The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 7

April 4, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Selected Water-Resources Abstracts
Maintained by the USGS Water Web Server Team, the Selected Water-Resources Abstracts Web site was compiled from several sources on the subject of water resources since 1977. Users can search by report number, keyword, author, hydrologic unit, state, and year. The database gives researchers easy access to specific information among the vast array of publications distributed by the agency. [JAB]
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Climate Information Products
The mission of the High Plains Regional Climate Center is to increase the use and availability of climate data in the High Plains region of the US. The Climate Information Products page of the Web site offers current climate summary maps, 30-year normals, a climate atlas, historical data summaries, and more. Other parts of the site include a climate data page for online data retrieval; a publications link that includes newsletters, articles, book chapters, reports, and presentations; and more. Those researching or interested in climate information from this specific area (the six high plains states of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming) will appreciate this valuable tool. [JAB]
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Geophysical Products
The Geophysical Products Web site is maintained and provided by the USGS Crustal Imaging and Characterization Team, who "devise new methods for understanding the Earth and apply these methods in interdisciplinary research projects to solve pressing earth-system problems." This comprehensive accumulation of resources includes Regional and State Grid and Database Compilations, Magnetic Reports and Surveys, Gravity Reports and Surveys, Electrical Reports and Surveys, MagnetoTelluric Reports and Surveys, Multi-Discipline Reports and Surveys, Geophysical Software, Fact Sheets, Geophysical Products available on CD-ROMS, geophysical links, and more. The single page site, although seemingly limited, does offer a great deal of information that should be of use to researchers and professionals. [JAB]
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Today's Chemist at Work
The Web-based version of the American Chemical Societies publication, Today's Chemist at Work, is available online for free. The current issue has a food science focus with articles on agricultural technology, portable GC instruments, and microbial contamination, while other departments have information on regulations, instruments and applications, workplace perspectives, chemistry history, and even a datebook and crossword puzzle. Professionals should find some timely and interesting information at a great price. [JAB]
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Storm Events Database
From the National Climatic Data Center comes the Storms Events Database. Events are included from 1993 to the present, but as is stated on the site, the site is usually 90-120 days behind the current month. Users first choose a state and then, if necessary, a county, date, and event type. Results can be limited by tornado type, hail size, wind speed, number of injuries or deaths, and even amount of property or crop damage. The generated report lists all of the events during the time period specified and, when clicked, contain specific information about that event. Although the reports can not be downloaded, this powerful resource can be an helpful addition to a researcher's toolbox. [JAB]
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Static Aeroelastic Predictions for a Transonic Transport Model Using an Unstructured-Grid Flow Solver Coupled With a Structural Plate Technique [.pdf]
A newly released report from NASA's Scientific and Technical Information Program Office and the Langley Research Center is entitled "Static Aeroelastic Predictions for a Transonic Transport Model Using an Unstructured-Grid Flow Solver Coupled With a Structural Plate Technique." The authors of the fifty page report describe their research objective as assessing the extent to which a simple accounting for static model deformations could improve correlations with measured wing pressure distributions and lift coefficients at transonic speeds. The contents include data, computations, tables, figures, results, discussion, and other relevant information regarding the research. [JAB]
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National Coal Resources Data System
The National Coal Resources Data System is an online database of analytical data, sample locations, descriptive information, analytical methods, sampling techniques, and bibliographic references for selected US coal samples provided by the USGS. Users are guided through several steps that include choosing the type of report to be generated, specifying sample search criteria, and whether to display or download the report. This can be one or a combination of items such as location, collector, rank, formation, bed, oxide ratio, and others. Once generated, each report contains all available data on the specific samples, which basically includes all information that can be included in searches. Even though similar report generating systems are often not user friendly, this site seems to be fairly straightforward and glitch-free. [JAB]
