The NSDL Scout Report for Physical Sciences -- Volume 4, Number 5

March 4, 2005

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




Topic In Depth


The Kepler Mission [gif, pdf, jpeg, QuickTime]

NASA is conducting the Kepler Mission to detect "terrestrial planets, that is, rocky and Earth-size, around other stars." Visitors can discover the importance of this mission and its objective as well as learn how extra solar terrestrial planets are discovered and confirmed. Through concise descriptions and informational figures, users can find out how differential photometry, stellar variability, transit detection and simulation, and other techniques will be used to satisfy the research objectives. The website features a demonstration of the technology and explains how to interpret the results. Everyone should be sure to check out the mission animations and colorful images. [RME]

MIT Space Systems Laboratory [pdf]

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created the Space Systems Laboratory (SSL) in 1995 to engage in "cutting edge research projects with the goal of directly contributing to the present and future exploration and development of space." Users can find materials on current and past flight projects such as the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) and the Interferometry Program Experiment (IPEX). The website also features SSL's ground programs and research facilities. Researchers can view lists of published papers and can download student theses. [RME]

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences presents its work in three main topics: environmental geochemistry and hydrology, geochemistry of the Earth's interior, and solid-earth geophysics. For each topic, the website offers summaries of the faculty's successes and current projects as well as links to the latest research news stories. Visitors can discover the equipment and technology available at the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center and the Materials Research Center, including a twelve-channel seismograph, atomic force microscopes, and atmospheric quench furnaces. Visitors can discover the Institute's history beginning with the successes of the founder, Amos Eaton, who has been often considered as the father of North American geology. [RME]

Observational Cosmology in the Timbie Group [pdf, postscript, gif]

The Timbie Group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison specializes "in the development and deployment of instruments capable of reaching the exquisite levels of sensitivity necessary to detect the very weak microwave signals constituting the Cosmic Microwave Background" (CMB). The website offers materials about the group's current and recent endeavors, including the Polarization Observations of Large Angular Regions (POLAR) and the development of Monolithic Silicon Bolometers and Miniature Adiabatic Demagnetization Refrigerator. Researchers can download many of the group's publications and find links to other research groups dealing with CMB. Students can find a tutorial dealing with the fate of the universe, an interactive periodic table, conversion tables, calculators, and other helpful tools. [RME]

UK Particle Physics, Astronomy, and Space Science (PPARC): Frontiers [jpeg]

The Frontiers publication offers the latest news and activities of the Research Council's funded projects and the UK Particle Physics, Astronomy, and Space Science's (PPARC) funded scientists. Produced three times a year, each issue is easy to navigate with quick links to the space science and particle physics articles on the Contents page as well as a keyword search. The website offers archives of the publication since 1997. Each issue contains five sections: the Contents, Editorial, Update, Features, and News. While the other sections contain brief synopses, the Features section offers comprehensive descriptions of stimulating endeavors. [RME]

Dalhousie University - Fission Track Research Laboratory [jpeg]

The Dalhousie University's Fission Track Research Laboratory "concentrates on apatite analyses for basin, tectonic, and metallogentic studies" and has the ability to also work with other uranium bearing minerals. The website offers summaries of various laboratory procedures of mineral separation, Californium tracks, and apatite grains. Students and educators can learn about the history and process of Fission Track Analysis. The website features publication lists, current research projects, and successes of people involved in the lab. Users can view amazing images and read summations about the Nares Strait and Strand Fiord's projects in the Arctic. [RME]

National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) on Climate [pdf, gif]

The National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR), based in Bern, Switzerland, studies climate change and its impacts on society through "reconstruction of past climate; study of key physical, chemical and ecological processes; and a concerted effort to develop procedures for seasonal forecasting as well as the forecasting of extreme weather events." This extensive website offers summaries of the goals, methods, status, and results for the NCCR's fourteen main projects. While some of the publications and press releases are not available in English, the website offers a link to the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology where researchers can find many research articles. Researchers and students can find out about many upcoming events and funding opportunities as well. [RME]

Optical Long Baseline Interferometry News [jpeg, Java]

