The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 8

April 18, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


SPIN Web is described as a "physics research environment providing a set of comprehensive resources for performing research, the most important of which is the ability to search across more than 80 scientific journals indexed in the SPIN Database." This continually updated database contains over one million research records in the physical sciences from 1975 to the present. Other resources on the site include a browse feature for all represented journals, a physics news service, searchable directories of scientists, and more. Although a subscription is required to view full text articles, the free services provided on the site are still worthy for those involved in the subjects covered. [JAB]
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Columbia Universities Center for International Earth Science Information Network: Downloadable Data
Columbia Universities Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) offers several free data sets on the Downloadable Data page. The first set is its GIS formatted data, which includes the Central American Vegetation/ Land Cover Classification and Conservation Status, China Dimensions, Georeferenced Population Data Sets of Mexico, Grided Population of the World, Last of the Wild, Human Footprint, and US PUMA and TIGER files. Non-GIS formatted data include an Archive of Census Related Products and an Environmental Sustainability Index, which is a measure of overall progress towards environmental sustainability. The main page provides clear descriptions of each data set, along with the necessary links to access and download them. [JAB]
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Hydrocarbon Impacts Database
The Hydrocarbon Impacts (HI) database is a subset of the University of Calgary's Arctic Institute of North America's Arctic Science and Technology Information System database. More than 5,100 records describe "publications and research projects about the environmental impacts, socio-economic effects and regulation of hydrocarbon exploration, development and transportation in northern Canada." Users can search by record type, keyword, subject code, geographic code, author, and year, as well as an advanced search feature to locate the information. Well designed and easy to use, the database provides those interested in this narrow subject field a helpful resource. [JAB]
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Smithsonian Physical Tables
From the Online Interactive Books and Database Web site Knovel comes the Smithsonian Physical Tables 9th Edition. "Originally published by the Smithsonian Institution Press, this classic reference source comprises 901 tables of general interest to scientists and engineers, and of particular interest to those involved with physics in its larger sense." The downloadable tables include general physics constants, constants for temperature measurement, the blackbody and its radiant energy, temperature characteristics by material, latent heat, thermal properties of gases, acoustics, geomagnetism, and many more. This free service provides a wealth of important and helpful information that scientists and researchers everywhere should fully utilize. [JAB]
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Two on North Dakota Water Resources
Water Resources Data North Dakota Water Year 2002 Volume 1. Surface Water [.pdf]
Water Resources Data North Dakota Water Year 2002 Volume 2. Ground Water [.pdf]
Newly released water data reports from the US Geological Survey are entitled Water Resources Data North Dakota Water Year 2002 Volume 1 and 2. Surface Water and Ground Water. The two documents contain all collected and reported data, illustrations, tables, and appendices for research related to the state's water resources. Information consists of records of discharge, stage, and water quality for streams; contents, stage, and water quality for lakes and reservoirs; and water levels and water quality for ground-water wells. Visitors to the sites can download the individual reports, abstracts, or table of contents free of charge. [JAB]
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Federal Research In Progress Database
The Federal Research In Progress (FEDRIP) Database provides free access to information about ongoing federally funded projects in the physical sciences, engineering, and life sciences. Once located, project descriptions include title, keywords, start date, estimated completion date, principal investigator, performing and sponsoring organizations, summary, and progress reports. Although record content is said to vary depending on the source agency and it is a fee-based service, this potentially helpful informational resource could provide scientists and researchers with valuable and time saving facts. Thankfully, the site does offer a free trial so those interested can see if it would be as useful as the price suggests it should be. [JAB]
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Scientific and Technical Information Network
The Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) of the US Department of Defense maintains the Scientific and Technical Information Network Web site. The network provides public access to unclassified citations to and full-text versions of all unclassified documents recently added into the DTIC technical reports collection. Users can search the collection or browse the Index of Specifications and Standards, Research and Development Descriptive Summaries, and more. One of the latest additions available on the network is the Full-Text Research and Development Descriptive Summaries for Fiscal Year 2003. Although free registration is necessary to access some of the site, it may be worth if for those seeking the specific information provided here. [JAB]
