintains the Degrees, Minutes, Seconds, and Decimal Degrees Latitude/ Longitude Conversions Web site. Users of the tool are able to easily convert latitude and longitude between decimal degrees, as well as degrees, minutes, and seconds, by typing in either of the known to get the unknown. This simple but helpful tool will surely save time for those working with these types of data. As an additional feature, the site also provides a link to the National Geodetic Survey's NADCON program, which allows conversions between the NAD83/ WGS84 coordinate system and the older NAD27 coordinate system. [JAB]
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Enviro-Science e-Print Service
The Enviro-Science e-Print Service Web site is a project of the US Department of Energy's Environmental Management Science Program and the EPA Office of Research and Development. The service provides free access to unpublished manuscripts, conference papers, presentations, posters, and selected technical reports in environmental management science. Examples include "A New Class of Solvents For True Dissolution and Separation: Ionic Liquids," "Acid-Base Behavior in Hydrothermal Processing of Wastes," and "Adherend Thermal Effects During Bonding with Inductively Heated Films." Users can search the documents by subject, contact person, or date, while having results sorted by these variables. Although there is also a browse feature for the over eight hundred items, it only allows you to cycle through them ten at a time without using subcategories. [JAB]
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Earth's Environmental Experts (3E) Database
Sponsored and managed by Aquatic Environmental Consultants of the UK, the Earth's Environmental Experts (3E) Database aims both to improve the quality of environmental studies by helping people locate a suitable expert and to become the best international source of information on environmental experts. The database contains details of experts and specialists in dozens of environmentally related areas from around the world. Users can search individuals by their names, nationality, and country of residence; or by keyword, language, and location to retrieve a wide range of professional and contact information. Even though searches can be fairly slow (even with a broadband connection), the site can be a valuable informational resource for a wide range of professionals around the world. [JAB]
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Web Resources for Sedimentary Geologists
The Department of Geological Sciences of the University of Oregon offers the Web Resources for Sedimentary Geologists Web site. Those interested will find information on professional societies, publications of interest, software, upcoming meetings, research and education pages, other sites of interest, and direct links to sedimentary geologists with information on the Web. As a good example of the specificity of content that can be found online, this unique source of information, although seemingly limited, most likely contains a majority of information available on the subject. Besides giving sedimentary geologists a place to locate information in their field, others doing research or who are interested in similar subjects should also find the site useful. [JAB]
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X-Ray Data Booklet
The X-Ray Data Booklet is provided by the Center for X-ray Optics and Advanced Light Source of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is funded by the US Department of Energy. The online publication contains topics such as x-ray properties of elements, mass absorption coefficients, synchrotron radiation, scattering processes, low-energy electron ranges in matter, optics and detectors, specular reflectivities for grazing-incidence mirrors, and other practical information that has been produced and gathered as a result of research at the center. Additional features of the informative site include an interactive periodic table of X-Ray properties and free deliverable hardcopies of the document. [JAB]
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Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection: Students
As part of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the students' page contains a number of quality educational resources for students and educators. The Planet PA link offers kids in grades K-8 a number of learning activities on recycling, links to science related videos, games, downloads, and more. Students in grades 9-12 are also offered several items including Background Information and General Status of Pennsylvania's Air Quality and how to start a backyard-composting project, as well as providing them a place to learn what to know about their drinking water. Teachers aren't left out and will find a dozen or so links to outside educational resources found within the Planet PA page that are certainly worth a look. [JAB]
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BLM Learning Landscapes
From the US Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) comes the BLM Learning Landscapes Web site. The BLM, which manages more than 262 million acres of public land within the United States, offers this resource to students and teachers to use in the classroom, informal outdoor settings, or "virtual" classrooms. This very attractive and well-designed Web site provides educators with classroom activities, standards of learning, teacher resources, and much more. Students have access to several high-quality online activities including Journey Into the Soil, Facts and Activities About America's Public Land, an interactive game to help control invasive plants and animals, and homework helpers. This site is a shining example of quality resources presented in a user-friendly manner that kids and adults alike will be happy to explore. [JAB]
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Collaborative Lesson Archive
The Collaborative Lesson Archive of the University of Illinois is intended to be "a forum for the creation, distribution, and archival of education curricula for all grade levels and subject areas." The main page contains links to lessons organized by individual grade levels from kindergarten to beyond the twelfth grade. Once chosen, users are presented with a list of subjects including geography, science, and math, among others, which then contain various lessons. The sixth grade science section, for example, holds links to more than fifty lessons, their authors, and their dates of submission. Teachers can search the entire archive of resources by various criteria as well as submit their own lesson, culminating in a Web site that will surely be found helpful by educators everywhere. The only caveat is that, as is stated on the welcome page, the "quantity and quality of the content is entirely dependent on the Internet community... since we only provide the framework and the storage area, the rest is up to you." [JAB]
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Project LABS (Learning About Basic Science)
