The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 17

August 22, 2003

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

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Natural History Museum: Earth Lab Datasite
The Natural History Museum in London, UK has launched a comprehensive database of UK fossils, minerals and rocks. First the user selects a category of UK fossils, minerals and rocks. Next various selection criteria such as location, group, age and identity can be applied to your search. The database currently has 1246 specimens of fossils, 251 minerals and 186 rocks. The activities portion of the site offers Trilobite Time Trail, which uses the database to discover when trilobites evolved, and the time of their extinction. Other activities described in detail are mineral hardness, color, relative density, cleavage and fracture, and a newly added relative density calculator. This site is a well-designed and easy-to-use reference source for geologists and students. [TJS]
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Australia National Pollutant Inventory
As part of the Department of Environment and Heritage, the Australian Government has developed the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI), " Internet database designed to provide the community, industry and government with information on the types and amounts of certain substances being emitted to the environment." Visitors to the Web site can search for emissions by location, substance, source or facility. The NPI requires industries to report on their emissions to air, land and water on 90 NPI substances including Benzene, Carbon Monoxide, Cyanide (inorganic) compounds, Methanol, and Sulfuric Acid. The Web site contains detailed information on which industrial facilities must report their emissions and how to do so. The site also provides tools for people to map emissions data or download data. [KH]
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CUGIR: Cornell University Geospatial Information Repository
A clearinghouse of GIS-related information, "CUGIR provides geospatial data and metadata for New York State, with special emphasis on those natural features relevant to agriculture, ecology, natural resources, and human-environment interactions." The site includes a tremendous amount and range of information, including census data, wetland data, hydrology and soil data, a gazetteer, and tons more. While the information is focused primarily on New York, the site will undoubtedly be useful to researchers and educators interested in the science of natural features. [JPM]
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US EPA National Environmental Policy Act: Current Environmental Impact Statements
Whether it is a proposed Big Box retail store, a convenience store / gas station, a mine, or a new manufacturing plant, chances are that the organization involved is subject to devising an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Each week, the EPA publishes a listing of all of the EISs that have been filed since the previous week. This public comment / wait period is required by the National Environmental Policy Act. Not only are current EISs available on this site, but also a listing of all of them, by month, back through 2002. Certainly an interesting site if you are facing the prospect of a new development in your community, but also a good site for researchers, educators, and students interested in planning and development topics as they relate to the environment. [JPM]
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PESTIS: Pesticide Action Network North America
As the word Action in its title indicates, PESTIS is definitely an advocacy group and is not moderate on its feelings about pesticides. In fact, a part of PESTIS, is PANNA (Pesticide Action Network North America), which "works to replace pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives." Regardless of your feeling towards pesticides, this Web site includes all sorts of data and information related to pesticide use, including ecotoxicological studies on fish, amphibians, fungi, and more, to ideas for alternatives to pesticides. And, for those visitors interested in furthering their own activism, there is a link to current PESTIS projects and campaigns and ways to help. [JPM]
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USGS National Water Quality Assessment Data Warehouse
This incredibly comprehensive and well-organized site from the USGS offers visitors all sorts of information on water quality studies from all over the United States. By clicking on a map of the US, users are taken to a list of study areas, with over fifty to pick from. By clicking on an individual study, such as the Western Lake Michigan Drainages, the user is provided with a description of the study, maps, publications, and water quality information. As part of the USDS and initiated in 1991, the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) been "systematically collecting chemical, biological, and physical water quality data." Since then, over 6,000 surface water sites and 7,000 wells have been sampled represented by tens of thousands of samples. This data is summarized for visitors to the site and should be very useful for those studying surface water quality and educators looking for recent data to augment their teaching. [JPM]
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All Info-About Science for Families
All Info-About Science for Families is part of the All Info About network aimed at producing topical guides to Web resources. Bob and Gayle Olson, seasoned Web content developers, are the correspondents responsible for the Science for Families page. The emphasis here is toward family activities that explore the everday world through close inspection and experimentation. Some of these activities include How To Grow Socks, A Family Science Garden, and How To Understand the Scientific Process. Pointers to other Internet Science resources are also included for further exploration. Overall an interesting and fun family site, although advertising does run throughout the pages. [DJS]
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The RocksForKids site is produced by two amateur, Canadian "rockhounds" and collectors, actually a K-12 teacher and an architect. The site provides introductory information and Web links on rocks and minerals for school children. Topics include: How Rocks & Minerals are formed, Identification of Rocks & Minerals and Uses of Rocks & Minerals. There is also a section for teachers offering information on rock-oriented careers, lesson plans, rock clubs and more. The language and presentation are clean and easily approachable, and cover both Canadian and American resources. [DJS]
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NASA: Our Solar System
Part of the Popular Topics section of the main NASA site, this collection of NASA resources is jam-packed with great photos, learning tools, announcements, and NASA agency news. Anyone interested in learning more about the solar system or the United States' efforts in space exploration (both manned and unmanned) will want to check out this great resource. In addition to the features on the main page, be sure to check out the Archives section for even more. [DJS]