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Institute of Chemistry: Acronyms and Abbreviations
Berlin's Institute of Chemistry maintains the Acronyms and Abbreviations database, which contains more than 12,000 entries geared towards chemistry and spectroscopy. Users need only type in an acronym or abbreviation and then click to get a list of possible results. A search for "GC," for example, brings up gas chromatography, glycerol, graphic context, and strangely enough garbage collection. This helpful tool has the potential of being a handy resource for those working in related fields or anyone seeking the complete wording to a mysterious acronym or abbreviation. [JAB]
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Interactive Interferometry Demo
NASA's Space Interferometry Mission, scheduled for launch in 2009, will determine the positions and distances of stars several hundred times more accurately than any previous program. The Interactive Interferometry Demo page allows users to simulate a virtual interferometer by moving a light source, mirrors, and the measuring device itself to build up a plot of the relation between the angle to the source and the delay line setting. The site provides full instructions and background information for the activity, which is probably best suited for high school and college students learning about various space science subjects. As with other interactive online learning activities, this application does a good job of providing a fun way to explore and learn about science. [JAB]
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Earthquakes for Kids
The US Geological Survey's Earthquake Hazards Program offers the Earthquakes for Kids educational Web site. Kids are offered the opportunity to learn the basics of earthquakes, the science behind them, read "cool earthquake facts," view the location of the latest earthquakes, get science fair project ideas, partake in online activities and games, view earthquake related images, ask a geologist a question, and much more. This well organized and extensive collection gives students and educators a wealth of good resources that should help augment any science curriculum. [JAB]
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What on Earth?
NASA's Earth Science Enterprise Web site offers the interactive "What on Earth?" quiz game. Users choose either the air, water, or land category and then read the provided informational pages on the subject. After kids feel they have a good grasp on the material, they can begin answering questions such as "What causes aerosols that are neither volcanic nor oceanic in origin?" to see how well they do. Although the subjects covered are primarily focus on projects that NASA is involved in, the activity will certainly keep the interest of students who even get to print out a Junior Scientist certificate with their name and rank on it when they successfully complete the exercise. [JAB]
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Introduction to Paleoclimatology
The Introduction to Paleoclimatology Web site is provided by NOAA's Paleoclimatology Program of the National Climatic Data Center. Paleoclimatology is the study of climate prior to the widespread availability of records of temperature, precipitation, and other instrumental data. The site describes why paleoclimatolgy should be studied, how it's studied, what is currently known about the subject, and more. An educational and outreach link provides additional resources such as paleoclimatology slides, an in-depth look at topics significant to climate change, and a climate time line information tool, among others. As a non-technical and easily read educational source, the site does a good job of explaining this potentially confusing subject to younger audiences. [JAB]
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Element Hangman
The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, known as the Jefferson Lab, is funded by the Office of Science for the US Department of Energy. Its corresponding Web site and educational offerings include the interactive Element Hangman game. This simple exercise requires kids to enter the correct letters of an element before all ten pieces of the animated figure are gone. However, the highlight of the site is that, once the correct element is spelled, students get to click the "tell me more about" button for additional information. A separate window opens, which gives a wealth of facts about that element such as its physical properties, who discovered it, and what it's used in. This and other related games provided by the site offer a great way for kids to have fun while learning. [JAB]
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Views of the Solar System: Lesson Plans and Activities is a private Web site maintained by scientist Calvin J. Hamilton, whose goal is to make high quality photographs of the planets and satellites available to the public on the Web. The Lesson Plans and Activities page of the site provides more than a dozen classroom activities with titles such as Comets, Convection, Impact Craters, Meteoroids and Space Debris, Eclipses, Life in the Universe, Moon Phases, and more. For example, the Convection activity provides several photographs and animations illustrating the subject, a full description, and several thinking questions for students to discuss and answer. [JAB]
