The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 3, Number 15

July 23, 2004

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




Topic In Depth


NOAA Coastwatch Great Lakes Node [exe, tar, Linux Operating System, QuickTime]

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) CoastWatch program provides near real-time satellite observations and in-situ Great Lakes data. Visitors can view AVHRR imagery, contour maps, GOES imagery, and other Great Lakes data imagery. The website offers data on the physical characteristics of the Great Lakes as well as data on the average surface water temperature and current and historic water levels. QuickTime movies illustrate changes in water temperature throughout a given year. Users can download a number of software programs to decompress image data. [RME]

TIMED: A Mission to Explore One of the Last Frontiers in Earth's Atmosphere [Macromedia Flash Player, pdf, mpg]

The TIMED (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics) is a Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory mission to investigate the impacts of the sun and people on the Mesosphere and the Lower Thermosphere / Ionosphere (MLTI). Users can learn about TIMED's mission through fantastic images, videos, and animations. Researchers can learn about the mission's objectives, research highlights, meetings, data systems, publications, and more. The site provides concise information about its spacecraft, instruments, and mission operations. Students and educators can find an array of TIMED related activities, information, and guides. After registering, users can obtain access to TIMED data as well. [RME]

Caltech: Experimental Petrology

This Caltech website discusses the work of the Ed Stolper, Peter Wyllie, George Rossman, and Paul Asimow groups in the Geological and Planetary Sciences Department. Under Paul Asimow's link, educators and students can find tutorials and applets dealing with phase equilibria. Edward Stolper provides illustrations and descriptions of his current research which includes experimental and theoretical studies of mantle melting and analyses of oxygen isotope ratios of ocean island volcanoes. George Rossman offers information on his many mineralogy research projects. The website features links to the Hawaii Scientific Drilling Project, the Experimental Petrology Facilities, and the Mineral Spectroscopy Homepage. Researchers can find lists of publications and information on conferences. [RME]

Abo Akademi Process Chemistry Centre: Combustion and Materials Chemistry [pdf]

After discovering the history of the Combustion and Materials Chemistry group, users can learn about its research in three main areas: combustion modeling, fuels and technology, and inorganic materials chemistry. Within each area, visitors can find many interesting projects tackled by the group. Researchers can learn about and view many of the instruments used in this work including a scanning electron microscope and pressurized thermogravimetric analyzers. The site provides data on detailed kinetic schemes. Users can find lengthy lists of publications in refereed articles, conference proceedings, books, and reports. The site also presents lots of materials on the Marie Curie Training Site. [RME]

SUNY Buffalo: The Center for Advanced Photonic and Electronic Materials (CAPEM) [pdf]

The Center for Advanced Photonic and Electronic Materials' (CAPEM) mission is "to foster interactions and collaboration among the diverse research and development activities at the University at Buffalo in the areas of photonic and electronic materials, and to facilitate cooperative multidisciplinary activities and multi-investigator research projects." After reading a summary of its three main research activities, visitors can find out about the facilities at CAPEM including the Materials Research Instrument Facility (MRIF) and the Laboratory for Spintronics Research in Semiconductors. Under the faculty link, users can find information on individual scientists' research and links to their homepages. Researchers and students can discover upcoming conferences and workshops. [RME]

NASA: Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has undertaken the Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE) to "demonstrate the potential for space missions to use onboard decision-making to detect, analyze, and respond to science events, and to downlink only the highest value science data." The website features ASE updates, publications, and a list of the potential impacts of this research. Users can discover the autonomy software components that are aboard the ASE flight. The site includes links to information about the Artificial Intelligence Group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and its other projects. [RME]


NOVA: Descent into the Ice [Macromedia Flash Player, pdf, QuickTime, Windows Media Player, RealOne Player]