The Optical Long Baseline Interferometry News website, a forum for scientists, engineers, and students who share an interest in long baseline stellar interferometry, offers links to projects devoted to stellar interferometry, news items, and resources for further research. Researchers can find a summary of the available software and an extensive archive of news announcements dating back to 1995. Visitors can obtain lists of publications, information on upcoming meetings and workshops, and links to employment opportunities. Those unfamiliar with stellar interferometry should be sure to check out the Introduction link offering a host of educational materials and tutorials. [RME]


Forest Service National Avalanche Center [jpeg]

The Forest Service's National Avalanche Center teaches users the basics of how to recognize avalanche terrain and how to travel safely in these environments. Users can view images of the four kinds of avalanches: slab, ice fall, point release, and wet. Through a slide presentation, visitors can discover how to safely spend a day in the backcountry. The website also addresses how to survive an avalanche. Afterward, users can take a virtual backcountry tour and test their avalanche skills. Researchers can discover the past and present projects of a variety of scientists to develop avalanche technology for workers including the SnowMicroPen, which is a penetrometer for collecting detailed snow profile information. [RME]

Planet Science [Macromedia Flash Player, pdf]

Planet Science, managed by the UK's National Endowment for Science Technology and Arts (NESTA), is a Macromedia Flash Player-enhanced website offering creative and fun approaches to teaching and learning science. Students can discover the world of science through innumerable entertaining activities, experiments, and online adventures such as PS100x recorder and sequencer where users can learn about sound waves by comparing waveforms for different sounds and, with a microphone, record and compare their own sounds. Parents can learn how to throw a fun science-style party; find a Fun Pack filled with holiday activities, games, and quizzes; and can learn how to answer the tough questions children interested in science may ask. Young adults can discover which science profession is right for them. The website even offers materials for children under eleven. With so much to offer, this website should be a destination for anyone interested in the subject. [RME]

Spaced Penguin [Macromedia Shockwave Player]

Big Idea Productions offers this fun, interactive game, using the Macromedia Shockwave Player, to teach users about projectile motion and the effects of gravity. Students use the GPS (Giant Penguin Slingshot) to launch Kevin, who is lost in space, back to his ship. Users need to carefully examine the planets' gravitational pulls when aiming the GPS; otherwise they can end up orbiting a planet or crashing into one. This website is a fun way to teach students about mass, speed, and angles. [RME]

Rough Science [Macromedia Flash Player]

This PBS website supplements the TV series "Rough Science," where "five scientists are challenged to put their collective scientific knowledge to practical use." The scientists travel to the Mediterranean, Carriacou, New Zealand, and Death Valley. For each adventure, the website offers a series of challenges such as generating electricity, making soap, making paper and pen, and developing a metal detector. Along with learning how the participants became involved with science, students can read diary entries of their adventures. The Web Challenge offered in Series 2 is a fun way to learn about magnetism and electricity. [RME] [Macromedia Flash Player]

This Intel-sponsored website offers interactive, educational materials covering topics in chemistry and physics as well as math and biology. For students between the ages of twelve and fourteen, the website offers short Macromedia Flash Player enhanced tutorials followed by quizzes and reviews. For high school students, more in-depth interactive tutorials embedded with helpful figures, graphs, and questions are available. Students can also find test-taking tips and career advice. Educators and parents can discover how to use these tutorials in the classroom and at home. The Myskoool feature allows individuals to download the interactive lessons to a personal computer or a PDA. [RME]

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry - Educational [Macromedia Flash Player, Macromedia Shockwave Player]

This Nobel Prize website offers fun, interactive chemistry modules. Students can learn about the properties and advantages of conductive polymers through a tour of Conductive Valley. After users learn about the important discoveries and inventions, they can take test their knowledge through quizzes. In the PCR method tutorial, visitors can learn the importance of PCR in forensics through a classroom lecture and then learn how the PCR method works through a crime investigation game. Students can also learn about chirality through a matching game; find a tutorial on DNA, RNA, and protein; and perform biochemistry experiments. The website offers links to press releases and biographies of the winners of Nobel prizes in chemistry. [RME]

Arty the Part-Time Astronaut [Macromedia Flash Player]