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All About Dinosaurs
Providing a combination of Power Point presentations and Web pages, this site not only helps kids learn about when a Coelophysis lived (225 million years ago), but also what he or she might have eaten and what part of the world it called home. The site features lots of wonderful illustrations and links to several pages of dinosaur art. There is even a page devoted to songs about the popular pre-historic beasts. A visit to this site will undoubtedly aid a teacher in classroom lecture or might be a fun site for a student to check out at home. [REB]
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Careers Using Physics: Not Just Equations Anymore
For those considering an education and career in physics, this site may be just the ticket. It provides much more than links to the expected resources, like graduate school information and professional organizations, by delving into the experiences of Physicists out in the workforce. An entire section is devoted to profiles of professionals with bachelors, masters and PhDs in Physics, what they do, frustrations of the job and advice to those entering the field. Also of interest is a section on hidden physicists -- those "with a physics background, but without a typical physics job". [REB]
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The Society of Physics Students
The Web site for this professional association is designed primarily for students, although anyone interested in physics will find it useful. Use of the site is free, but those visitors interested in membership in the Society can join for a nominal yearly fee through collegiate chapters (one does not need to be a student to be a member). The site covers everything from internship and scholarship opportunities to games and physics news. Membership benefits include a subscription to Physics Today, career placement services, and much more. [REB]
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Surviving the Dust Bowl
Created as a follow-up to the PBS film "Surviving the Dust Bowl," this Web site discusses the Dust Bowl with respect to the political, cultural, and economic environment of the 1930s. The site contains detailed descriptions of important people and events of the time period, including the worst storm of the Dust Bowl, known as Black Sunday, and the mass migration from the Great Plains states. The Web site also includes information on important events on the national level, such as the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, the New Deal, and the Great Depression. Additionally, the site offers eye-witness accounts and a detailed timeline of the Dust Bowl. For those interested in the PBS film, Surviving the Dust Bowl, the site provides film transcripts, interviews, and a teacher's guide. [KH]
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Glacier Image Database
Developed for a class at the University of Cincinnati, the Glacier Image Database is a photo gallery dedicated to the six topics in the glacier system: Erosion, Sub-glacial, Super-glacial, Ice-margin, Glacial Lakes, and Pro-glacial. The Web site includes photos of glaciers in each of the six topics, which can then be further sub-divided into one of three categories: The Process at Work, the Resulting Deposit or Feature, or the Resulting Landform. The majority of the photos include general descriptions and some even have arrows labeling specific areas of the photo. The Web site also includes links to some QuickTime movies of New Zealand glaciers and aerial photos of the Iceland Flood of 1996. [KH]
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US Geological Survey: Potential San Francisco Bay Landslides during El Nio
As a result of the 1997-98 El Nio season, the US Geological Survey (USGS) worked with the National Weather Service and the State Office of Emergency Services to create the San Francisco Bay Region Landslide Folio. This Web site includes samples of the Landslide and Debris-Flow maps that can be found in the Landslide Folio as well as links to the six separate-but-related reports. For background information, the site includes maps and statistics related to the debris flow and mudslides that resulted from an intense storm in 1982. Finally, the Web site contains suggested readings for the general public and also readings specific to the counties that make up the Greater San Francisco Bay Region. [KH]
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NASA Thesaurus: Volume 1
The NASA Scientific and Technical Information (STI) Program plays a key role in keeping NASA a leader in aeronautical and space sciences. The STI maintains NASA's database of aeronautical and space science information while also reporting on the Agency's research and development. This impressive thesaurus contains a hierarchical listing of all authorized terms contained in NASA's STI database, along with definitions. Although the large size of this PDF file might make navigation difficult, the document is an extremely valuable reference tool for librarians and students of aeronautics and space science.
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International Planetarium Society: Planetaria Around the World
The International Planetarium Society (IPS) is the largest organization of planetarians on the planet, boasting members from every continent. The IPS Planetaria Around the World page is an extensive listing of professional planetariums worldwide. The listing is divided by geographic region, covering Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East (not currently available), North America, and South America. Included in each listing is the city, the name of the planetarium, and a Web site link. There is also a directory of affiliated planetariums that gives location, contact information, and Web site address when available. This site is an excellent source for students and fans of astronomy. Discover a planetarium in your own community, or explore one in another part of the world. [TJS]
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Natural Resources Canada: Volcanoes of Canada
Natural Resources Canada has launched yet another impressive and educational Web site. At this site you can learn all you wanted to know about Canadian volcanoes and volcanology. The site offers an introduction to volcanoes, in-depth sections on types, eruptions, hazards, and risks. You can also discover interesting facts, such as how eruptions in Alaska and the Western coast of the US impact agriculture and air travel in Canada. In addition to text, the site offers a wonderful interactive Map of Canadian Volcanoes. The Catalogue of Canadian Volcanoes is also an excellent reference tool. Available in English and French, this site is easy to understand and ideal for science students as well as anyone interested in volcanology. [TJS]
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Topic In Depth