This NOVA website presents engaging materials on glaciers and the exploration of France's Mt. Blanc. Students can find a compelling account of why melting glaciers are as significant as other threatened natural resources such as old growth forests and coral reefs. The site features a slide show depicting how satellite imagery assists in glacier hazard assessments. Users can take a virtual tour of the gear ice climbers need in order to explore isolated ice shafts at some of the highest elevations on Earth. The tutorial, Life Cycle of a Glacier, takes visitors through the life of a snowflake -- from the time it forms in the sky and falls on the glacier until it finally becomes incorporated with an iceberg, melts, and again evaporates into the atmosphere. Teachers will find a fun activity for students to learn about water changing into ice. [RME]

University of Nijmegen - Mol4D: Molecules in four dimensions [Java, Chime]

Mol4D, a project of the Centre for Molecular and Biomolecular Informatics (CMBI) at the University of Nijmegen (KUN), is a fantastic interactive organic chemistry educational website. It consists of two main parts: Tutorials and Editor. The tutorials cover numerous organic chemistry subjects including molecular orbitals, stereochemistry, and cycloaddition reactions. The Editor allows users to build their own molecules and create animations of reactions. To view animations and take advantage of the interactive capabilities, students need Chime software. While the site concentrates on organic compounds, the excellent three dimensional models permit students to gain a better understanding of both organic and inorganic chemistry. [RME]

Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign: Severe and Hazardous Weather [gif, Java]

The Severe and Hazardous Weather website supplies countless materials on all sorts of weather phenomena from snowstorms to heat waves. Users can find current, forecasted, and archived weather data. The expansive website features numerous examples of how severe weather forms. Everyone can enjoy the fascinating images, animations, and demonstrations. Within each topic, the site includes great links to outside resources. While the site was developed by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to accompany a textbook, it is a great learning tool for anyone interested in meteorology. [RME]

Eric Weisstein's World of Science [Java, gif]

Eric Weisstein's World of Science supplies great, online encyclopedias in astronomy physics, chemistry, and mathematics, as well as a biography of renowned scientists. Users can find excellent, concise explanations of countless concepts. The website is well linked together and, therefore, easy to traverse. Everyone, from grade school students to competent professionals, can utilize this amazing resource for scientific information. Qualified individuals can learn how to contribute materials to the continually growing site. [RME]

Discovery Channel: Science Fair Central

The Discovery Channel promotes student participation in science fairs at this appealing, vibrant website. Users can find a terrific, thorough guide to creating science fair projects, including project ideas and lists of books and external web sites for students to utilize during their research. Students can find tip sheets for projects in many science subjects including astronomy, chemistry, and earth science. Educators can discover how to organize a science fair and parents can learn how to get involved with their children's projects. This site is a great way to excite children about science and scientific investigations. [RME]

The Physics Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: The Universe Adventure [Macromedia Flash Player]

With Macromedia Flash Player, this website, created by the Physics Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, "presents an interactive tour of the history and the fate of the universe." By taking a journey through the universe, students can learn about the expansion of the universe. The site provides logical explanations of cosmic distances, the Big Bang, dark matter, and much more. Students will enjoy the animated cosmic calendar, which compresses the story of the universe from the Big Bang to our human history into one year. The site features a fairly comprehensive glossary of space science terms. [RME]


NOAA: Study details distribution, impacts of carbon dioxide in the world oceans [jpeg]

At this website, NOAA presents an article about an international research team's study of the ocean's storage of carbon dioxide resulting from human activity. Students can discover how scientists determine the changes in CO2 levels for the last 400,000 years. The site discusses how the study compares with a similar project performed in the 1970s. Users can learn about the two reservoirs of carbon capable of taking significant amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere and how they impact human-caused CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Visitors can also find out how human-caused increases in CO2 levels can affect the physical and biological aspects of the ocean. [RME]

World Year of Physics 2005: Einstein in the 21st Century [pdf, jpeg]

The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics declared 2005 as the World Year of Physics, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the year in which Einstein published three very influential physics papers. The United States physics community created this website to promote "plans to bring the excitement of physics to the public and inspire a new generation of scientists." Educators and students can find out about the schedule of events as well as ideas on how to become involved. The also site features a timeline of Einstein's life and achievements. To receive news and updates on events, users can sign up for the free World Year of Physics newsletter. While many of the media links are currently being constructed, users can find a downloadable poster and logo. [RME]