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57 Ways to Protect Your Home Environment (and Yourself)
From the University of Illinois Extension office comes the online informational series This Land and the 57 Ways to Protect Your Home Environment (and Yourself) educational page. Although focused towards adults, the site provides a good way for kids to learn hands-on things they and their parents can do at home to improve the environment. The site includes information on caring for the home landscape, using alternative pesticides and fertilizers, managing yard and home waste, protecting drinking water, conserving energy, and more. The well designed site contains simple descriptions, useful and attractive graphics, and helpful facts that really shows how much we all can do to make a difference. [JAB]
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Elementary Science Program Unit Resources
The Elementary Science Program (ESP) Homepage is sponsored by BOCES, whose mission is to provide quality, cost-effective educational services in partnership with school districts and the community in a manner that supports excellence and equity for all learners. The site offers a number of good educational materials including the ESP Unit Resources page, which contains links to over thirty subjects areas including buoyancy, light, forces in space, electrical circuits, magnets, powders and crystals, soil, sound, and weather. Each page then contains links to outside educational material and resources related to that category, making it a useful tool for locating a wide array of material on particular science subjects. [JAB]
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Looking Backward, Looking Forward: Forty Years of US Human Spaceflight Symposium [.pdf]
NASA's History Office Web site is offering a publication for public review entitled Looking Backward, Looking Forward: Forty Years of US Human Spaceflight Symposium. The two hundred and fifty page document chronicles NASA's history from the Sputnik era to the present including insights from Buzz Aldrin, perspectives on the future, the international space station, and much more. Readers will enjoy the frank discussions, telling photographs, and keen insights from those involved with this sometimes dangerous and always breathtaking pursuit. [JAB]
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Soils: Photo Gallery
An interesting page from the US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Web site is entitled Soils: Photo Gallery. Visitors can choose from State Soils, Soil Images and Landscapes, Principles and Techniques, and the NRCS Photo Gallery. The interesting state soils link contains individual pages that present descriptions and photos of that state's official soil. For example, Wisconsin's state soil Antigo is described as the most extensive soil in the state and is very productive for corn, small grain, and hay. A picture of the soil as part of a landscape, a layered profile, and a graphic of where it's predominantly located is provided. [JAB]
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NOVA's Runaway
NOVA's Runaway Universe site is the companion Web site to the television program of the same name, which followed the efforts of two rival teams of astronomers as they search for exploding stars, map out gigantic cosmic patterns of galaxies, and grapple with the ultimate question: What is the fate of the universe? Visitors of the site will find an interactive timeline of the universe, learn what happens during a supernova explosion, take a virtual tour of the universe, learn how the Doppler effect is used to determine a stellar objects speed, and several other cool interactive and educational activities. This unique and quite interesting site is well worth exploring, although an adequate modem and computer are needed to fully appreciate what it has to offer. [JAB]
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Energy Glossary
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the US Department of Energy maintains the Energy Glossary Web site. The glossary provides energy terms and definitions as used in EIA reports, on EIA survey forms, and by the energy industry. Users browse the terms and acronyms alphabetically to locate the specific word they're interested in. Examples of these include Adjusted Electricity, Demonstrated Reserve Base, Merchant Oxygenate Plants, Total Liquid Hydrocarbon Reserves, and Wholesale Wheeling, among many others. Although the glossary is not searchable, it does a good job of providing an easy-to-use resource that's quite informative. [JAB]
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Mars Exploration: Videos [Quicktime, Readvideo]
As part of NASA's Mars Exploration Web site, the Videos gallery page contains dozens of related movies. Visitors can see an animated video of the Rover mission to Mars, the Mars Exploration Rover in action, the deployment of Odyssey's Gamma Ray Spectrometer Instrument, an engineering test of landing a rover on the ground, a futuristic look at how life could be like on Mars, a Mars astronomy timeline, and other interesting movies. Most multimedia material can be viewed in a variety of formats and file sizes so more of the online public can enjoy these examples of space technology. [JAB]
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Introduction to Digital Images and Digital Analysis Techniques [.doc, .pdf]