Project LABS is an academic industrial partnership sponsored by Rohm and Haas. The program is designed to foster collaboration between teachers and scientists to promote science education, develop hands-on activities, demonstrate the practical side of science, and show that science is fun. Three categories of lessons are provided that include general science, physical science, and natural/ environmental/ biological science. Examples of these include such topics as Density, the Nature of Chemical Change, Soap Making, Teaching the Scientific Method Using Adhesives, Fun With Ice, Testing Water For Hardness Using Soap Bubbles, and many others. Each activity is clearly explained and presented in a single printable page and, as suggested, can be modified to any grade level. [JAB]
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Space Science
Another great resource from the University of Michigan's Windows to the Universe Web site is the new Space Science activity. This interactive space trivia game tests your knowledge of space trivia with the goal to boost your rocket ship out of the atmosphere with correct answers. As with other Windows to the Universe resources, users get to choose the difficulty level they'd like to play and even between an adult and kids version of the game. Every question accompanies three answers from which to choose; when a correct answer is chosen, the rocket ship on the screen ascends towards outer space. Perhaps the most useful part of the activity is the "learn more" link that accompanies each answer, providing kids with a wealth of additional information and encouraging them to explore the subject further. [JAB]
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Water in the City
Water in the City is part of the Franklin Institute Science Museum's Science in the City Web site. The activity is described as a way to investigate the most precious natural resource in cities. The resources accumulated and presented on the site are held within several areas that include Water Basics, Water Science, Philadelphia Water Ways, Worldwide Water Ways, and References and Activities. The water basics page, for example, contains a glossary of water terminology; water trivia; and information on water myths and realities, dams, water power, conserving water, and keeping water clean. Although most resources are from outside sources, the site does a good job of explaining the concepts and providing kids with a single spot to explore other sites with information on this specific subject. [JAB]
[Back to Contents] Learn and Play
Providing a combination of content and commerce offerings, describes itself as a mapping solutions company serving the business to consumer, business to business, and business to education marketplaces. The Learn and Play portion of the site allows kids to explore maps by providing a maps skills exercise, which introduces the important skills and knowledge needed to be "map-literate." The Maps 101 link provides map content and other classroom resources for K-12 schools, while other offerings of the site include online map games, outline maps of the world and the US, a geographic pronunciation guide and glossary, and a top ten geographic facts lesson. Students and educators alike exploring the subject of geography should find this well designed and content rich site useful. [JAB]
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What's Your EQ?
From the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry comes another fun interactive offering from their Online Science Activities page called What's Your EQ? (energy quotient). The activity allows students, with the help of a parent or teacher, to answer a range of questions regarding the energy use of their house to determine how much is used during a year. Also provided in the For Teachers Link is a lessons option to challenge students further through energy-use related lesson plans and a link to locate additional information from outside sources. A great way to introduce students to energy conservation and usage, the quiz will likely cause users of all ages to be surprised by the amount of energy one family can use, which in turn will hopefully instill more of a desire to conserve its usage. [JAB]
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The New York Times: Science
The New York Times online edition (free registration required) has a mission "to enhance society by creating the premier quality network for everyone seeking the best news, information and interaction through digital media." The science page offers timely and in-depth articles organized by several subjects including the main general science page, earth science, life science, physical science, social science, and space science, as well as a special column section. Well organized and written, the stories include text; relevant graphics such as photographs, illustrations, maps, etc.; and even interactive online offerings when available. Past articles can be searched, printer friendly formats can be chosen, and other helpful features are offered, making this free service something Web surfers should definitely take advantage of. [JAB]
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Dinosauria: A Prehistoric Information Resource Kit [.pdf]
The National Dinosaur Museum of Australia's corresponding Web site includes information on dinosaurs and the era they lived in. The site contains several resources including the downloadable Dinosauria: A Prehistoric Information Resource Kit. The document includes sixteen sections that explain the details of dinosaur fossils, continental drift, various dinosaur species, flying reptiles, marine reptiles, extinction, human evolution, a glossary of terminology, and much more. Using primarily non-technical terminology and attractive graphics, the site gives anyone interested in learning about the intriguing history of the earth and its creatures a useful and educational resource. [JAB]
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Volcanoes Page
The Michigan Technological University Volcanoes Page, which is sponsored by the Keweenaw Volcano Observatory, aims to provide information about volcanoes to the public and to complement other informational sites on the Web. Visitors will find information on what a volcano is, currently active volcanoes throughout the world, remote sensing of volcanoes, volcanic humor, and much more. The volcano hazard section of the site contains primarily original content that provides a Basic Guide to Volcanic Hazards and details Volcanic Cloud Hazards to Aviation, while offering volcano safety recommendations to the public. Although the site could use an update to its layout and organization, it does do a good job of presenting an interesting mix of unique information. [JAB]