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Global Change Master Directory
NASA's Global Change Master Directory Web site provides descriptions and access to earth science data sets and services relevant to global change research. These include data sets covering agriculture, the atmosphere, the biosphere, the hydrosphere and oceans, snow and ice, geology and geophysics, paleoclimatology, and human dimensions of global change. Users can search or browse by topic to locate specific lists of data sets that are accompanied by a summary of that data, a description of its source including contact information, spatial and temporal descriptions, and additional links. The unique and simple interface of the database does a good job of providing an easy way to locate and judge the relevancy of the data that's available. [JAB]
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Lunar Phases
The Lunar Phases online science activity is provided by the Astrophysics Science Project Integrating Research and Education Web site, which is the educational outreach program of the HiRes Cosmic Ray Research Group at the University of Utah. This fascinating lesson utilizes an interactive lunar animation that allows students to learn how the moon's orbit around the earth affects how we see it. Although this concept may seem fairly straightforward, it can actually be somewhat confusing. This activity, though, does a good job of explaining and illustrating what is actually happening with the sun, earth, and moon at various times throughout the month. The entire lesson is also available in Spanish. [JAB]
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Educational Outreach: References
As part of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, the Educational Outreach Web site contains a References page for teachers. The materials provided are "intended to be used by teachers as refresher information prior to teaching a given subject... and are not meant to be comprehensive, but should provide adequate depth in the subject for use by most K-12 teachers." Titles of the materials include Atmospheric Water Vapor and its Importance, Common Meteorological Variables, The Seasons, Earth's Energy Budget, Cloud Development, Precipitation, High and Low Pressure Systems, and several others related to weather and climate. Other sections of the site include lessons, references, a glossary, and other helpful educational materials for teachers and students. [JAB]
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Navigation and Ocean Currents
The Coastal Ocean Observatory Laboratory (COOL) Classroom Web site of Rutgers Marine and Coastal Sciences offers several online lessons. The Navigation and Ocean Currents activity provides online and downloadable material such as worksheets, data, and maps to use to complete the activity. Among other things, students are asked to determine the speed of surface currents and calculate the amount of time it would take for a ship to reach a selected end point. Although the activity is a bit difficult to follow, requiring some teacher assistance, the site provides a unique and challenging learning experience that's well worth attempting. [JAB]
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Fun in the Sun: Introduction to the Sun Activities
Maintained by the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the Fun in the Sun: Introduction to the Sun Activities Web site offers some interesting learning activities. Students get to learn how to measure the size of the sun, how to determine the amount of energy that comes from it, and how angles spread sunlight. Each activity requires some basic materials such as paper and a yardstick, as well as a trip outside on a sunny day. Unfortunately, the activity instructions page is not very well organized, but does give all the necessary information for completing the tasks. These fun lessons are a great way for kids to spend a spring day learning about science. [JAB]
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Infoplease Atlas
Another interesting offering from, the Infoplease Atlas site provides a wealth of geographic information. Students can browse the clickable world map to view countries and the cities within, and then read that country's profile, which includes information such as size, population, history, largest city, links, and much more. Other sections of the site provide world and US statistics, US state profiles, world geography, and even a link that displays all of the flags of the world. Aside from the pop-up ads that accompany the site, users should find it easy to use, graphically pleasing, and educational. [JAB]
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Polymers: They're Everywhere!