Glacier Caves [pdf]

Created by Charlie Anderson Jr. of the International Glaciospeleological Survey, Glacier Caves provides numerous fantastic photographs of glaciers, caves, and volcanoes located mainly in Northwestern United States. Visitors can sort through the images by topic or by location. Users can find various materials on eruptions, special features, and explorations of many famous Northwestern mountains including Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, and Mount Rainer. The site features links to volcano web cameras. [RME]

BBC: The Changing World [Macromedia Flash Player]

At this BBC website, users can take a trip through the Earth's geologic lifetime from the death of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago to the present. The site features information on the key events, geologic characteristics, surface and deep ocean currents, vegetation, and life forms. Using Macromedia Flash Player, visitors can visualize how the continents changed form and location. Users can view the materials in seven periods or by one continuous timeline. Through this well-structured site, individuals can find answers to many of their questions about Earth's history. [RME]

Tier One: Private Manned Space Program [pdf, Windows Media Player]

This website promotes the Tier One Project - "the world's first privately funded manned space program." Users can find general information on the project, the SpaceShipOne craft, and the four pilots. The site provides a series of press releases where users can find out about the project's latest news and events. Visitors can obtain details on four types of flight tests. The site furnishes lithographs of the space flight profile, mission control, simulator, SpaceShipOne, and more. Everyone can appreciate the exciting videos and numerous images. [RME]

CNN: Black holes: A way out? [Macromedia Flash Player]

In the 1970s, Stephen Hawking created a paradox in the laws of quantum physics by stating that all information is lost in a black hole once it evaporates. This CNN website discusses Hawking's new apparent claim that he has solved this paradox, which has excited the physics community. Users can learn about his argument that black holes do eventually release some information. The site also features an interactive tutorial of the anatomy of a black hole as well as links to external resources on the subject. [RME]

Topic In Depth


Downbursts: Severe Localized Downdrafts
Severe Weather Awareness: Downbursts
Doppler Radar Verification of Downbursts: A Comparison of Three Downbursts Events
Team Investigates Freak Winds
Science Question of the Week: Downbursts
Severe Weather Watcher Handbook: Downbursts
MetLive Boat Safety Tips: Downbursts - The Sudden Winds
Tetsuya Theodore Fujita (1920-1998)

First, the University of Illinois discusses the occurrence of damaging thunderstorm winds, called downbursts, and the event's two classifications: macrobursts and microbursts (1). Users can find helpful links to other University of Illinois fact sheets for the meteorological terms addressed in the text. The second website, created by NOAA, also offers a summary of downbursts and compares them with tornados (2). With its great figures and images, visitors can visualize how downbursts happen and why they are dangerous for airplanes. The third web site, created by NOAA, discusses the successfulness of using Doppler radar-derived velocity data to verify downburst occurrences and to validate the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) Wet Microburst Severity Index (WMSI) product (3). Visitors can learn about the cold season convection events that took place in Southeastern Florida, central Mississippi, and the Texas gulf coast. Next, the BBC furnishes a short article about a wind tunnel experiment undertaken to study downbursts (4). Users can discover the many questions still unanswered about this severe weather phenomenon. At the fifth site, NASA scientist, Dr. Halverson, address how scientists determine if storm damage is due to tornados or downbursts (5). Students can learn about the basic differences of tornados and downbursts. Next, Environment Canada supplies fantastic images to help users understand downbursts (6). Visitors can find out about microbursts that take place in dry regions and are not associated with storm situations. At the seventh website, the United States Coast Guard addresses how downbursts can not only be dangerous to aircrafts but also boats (7). After discussing the characteristics of downbursts, the website addresses downburst hazards and how boaters can get protection and help. Lastly, Michigan State University provides a biography honoring Tetsuya Theodore Fujita, the famous severe storm researcher who first named the destructive thunderstorm winds - downbursts (8). Users can discover his great work, not just in downbursts, but also in tornadoes, typhoons, and other severe storm events. [RME]

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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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