[Back to Contents] is described as one of the largest mineral database on the Internet with holdings that include over 11,000 minerals and information on over 100,000 mineral occurrences worldwide from over 23,000 sites. Visitors can search the archive using a mineral name or locality, and can browse common search topics or the newest entries. Once found, the pages contain a wealth of information about the sample such as its formula, classification, physical and chemical properties, relationship to other species, photographs, and much more. Even though it's a bit difficult to maneuver around the extensive site, the impressive photographs and content rich pages definitely make searching worthwhile. [JAB]
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The Asbestos Institute
Asbestos is a family of naturally occurring minerals found in serpentinite and other metamorphic rock that, when breathed, can lead to diseases such as lung cancer. The Asbestos Institute, which is dedicated to promoting the safe use of Asbestos in Canada and throughout the world, provides an informational Web site on the subject. It gives an overview of the mineral itself, how it is used in various products, where it might be located in buildings and homes, a manual for its safe use, and other helpful resources. Even though the site is not particularly visually appealing, it does offer some important health and safety information that the public should find helpful. [JAB]
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World Climate
Created by computer consultant Robert Hoare, contains data "that are historical weather averages, showing what the weather was typically like each month, averaged over a range of years." Simply enter a city to obtain a list of matching entries; then click on the desired one and up comes all available data. This could include average precipitation, average maximum and minimum temperature, heating and cooling degree days, average sea level pressure, and more from various weather stations around or in the desired city. Each data set includes a location, source, time period, and of course the specific numbers. Besides being able to add a state or country to a city search, not much could be done to improve on this easy to use and helpful tool. [JAB]
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California Coastal Records Project
The California Coastal Records Project is being undertaken by Gabrielle Adelman and Kenneth Adelman to create an aerial photographic survey of the California Coast. The related Web site lets users locate and view spectacular photographs of a large percentage of the entire California coastline taken from a helicopter. Visitors can find photographs by clicking on the map of the coast, inputting a specific latitude and longitude, viewing from a list of popular points, or doing a keyword search. Once at a specific photograph, the page shows five photos upcoast from that position and allows users to scroll north or south from that point. This very unique and helpful resource has many great uses including being able to view the spectacular habitat and beauty of the area to helping curb illegal development and destruction of the coastline. [JAB]
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World Cave Database
The World Cave Database was created by Eric Madelaine of the French Research Institute for Computer Science and Automatic Control. Users can browse the database by depth, length, or an alphabetical listing of the caves, and can search the nearly 1000 entries by keyword. All included caves are 300 meters deep and 3 kilometers long and larger, including the longest, which is the Mammoth Cave system in the US that is known to be 563,270 meters long. After getting used to the somewhat cryptic layout of cave listings, users should find the database a useful and informative resource. [JAB]
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Topic In Depth

The Science of Spring
1. Seasons, Equinoxes, Solstices, and Climate
2. Seasons Reasons
3. Mysteries of the Universe: What Causes Earth's Seasons
4. There is a Season
5. What is Lake Turnover?
6. Density Dynamics
7. Saving Time, Saving Energy: Daylight Saving Time, its History, and Why We Use It
8. Phil's Past Predictions
This Topic in Depth explores the Web's offering related to the science of the spring season. The first site -- Seasons, Equinoxes, Solstices, and Climate (1) -- is offered by Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Eric G. Blackman of the University of Rochester. Visitors can learn how the earth's axis and orbit causes the seasons and what the equinox and solstice are, as well as about astronomical effects on the Earth's climate. The second Web site tackles similar issues, but at a more elementary level. Seasons Reasons (2), from, explains what causes the seasons to change, and provides informative graphics of the Earth's orbit and axis angle during the various seasons. Next, from MSNBC News, comes the Mysteries of the Universe: What Causes Earth's Seasons (3) Web site. The highlight of this site is the well-designed and informative graphic at the top of the page that concisely explains the cause of the seasons. Other portions of the site include the history of our understanding of these topics, a description of the vernal and autumnal equinox, and more. The fourth site related to spring is offered by The University of Illinois Extension called There is a Season (4). The site describes how the sun rises and sets differently throughout the year, and provides two simple but well designed lesson plans related to this topic called I See the Light and Grab Some Rays. The next Web site focuses on a different spring science phenomenon specific to lakes called What is Lake Turnover? (5). Maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the site (although a bit graphically uninteresting) gives an informative description of what spring lake turnover is and what causes it. The sixth site, also dealing with lake turnover, is provided by the Sea Education Association. This well-designed site offers a student activity that demonstrates this process, which is called Density Dynamics (6). The introduction explains that bodies of water form layers based on differences in density affected most by temperature in fresh water and both temperature and salinity in salt water. Using beakers filled with water of varying temperatures and food coloring, students observe what happens when these fluids are mixed in order to better understand what happens naturally in lakes. From the National Institute of Standards and Technology comes the Saving Time, Saving Energy: Daylight Saving Time, its History, and Why We Use It (7) Web site. Visitors can learn how seasonal daylight changes caused the US to adapt daylight saving time as early as 1883 and how its use has progressed throughout the world. The last Web site, offered by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, contains information on the weather predictions of Punxsutawney Phil and is called Phil's Past Predictions (8). The site chronicles the "famous" groundhog's predictions, which historically have been used to determine the coming of spring by whether or not it sees its shadow. Visitors will find a list of every year's results, its accuracy, and various other links relating to the groundhog's exploits. [JAB]
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