Created by 3 Pounds Press, a developer of educational children's materials, this website offers an interactive game about space science. By traveling to the planets in our solar system, students can learn interesting facts, statistics, and the mythology of the planets. Through the Macromedia Flash Player enhanced links, visitors can discover why the earth experiences seasons and can learn about the constellations. Teachers can find an educational guide filled with facts about the planets as well as quizzes, crossword puzzles, and word games. While the website does promote the purchase of the 3 Pounds Press book and CD ROM, the free activities here dealing with time, speed, and gravity should not be missed. [RME]

Normal Community High School - Chemistry [Microsoft Word, pdf, Microsoft Excel, Internet Explorer]

The chemistry teachers at Normal Community High School offer problems, tutorials, and other helpful materials to help students with their chemistry studies. The website supplies a solubility chart, chemical equations, formula calculators, and so much more. In order to view the animated presentations of the major topics covered in high school chemistry such as the history of the periodic table and chemical bonding, users do need to use Internet Explorer. High school students interested in the AP program can find a pdf file providing guidelines and the requirements. Besides the great assistance provided at the website, users can find numerous links to outside educational chemistry websites. [RME]


The Seismological Society of America (SSA) [jpeg]

With members throughout the world, The Seismological Society of America's (SSA) goals are to "promote research in seismology, the scientific investigation of earthquakes and related phenomena, to promote public safety by all practical means, and to enlist the support of the people and the government in the attainment of these ends." Users can find out the latest seismological news as well as fellowships, awards, job announcements and other opportunities. Interested users can learn about membership opportunities and can sign up for the low-volume, broadcast-only electronic mailing list to coordinate community support for an Advanced National Seismic System. Educators and students can also find a series of links to educational websites and materials. [RME]


Bruce Allen developed this World Year of Physics 2005 project for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration to recruit Internet users to help determine whether gravitational wave exist. "Einstein@Home is a program that uses your computer's idle time to search for spinning neutron stars (also called pulsars) using data from the LIGO and GEO gravitational wave detectors." Users need only a computer with a fast connection to the Internet and the Einstein@Home screensaver. After learning about the program's rules and policies, visitors can create an account and download the necessary components. The website offers a user profile zone where visitors can share information and opinions as well as links to news stories about the project. [RME]

OhioSeis: The Ohio Seismic Network [pdf, gif]

The mission of the Ohio Seismic Network, with 25 stations strategically located throughout the state, is to "detect and precisely locate earthquakes within the state's borders, report the severity and potential damage from an event to emergency response officials, and to rapidly respond to media and citizen inquiries after a felt earthquake." Seismologists can view waveform data, find data on the stations, and can search through the Seismic Station Reference Manual. The website features the seismological research in Ohio including developing shear wave profiles of surficial deposits in Ohio. The public can learn about earthquakes in Ohio, examine an interactive earthquake map, find out about recent earthquakes in the region, and discover the earthquake hazards and risks. [RME]

C-SAW: Consortium for Scientific Assistance to Watersheds [pdf]

"The goal for C-SAW is to transfer knowledge and skills to watershed groups or local sponsors thereby helping to build their capacity to plan and conduct watershed assessments, and conduct post-implementation monitoring." Users can learn about the technical assistance provided by C-SAW, including watershed specific assistance, mentoring, and water quality education available to eligible groups in the state of Pennsylvania. Visitors can find the necessary materials to apply for this opportunity. The website also offers links to the program's many partners and other watershed resources and assistance. [RME]

Shippensburg University: Burd Run Interdisciplinary Watershed Research Laboratory [gif, Microsoft Excel, zip, pdf]

Burd Run Interdisciplinary Watershed Research Laboratory at Shippensburg University is a cooperative of thirteen faculty members to improve undergraduate science education. The website details the involvement of continuous monitoring of hydrology, water quality, and meteorology and data collection and analysis in various undergraduate courses. Users can view the streams, land use, soils, geology, and other GIS data sets for the watershed. Individuals can obtain watershed data and can view aerial photographs of the watershed as well as pictures of a flood in 1997 and also area springs. Teachers can inspect the class projects including the comparison of NEXRAD radar and precipitation gauge values. This website provides a great example of how students can participate in hands-on learning by studying landscapes right in their own backyard. [RME]

The Cloud Appreciation Society [jpeg]