Canada's Center for Remote Sensing offers the Introduction to Digital Images and Digital Analysis Techniques: A Basic Course for the Appreciation of Digital Analysis of Remotely Sensed Multispectral Data Web site. The downloadable documents of the course gives step-by-step instructions that lead the reader through some basic analysis procedures used in the study of satellite images for a variety of earth resources applications. The site maintains that no math ability is needed, and once completed, the lessons will provide users with a functional knowledge of basic multispectral analysis methods and data presentation formats. The files are available in three languages. [JAB]
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Springtime Tips for the Environment
From the US Environmental Protection Agencies Newsroom Web site comes the Springtime Tips for the Environment page. Visitors will find "tips to help you and your family find ways to reduce pollution and learn about the environment. Doing little things can go a long way to having a healthy spring." Subject headings include In Your Garden, Using Pesticides Safely, In and Around the House, and Conserving and Portending Our Water Resources. Each heading contains some basic suggestions such as having sharp mower blades and using non-mechanical tools when possible. Additional links are provided under each heading for those wanting to locate more information from the EPA and other agencies. [JAB]
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Fusion Energy Sciences [.pdf]
As part of the US Department of Energy, the Office of Science contains the Fusion Energy Sciences program, whose mission is to advance plasma science and fusion science technology. The program "supports research to understand the physics of plasmas; to identify and explore innovative and cost-effective development paths to fusion energy; and as a partner in international efforts, to advance the science and technology of energy-producing plasmas." Visitors to the Fusion Energy Sciences Web site will find current news related to the program, a program highlights document, several informative published papers, additional links, and more. If you're interested in energy, physics, or other related sciences, you'll definitely enjoy learning about the cutting edge science being undertaken within the department. [JAB]
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Topic In Depth

Filtering Water
1. EPA Environmental Education: Water Filtration [.pdf]
2. Filtration: How Does it Work [Flash]
3. Get Out the Gunk
4. Rapid Sand Filtration
5. Vegetative Buffer Strips for Improved Surface Water Quality [.pdf]
6. Infiltration Basins and Trenches [.pdf]
7. Water Filtration Devices
8. A Visit to a Wastewater-Treatment Plant: Primary Treatment of Wastewater
The first site related to water filtration is from the US Environmental Agency entitled EPA Environmental Education: Water Filtration (1 ). The two-page document explains the need for water filtration and the steps water treatment plants take to purify water. To further understand the process, a demonstration project is provided that illustrates these purification steps, which include coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, and disinfection. The second site is an interesting Flash animation called Filtration: How Does it Work (2 ) provided by Canada's Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration. Visitors will learn various types of filtration procedures and systems and the materials that are used such as carbon and sand. Next, from the National Science Foundation is a learning activity called Get Out the Gunk (3 ). Using just a few simple items from around the house, kids will be able to answer questions like "Does a filter work better with a lot of water rushing through, or a small trickle?" and "Does it make the water cleaner if you pour it through a filter twice?" The fourth Web site, Rapid Sand Filtration (4 ), is provided by Dottie Schmitt and Christie Shinault of Virginia Tech. The authors describe the process, which involves the flow of water through a bed of granular media, normally following settling basins in conventional water treatment trains to remove any particulate matter left over after flocculation and settling. Along with its thorough description, readers can view illustrations and photographs that further explain the process. The Vegetative Buffer Strips for Improved Surface Water Quality (5) Web site is provided by the Iowa State University Extension office. The document explains what vegetative buffer strips are, how they filter contaminants and sediment from surface water, how effective they are, and more. The sixth offering is a file called Infiltration Basins and Trenches (6) that is offered by the University of Wisconsin Extension. These structures are intended to collect water, have it infiltrate into the ground, and have it purified along the way. This document explains how effective they are at removing pollutants, how to install them, design guidelines, maintenance, and more. Next, from a site called Wilderness is the Water Filtration Devices (7) page. Visitors read how to make a filtering system out of cloth, sand, crushed rock, charcoal, or a hollow log, although as is stated, the water still has to be purified. The last site, from the US Geological Survey, is called A Visit to a Wastewater-Treatment Plant: Primary Treatment of Wastewater (8). Although geared towards children, the site does a good job of explaining what happens at each stage of the treatment process and how pollutants are removed to help keep water clean. Everything from screening, pumping, aerating, sludge and scum removal, killing bacteria, and what is done with wastewater residuals is covered. [JAB]
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