The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 4, Number 3

February 4, 2005

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




Topic In Depth


USGS: Toxic Substances Hydrology Program [pdf, jpeg]

The USGS's Toxic Substances Hydrology Program supplies "scientific information to improve characterization and management of contaminated sites, to protect human and environmental health, and to reduce potential future contamination problems." The website features comprehensible articles with links to supplementary materials addressing the latest research findings. Researchers can find information on computer simulations and statistical models. The website provides examples of the program's three major research components: subsurface point-source contamination; watershed and regional scale contamination; and methods development and fundamental research. Users can find a list and downloads to recent publications, a series of educational fact sheets, and an interesting photo gallery. [RME]

Sloan Digital Sky Survey [jpeg, gif, pdf]

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey "will map in detail one-quarter of the entire sky, determining the positions and absolute brightnesses of more than 100 million celestial objects" as well as "measure the distances to more than a million galaxies and quasars." The website details the Astrophysical Research Consortium (ARC) mapmaking strategies, timelines, survey progress, and project goals. Visitors can view the many fantastic images collected at the Apache Point Observatory, the site of the SDSS telescopes. While a few of the data links are accessible only to collaborators, the general public can still retrieve SDSS data, tutorials, and algorithms from the archives. [RME]

Tampa Bay P.O.R.T.S.: Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System [gif, jpeg]

The Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS), a public information acquisition and dissemination technology developed by the National Ocean Service (NOS), "includes the integration of real-time currents, water levels, winds, wave height, visibility, air and water temperatures, and barometric pressure at multiple locations with a data dissemination system." The website contains images, maps, and instrumentation for each station. Individuals can locate text and tables of the latest observations, information and charts related to the Tampa Bay Coastal Prediction System, and simulations of oil spills in Tampa Bay. Predicted versus actual graphs of water levels and winds during storms provide researchers with a way to determine the accuracy of the calculations. [RME]

Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center [pdf]

The Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center (NHRAIC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder works with researchers, individuals, and organizations to reduce the social and political damages caused by natural disasters. The website presents its many projects such as the Emergency Management Education Project and the Boulder Creek Flood Notebook, a system to quickly respond to a potentially deadly flood. Students and educators can learn about scholarships, student paper competitions, and upcoming conferences and meetings. The site offers a bimonthly periodical and synopses of post-disaster studies. Users can also subscribe to the free email newsletter dealing with hazards and disasters. [RME]

Austrian Space Agency [pdf]

"The Austrian Space Agency, ASA, established by the Federal authorities in Vienna in 1972, serves as a focal point for the co-ordination of space activities in Austria and is the Austrian link to international space activities." The website offers summaries of the organization's past and present research activities with the ESA Space Science Programme and the International Mars Exploration Working Group (IMEWG). Users can find inspiring biographies of nine Austrian space pioneers as well as information on the latest news and events. While the English version of the organization's work in nanotechnology and aeronautics is not yet available, the Space link provides materials on many educational opportunities including details of the Alpbach Summer School and information on courses in space law. [RME]

Lunar and Planetary Institute [pdf, jpeg, gif]

The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), located in the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), concentrates on research dealing with the current state, evolution, and formation of the solar system. At the website, users can find a technical report about the Forum on the Impact Cratering Process, a summary of the Oxygen in the Solar System Initiative, and other resources regarding the Institute's research foci. Visitors can view the educational Digital Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Moon. The site offers materials on upcoming meetings, a schedule of the seminar series, and many of the Institute's publications. Teachers and students should check out the Education link where they can find fun activities and fascinating images about the evolution of the solar system, lunar phases, seasons, and much more. [RME]

Research in the Physics Department at Heriot-Watt University [pdf, jpeg, gif]

The research oriented Physics Department at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh has a wide range of interests including semiconductor physics, optoelectronics, materials science, molecular physics, and nonlinear physics. This extensive website presents clear descriptions of the objectives, methods, and results of its innumerable research projects. The group homepages provide materials about individual researchers, educational and occupational opportunities, and publications. Physicists can find information on related conferences, workshops, and publications. [RME]

The University of Liverpool: Research Activities in the Department of Chemistry [jpeg]

At this website, the Chemistry Department at the University of Liverpool presents its research in organic, inorganic, materials, physical, surfaces, and catalysis chemistry. The site furnishes links to over 35 faculty member homepages where users can learn about individual research interests and successes through concise descriptions and instructive figures. The Surface Science Research Centre link provides an image gallery and highlights of research projects such as Chirality in Two-Dimensions and Rare-Earth Metal Surfaces. Through the materials provided in the Centre for Nanoscale Science and additional links, visitors can discover the research connections of the chemistry department and other departments including the Life Sciences. [RME]


The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight

Visitors can learn astonishing facts in historical astronomy, astrobiology, astrophysics, space missions, and many more space science topics at this comprehensive website. David Darling, a British astronomer and science writer, provides straightforward explanations of seemingly difficult concepts. In addition to an easily navigable alphabetical list and a keyword search, the encyclopedia is interlinked so that users can easily progress through the materials. The website also features the latest space science news stories as well as archives of exciting events. [RME]