The Cloud Appreciation Society believes that "clouds are Nature's poetry" and, therefore, "pledges to fight 'blue-sky thinking'." Visitors can find out about the latest cloud related news and events. The website offers a forum for users to ask cloud-related questions and communicate with other cloud enthusiasts. Anyone in the UK can join the society for free and membership will soon be expanding to other areas of the world. Everyone should check out the numerous fascinating pictures in the cloud gallery. Individuals can also contribute their cloud photographs to the continually growing collection. [RME]

Dealing with Waste: The Nuclear Debate

Developed by the Industry Supports Education initiative (ISE), this website allows teenagers to take part in an online debate about how to cope with nuclear waste and whether and how nuclear power should be used in the future. During the debate, the user has a discussion with a virtual devil's advocate (DA). Visitors can either take the role of being in favor of nuclear power or against nuclear power. After the DA makes a statement, the user selects a response that most closely matches his or her view. The website offers a questionnaire where individuals can determine how their current views compare with other teens. The questionnaire can also be used to see whether the individual's views have changed after the debate. This website educates people about the differing view points of nuclear energy and also provides a great example of how to debate. [RME]

Caf Scientifique

Caf Scientifique, supported by the independent research-funding charity Wellcome Trust and many local sponsors, "is a forum for the discussion of important and interesting scientific issues that is much more informal and accessible than a public lecture." Visitors can find out the current locations of the meetings throughout the world as well as read newspaper articles featuring a few of these gatherings. At the website, users can find out what to expect when attending Caf Scientifique gathering. The CAF-SCI list allows Caf Scientifique participants to discuss upcoming events and other pertinent topics. Interested individual can find the tips and support they need to start up their own Caf Scientifique. [RME]

Topic In Depth


"Magnetar" Discovery Solves 19 Year Old Mystery
Origin of the Universe's Most Powerful Magnet [jpeg]
Magnetar [gif, tiff]
Brightest Galactic Flash Ever Detected Hits Earth [jpeg]
Mysterious Magnetar Yielding Secrets to VLA (Very Large Array) [jpeg]
RHESSI Satellite Captures Giant Gamma-Ray Flare [jpeg]
Chandra X-ray Observatory: Stellar Evolution - Cycles of Formation and Destruction [jpeg]
Known Magnetar Candidates [jpeg]

First, presents the discovery of the magnetar, "a neutron star with a super-strong magnetic field a thousand trillion times stronger than Earth's" (1). While this science article is rather old, from May 20, 1998, it was included in this Topic in Depth because it offers a great summary of the inquiries and advances in the understanding of magnetars since gamma ray detectors across our solar system recorded an intense radiation spike in 1979. Next, presents the findings by Bryan Gaensler and his team from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics of the sources of magnetars, which has remained a mystery since they were first discovered in 1998 (2). The website presents the characteristics of magnetars and compares them to pulsars, another type of neutron star. The third website offers images of idealizations of magnetars (3). The images, offering representations of the dipole magnetic field, are available in lower resolution for viewing on the computer screen and high resolution images for printing. At the fourth website, addresses the explosion of a magnetar that was 100 times more powerful than any blast ever witnessed (4). Users can view artistic impressions of the explosion and its affects on the Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field. The fifth website, like the previous website, addresses the blast from an object named SGR 1806-20 on December 27, 2004 (5). Unlike the last website, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory offers a summary of scientists' findings of the blast using the VLA (Very Large Array) including that the fireball of radio-emitting material is expanding at about one-third the speed of light in an elongated shape, which may change quickly. Next, UC Berkeley describes the observations of the "brightest explosion ever of high-energy x-rays and gamma rays" made by the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI), a satellite used to study gamma-ray emissions from solar flares (6). The website offers an introduction to magnetars and their amplified magnetic fields. The seventh website, created by Chandra X-Ray Observatory, introduces magnetars along with other types of stars (7). Users can view images of supernova remnants and learn about the evolution of Cassiopeia A, which may contain a magnetar. Lastly, NASA offers an infrared image of the galactic center region with the positions of candidate magnetars (8). Clearly explaining these neutron stars, the website has numerous links to more information about the phenomena presented. [RME]

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Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2005. 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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