1 How Compasses Work ??
2 How to Use a Compass
3 Compass Types
4 Which Direction Should I Go?
5 Make A Compass
6 Magnetic Fields: History
7 Compasses
8 Finding Your Way with Map and Compass
This Topic in Depth explores the Web's offering on compasses. The first site is another great site from How Stuff called How Compasses Work (1). Visitors can read the interesting text and view attractive graphics on the basics of what a compass is and how it is used. The second site, maintained by, is specifically about How to Use a Compass (2). Topics covered include the Compass Alone, Compass and Map Interacting, Magnetic Declination and Uncertainty, Suggested Exercises, Navigating Under Difficult Conditions, Finding the Directions Without a Compass, A Collection of Rhymes People use to Remember About Declination, and even information and tips on Buying a Compass. From Heather Williams of Williams College comes the next site entitled Compass Types (3 ). Here, those interested can learn about the workings, uses, and differences of the baseplate or protractor compass and the thumb compass. One other interesting paragraph describes how important the compass actually is for navigation. The fourth site is a quality lesson plan offered by National Geographic's Xpeditioin Web site called Which Direction Should I Go (4)? The activity "has students review and practice their knowledge of compass directions and do several brief exercises to practice using directions in their community and on maps." Next, the Make a Compass (5) Web site is part of the Federal Aviation Administration's Aviation Education page. Visitors learn how to make a simple compass out a sewing needle, magnet, bowl of water, and a piece of paper, pretty easily. The history of magnetism and the compass is chronicled in the next site from NASA called Magnetic Fields: History (6). The site explains what transpired when Hans Christian Oersted in 1820 carried out demonstrations of magnetism using a compass needle mounted on a wooden stand. The seventh site is part of, an optics retailer, called Compasses (7). The site provides a short description on how to use a compass, but was primarily chosen to give readers an idea of the wide range of compasses that are available today for purchase. The last site on this subject is maintained by the US Geological Survey called Finding Your Way with Map and Compass (5). This well designed site does a good job of explaining everything from using topographic maps, determining direction, taking a compass bearing, and more. [JAB]
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From The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2003.

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Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2003. The Internet Scout Project (, located in the Computer Sciences Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides information about the Internet to the U.S. research and education community under a grant from the National Science Foundation, number NCR-9712163. The Government has certain rights in this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the entire Scout Report provided this paragraph, including the copyright notice, are preserved on all copies.

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