YES Mag: Science Projects

Parents, are you looking for a way to excite your children about science? This website developed by YES Mag, Canada's science magazine for kids, may just have the answer. Users can find numerous fun science activities addressing many of the basic science principles and phenomena including Newton's third law, lightening, wind, and chromatography. Each activity includes pictures to assist in the implementation of the project as well as a convenient printable version. With over thirty-five activities, children are sure to have a fun learning experience. [RME]

Bing & Bong's Tiny Planet [Macromedia Flash Player, pdf]

The Bing & Bong's Tiny Planet website, a supplement to the educational television series, offers excellent science activities, games, and online books for small children. Users can sail around the planet to learn about wind, read an online story to discover space, take an adventure through the water cycle, and much more. Visitors can also learn the essentials of colors, shapes, and light through short videos and interactive modules. The colorful website offers a great way for children to begin learning about the fascinating world. [RME]

Weather Activities [Macromedia Flash Player, pdf]

This entertaining, interactive website is the perfect tool to educate users about the basics of weather forecasting and reporting. The two educational modules, created by EdHeads, each contain three levels and are designed for grades four through nine. While discovering how to predict a three-day forecast, students learn about warm and cold fronts, wind direction and speed, high and low pressure systems, isobars, and humidity. Teachers can find a helpful guide discussing how best to use the site as well as providing an overview of science standards, lesson plans, and pre- and post-tests for students. [RME]

The Mission-A Great Scientific Adventure [Macromedia Flash Player]

At this interactive website, enhanced by Macromedia Flash Player, students can perform 19 creative scientific missions, including three super-missions. The missions include interesting clues, fun games, and stimulating quizzes. Users obtain chemical elements as an award for each mission they successfully complete with the ultimate goal of filling the Periodic Table. Through the activities developed by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), students can learn about lightening, cloud types, electricity, simple machines, atoms, inertia, and much more. In the Secret Library, students can find out about famous scientists and experiments. [RME]


The EUMETCAL website promotes education in meteorological computer-based technologies. The website now offers free access to the two EUROMET modules libraries: Satellite Meteorology and Numerical Weather Predication. The in-depth materials are available in English, French, Dutch, and Spanish. In the EUMETSAT link, users can find a Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) module dealing with rapidly developing storms, 1.6 and 3.9 micrometer channels, and calibration. The website also addresses EUMETCAL assistance in the training of the European National Meteorological Services. [RME] [Java]

Produced by Kenneth Barbalace with help from Roberta and Julia Barbalace, the website supplies innumerable environmental, chemistry, and hazardous materials information and resources. Under the Environmental Issues header, students can learn about the chemical and physical properties of asbestos, the Chernobyl disaster, and the proper way to handle household chemicals. One of the newest additions to the website is the Emergency Response Guidebook, which is used during a Dangerous goods / Hazardous Materials incident. The numerous, in-depth chemical resources include a directory of common chemicals used in industry and household products, an article explaining the structure of atoms, and a periodic table with data on elements' properties. [RME]

PSRC: Physical Sciences Resource Center

Developed by the American Association of Physics Teachers, "the Physical Sciences Resource Center (PSRC) is a web-based databank that provides K-20 teachers links to a wide range of teaching and learning resources in the physical sciences." Users can search the numerous resources by topics, type, or keyword. With each entry, the website provides a description, information on the author, subjects covered, level, intended users, resource types, possible costs, and other useful facts. Interested individuals can register at the website in order to store their search preferences, join discussion forums, submit materials, and store resources. [RME]


Our Earth as Art [jpeg, tiff]

The USGS and NASA have teamed up to bring the public stunning images of the Earth taken by the Landsat-7 satellite and the Terra Satellite's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER). Visitors can browse the images by continent or alphabetically. The images can be used as supplementary materials during educational lectures about rock outcrops, deserts, deltas, clouds, glaciers, and many other earth science topics. The website allows users to download the images as posters and wallpaper. [RME]

ESA: Launchers [jpeg, QuickTime, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, Macromedia Flash Player]

The European Space Agency (ESA) furnishes thorough articles and images regarding its launch vehicles, Europe's Spaceport, and technology. Users can find out ESA's launch schedule, plans for next generation launchers, and the past successes of the launch program. The website offers a video of a launch countdown, images of the Ariane 5, and many more media materials. Through the interactive modules, individuals can learn about the stages, boosters, engines, and additional specifics of the launchers. Children should visit the animated Kids Quiz link to discover the functions of satellites. [RME]

Earth Science Week [pdf]

The American Geological Institute organizes Earth Science Week (ESW) each year in October "to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Earth Sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth." The website offers highlights, evaluations, and news clippings of past ESW events. During the months leading up to ESW, users can search for Earth Science events taking place in their area. Teachers can find numerous classroom activities for grades K-12 based in the National Science Education Standards. Students can learn about contests, discover how to earn an ESW Activity Patch, and take the Geosciences Career Webquest. By either subscribing to the Earth Science Week Update newsletter or reading the online version, visitors can find the latest plans for the occasion as well as earth science-related activities, websites, and other events. [RME]