Provided by the American Plastics Council, the Polymers: They're Everywhere Web site is intended to help elementary and middle-school students learn more about their world and about recycling. The simple exercise begins by describing what polymers are and lets kids explore clickable illustrations to learn what things in nature and at home contain them. Lastly, kids get to complete a similar activity that tells what types of plastics can be recycled and what plastics can be made into, such as a park bench. The simple descriptions and colorful illustrations on the site make it a great learning tool for young kids and interesting enough for older ones. [JAB]
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The online companion to the Ontario Science Center museum offers the SciZone Web site for kids that contains some interesting and unique learning materials. Visitors will find educational games such as mixing colors, a list of lab experiments that includes growing rock candy, a Where's the Science section that attempts to describe how science can be found in the weirdest places, and several other offerings. Another example of the games that can be played is called the Stroop effect. A list of colors is given, and you're asked to read the color of each word as fast as you can. The twist is that the words are colored a different color than the word actually is, making it much more difficult than you would think to complete. These types of fun activities are plentiful on this site, making it a great place for kids to explore. [JAB]
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Microgravity Activities
The Microgravity Activities page is maintained by NASA's Microgravity Science Division Web site. This collection of links to lessons and experiments contains topics that include Weightless Water, Reduced-Gravity Demonstrator, Make Your Own Drop Tower, Microgravity Math, and more. Each link directs visitors to the appropriate page, and, while each are from various sources, they all contain the necessary information to complete the activities. The Microgravity Educational Products link (another from NASA) contains the largest amount of individual lessons, all related to microgravity and weightlessness. Overall, the site is a good place for educators to find an interesting collection of subject-specific learning material worth investigating. [JAB]
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Inflow and Infiltration in Golden Valley
The city of Golden Valley (MN) Web site offers the interactive Inflow and Infiltration in Golden Valley activity. This Flash based animation attempts to show homeowners how connecting a sump pump directly to the sewer system, besides being illegal, can cause other unforeseen problems. The characters explain that this could lead to higher water and sewer charges and even basement flooding of neighboring homes. Even though there isn't in-depth information on these subjects, the site does do a good job of explaining and illustrating how an average municipal sewerage system works, how a home sump pump works, and what happens to storm water. [JAB]
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Air Quality Web Cams
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains the AIR Now Web site, which contains a wealth of air quality information for citizens. A recent addition to the site is the Air Quality Web Cams page, which lists links to several dozen Web cams around the country and is used to demonstrate levels of visibility and a possible correlation to air quality. Each link is operated by an outside individual or agency, so the information provided may differ. The Chicago (IL) camera, for example, which is part of the Midwest Haze cam site, looks out onto Lake Michigan and gives the ozone level in the area, along with current weather conditions such as temperature, humidity, and wind speed. Other sites that are offered include Denver, Boston, Seattle, Tucson, and even the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Look Rock in the Smokey Mountains. [JAB]
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Orthophoto Index Map
The Orthophoto Index Map page is part of New Zealand's Land Information Web site. The agency is responsible for providing New Zealand's authoritative land and seabed information including online availability of dozens of aerial orthophotos from around the country. Users can click on the map to retrieve any available photos, which can be viewed in various formats from low to very high resolution. The natural beauty of this country is well known, and to be able to see these incredible photographs that include mountains, waterways, and coastlines is quite remarkable. Anyone interested in geography, cartography, or even travel will enjoy exploring and viewing these photos and the rest of the site. [JAB]
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HubbleSite: Gallery
The HubbleSite is produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute's Office of Public Outreach and the Maryland Science Center. The Gallery page of the site lets visitors explore the incredible pictures taken by the Hubble telescope in several ways. The showcase link provides an interactive environment to view photographs taken of the solar system, stars, galaxies, nebulae, exotic features, and the telescope itself. The newest pictures can be seen on the latest image link, while the entire collection can be browsed using the collection link, which organizes the photos by year and by category. One interesting side note, some objects cannot be observed by Hubble and are therefore not included in the archive, including the planet Mercury, which is too close to the Sun. [JAB]
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Residential Water Conservation