Georgian Bay Association [Macromedia Flash Player, pdf]

Established in 1916, the not-for-profit umbrella group Georgian Bay Association (GBA) works with "water-based communities and other stakeholders to ensure the careful stewardship of the greater Georgian Bay environment and ... promote(s) the quiet enjoyment of its diverse and finite spaces." Visitors can obtain the latest press releases dealing with the bay and the Great Lakes. The website presents the Association's current projects on water quality, air quality, and other environmental issues. Users can find out about upcoming conferences and workshops as well as download current and past GBA Update newsletters. [RME]

Jules Map Server [Java, gif, postscript]

The Jules Verne Voyager, created by UNAVCO Boulder, is a precision interactive map tool to "better visualize the inter-relationships of geophysical and geologic processes, structures, and measurements with high-precision GPS monument data and solutions on Earth" as well as other major bodies of the solar system. The tool allows users to zoom or pan on a detailed local map, which is displayed in a Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection. New visitors can find helpful tutorials and practice exercises. For those who are interested in more casual visuals, the site provides the Voyager Junior, which is usually faster and contains pre-made images. The website provides downloads for most of the maps. [RME]

Conference on the Applications of Density Functional Theory in Chemistry and Physics [pdf]

The 11th International Conference on the Applications of Density Functional Theory in Chemistry and Physics (DFT) scheduled Sept. 11-15 in Geneva will include plenary lectures, oral contributions, and posters "devoted to both fundamental and applied aspects of density functional theory." The website offers information on the scope of the conference, the invited speakers, and social events. Interested visitors can register for the event online and can find information on lodging. Circulars are available for download. While not currently available, users will soon be able to post their abstracts at the website. [RME]

Workshop on Modeling Interactions in Biomolecules II

This website presents the workshop concentrating on "new developments of computational approaches in biochemistry and biophysics; applications of quantum chemical methods on molecular models; [and] molecular dynamics, Monte Carlo, and molecular mechanics simulations in biodisciplines" to be held at Charles University in Prague. At the website, users can register for the workshop and can learn about the location. To get an idea of what to expect at this year's workshop, individuals can find program information, a photo gallery, and a schedule of past workshops. [RME]

Imperial Sand Dunes [gif, pdf]

The Bureau of Land Management presents the current news, projects, and the geologic and cultural history of the Imperial Sand Dunes at this website. Users can easily search through an abundance of remarkable images of dunes as well as other Californian landscapes. The website offers links to the current rules, regulations, and management plans. Individuals, who will be traveling to the area, can find the weather forecast, an events calendar, and information on volunteering. Visitors can locate archives of Federal Register Notices as well as news releases. [RME]

Topic In Depth

Tritium/Helium-3 Dating
Noble Gas Isotope Lab
Groundwater Dating with 3H - 3He
Dating Applications [pdf]
Periodic Table - Helium
Dating Groundwater with Isotopes
Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry

First, the USGS summarizes the use of tritium and helium-3 for dating geologically young groundwater (1). Researchers can find the conditions needed to solve the helium isotope mass balance as well as equations and corrections needed to obtain the age of water. The second website, provided by the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, discusses the presence of tritium and helium isotopes in the oceans (2). Users can find out about the Noble Gas Isotope Lab's research projects including the Mantle 3He Distribution and Deep Circulation in the Indian Ocean. Next, the University of Ottawa offers equations for helium and tritium concentrations and decay (3). Visitors can also learn how solubility of noble gases is affected by temperature. Fourth, the University of Waterloo describes the characteristics of the hydrogen radioisotope, tritium (4). The website explains how tritium was discovered through the work of Lord Rutherford, Sir John, Ernest Lawrence, Luis Alvarex, Willard Libby, and others. Next, the University of Tbingen furnishes a pdf file dealing with numerous dating techniques including fission track, radio carbon, and thermoluminescence dating (5). Beginning on page nine, individuals can learn about tritium formation and decay as well as its use in dating ground water. At the sixth website, the USGS describes the characteristics of the stable isotopes of helium (6). Visitors can discover how 3He is used to date geologically young ground water, whereas 4He is used to date older ground water. The seventh website, created by SAHRA (Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas) at the University of Arizona, illustrates the effectiveness of isotope hydrology in "understanding fundamental physical, chemical, biological, and climate forcing processes occurring in a watershed" (7). Along with the discussion of the fundamentals of age dating and sources of isotopes, visitors can learn the advantages to using tritium for water samples collected in the field. Lastly, the Victoria University of Manchester introduces its research using noble gas isotopes to better understand earth systems (8). Visitors can discover the decay rates of tritium to 3He and the rates of accumulation of 4He in older groundwater as well as many applications of dating water. [RME]

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