The University of Arizona maintains the Sustainability of Semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas (SAHRA) Web site, which has a mission is to promote sustainable management of water resources in semi-arid regions. The Residential Water Conservation page contains interactive activities and information on why we should conserve water, how to better conserve water at home, how saving water can save money, water tips and tools, and a whole host of other water related resources. The Conserving Water at Home activity utilizes a cool interactive house and yard to explore different topics such as watering the lawn, flushing the toilet, and roof water runoff. Anyone interested in protecting water resources or finding ways to save money at home will appreciate this informative site. [JAB]
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Online Training in Watershed Management
Another informative Web site from the Environmental Protection Agency is the Online Training in Watershed Management page. Here, citizens have access to a wealth of information and tools to help them understand and protect their water resources. Six "modules" are offered, each of which take between a half to two hours to complete. They are organized by theme including an Introduction, watershed ecology, watershed change, analysis and planning, management practices, and community/ social/ water law. Each includes easy-to-follow and thorough descriptions, along with any additional resources that may be needed. [JAB]
[Back to Contents], a geology informational Web site, is made available by middle school science teacher James M. Fausnaugh of Lakewood, Colorado. This collection of descriptions, illustrations, and photographs cover basic geology, mineralogy, geochemistry analogs and methods, naming strategraphic units, the geologic time scale, dinosaur facts, and much more. Anyone with little to moderate knowledge of the these subjects will appreciate the well organized and predominately non-technical presentation of the material. [JAB]
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Sun-Earth Connection
One of three divisions within the Office of Space Science at NASA, the Sun-Earth Connection has the primary goal of understanding the Sun, Heliosphere, and planetary environments as a single connected system. The Web site offers visitors information on space science missions including the Living with a Star and Solar Terrestrial Probes mission. Meeting notes and official reports can be viewed online, including the Sun Earth Connection 2002 Strategic Plan. Other items of interest include information on the science and technology behind the missions, education and news links, and more. One highlight of the site is the image gallery that includes some of the most incredible photos and illustrations of the sun that are available online. [JAB]
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Topic In Depth

1. Reflection
2. Fun House Mirrors
3. Lenses and Mirrors
4. Mirrors and Lenses and Their Uses [.pdf]
5. Light and Optics Lessons
6. How do Mirrors Reflect Light
7. Multiple Images
8. "Perfect" Mirror Design Technology
The first site with information on mirrors is provided by entitled Reflection (1). The site contains some informative descriptions, illustrations, and animations that teach the basics of reflection and the theory behind mirrors. There is a light reflection tutorial, an interactive mirror reflection pattern animation, a page on the basics of reflection, and other good information. The next site, Fun House Mirrors (2), is part of the larger educational Web site. Visitors will learn and see how concave and convex mirrors affect images and the science behind this phenomenon. The third site, provided by the University of Illinois Physics Department, continues the theme by providing a long list of questions and answers related to mirrors. Called Lenses and Mirrors (3), the site offers information on topics such as Uses of Mirrors, Mirror Basics, What a Mirror Does to Faces, Mirrors Big and Small, and much more. The University of Buffalo Department of Physics maintains the next site called Mirrors and Lenses and Their Uses (4). Over fifty pages are available that delve deeper into the science behind mirrors and provide many informative graphics that should help non-experts better understand the concepts. The Light and Optics Lessons (5) page, which is part of the Ithaca City School District's Science Zone site, is the fifth in its series. Of the various activities offered, the Reflection of a Convex and Concave Mirror lessons offer interesting animations and brief and informative descriptions, while others let users investigate similar subjects. The sixth site, How do Mirrors Reflect Light (6), is maintained by the UK Department of Education and Skills on their Standards pages. Educators will find information on various activities, their objectives and expected outcomes, downloads, and other additional material related to light and mirrors. Next, from the Molecular Expressions Web site comes the Multiple Images (7) interactive learning activity. Users get to choose various angles of two adjacent mirrors to see how the image of a pencil changes. Although the activity is brief, it does a good job of illustrating the concept and is actually part of an extensive site that is also worth exploring. The last site related to mirrors is an article written by Dr. Charles Lee of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research called "Perfect" Mirror Design Technology (8). The piece describes a new technology that can reflect light at any angle with virtually no energy loss, as well as its anticipated applications. [JAB]
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