Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Physics Applets

A number of professors at Virginia Tech have developed applet activities for students in physics, engineering, and math. The site comes recommended, especially for freshmen and sophomores, by CHOICE. Evolving from a project funded by the National Science Foundation, the programs demonstrate cases in fluid dynamics, statics, and dynamics. For example, the projectile motion program allows the user to set the speed, angle, and draw. A line of the projectile will be drawn and calculations for range, flight time, and maximum height are displayed. See the image below for a speed of 90 ft/s, an angle of 55 degrees, and a draw of 0.10.

The applications can be awkward to use. In the projectile applet, more curves can be added by redrawing with different values, however it is not easy to clear the application. Some of the applets have instructions whereas others rely on your knowledge to activate. Nevertheless, this programs may prove helpful for students who learn better with visual imagery.

Welcome Back!

Photo from Princess of llyr

Best of luck in the Spring Semester!!

Catching up with APA

I have designed a electronic crib sheet for the new APA style. It has the most commonly used references types. The manual, available for use in the library, includes many more citation examples, such as grey literature, white papers, and government reports. The electronic guide, however, should prove useful while writing papers late at night. To find the guide on the library home page, click on Reference Shelf--> and then scroll down to citation styles. The direct link is http://www.eckerd.edu/library/apa.php

Monday, January 28, 2008

AAAS joins call for science debate

In December, I wrote about a citizens' movement to call for a science debate between presidential candidates. Since then, the movement for Science Debate 2008 has grown to tens of thousands of supporters including Nobel laureates and Congressmen. Last week, the American Association for the Advancement of Science joined the chorus of supporters. Click here for a press release. With the new policy (love it or hate it) that requires researchers with NIH grants to place their research in PubMed, Eckerd scientists and students should realize the impact of politics on science.

And for those faculty and student registered in Florida, don't forget that tomorrow is the primary!

Friday, January 25, 2008

New book profile: Brainteaser Physics

New Book Profile

Title: Brainteaser Physics: Challenging Physics Puzzlers (QC75.G75 2007: New Book shelf)
Author: Goran Grimvall
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Year: 2007
162 pages

A columnist in a Swedish journal for engineers has published 57 puzzles to challenge physicists and students of physics. By the author's own admission, some puzzles are classics and others are new twists on old themes. Puzzles span from novice level to those that "may baffle even a physics professor" (p. 55). According to the preface, some knowledge of mathematics is assumed for many of the brainteasers.

The puzzles incorporate real world examples, as well as other disciplines such as literature. The baffling puzzle mentioned above involves a passage from a novel by Kurt Vonnegut. Solutions are provided for each problem, complete with illustrations and mathematical equations when necessary.

An excellent component of the book is the Further Reading section included at the end. Articles from the American Journal of Physics, European Journal of Physics, Physics Education, and The Physics Teacher correspond to individual problems. These references should help students correlate the puzzles to work of physicists. In this vein, Grimvall states that one purpose of these brainteasers is to provide a view of "how physicists think." (p. vii)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Global Volcanism Program

The Smithsonian Institute via the National Museum of Natural History sponsors the Global Volcanism Program (GVP). The GVP Web site offers many resources for students studying volcanic activity. Through GVP's mission to comprehend volcano activity through analysis eruption data from the past 10,000 years, some data has been made available to the public at no charge. Other data can be obtained with a fee. The site offers a searchable and browsable database for the world's volcanoes. Each record gives a essential information, including the some or all of the following categories:

  • Short summary of the volcano
  • Monthly reports on activity, sometimes going back 30 years or more
  • Eruptive history
  • Synonyms and subfeatures (i.e., cones, craters, domes, and thermal features
  • Data sources (i.e., scholarly references used to provide information about the volcano)

Another useful search capability permits users to search for volcanoes by eruption date. The volcano pictured above, Lascar, in Chile, was found by searching on all eruptions in 2006. Lascar began erupting on April 16, 2006 at a volcanic explosivity level of 3.

The GVP site provides a photo gallery based on volcano types and volcanic processes. For example, the beautiful and dramatic picture below shows a lava flow from Bagana volcano on Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea. According to the photo's caption
Slow lava extrusion, occasionally accompanied by explosive activity, has been continuing since 1972.

Interactive and static maps of volcanic areas, including a Google Earth overlay, are available as well.

This site is especially recommended for Professor Wetzel's assignment on volcanoes. However, other students interested in this phenomenon are certain to find some useful information.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Book a time for Spring instruction

Desperate Winter Term students are finishing up their Comprehensive Exams. The Spring Semester is right around the corner. As you finalize your syllabi, remember to include library instruction. I prefer to design instruction around your class assignments so give me a call or send me an e-mail so we can chat. The library classroom is already being booked so if you want to have your preferred time, get in touch with me as soon as possible. However, instruction is most effective when it can be immediately applied to an assignment. If your major research paper is not due until the end of the term, you may want to put off instruction for a month or so. Or plan two instructions, one as an introduction and then a refresher/Q&A class when your students are in the midst of the assignment.

Update January 29, 2008: I am pleased that many NAS professors have already booked their classes. Anyone else who might want a class--in February at least--should let me know as soon as possible as the lab schedule is filling up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

NIH to require open access

This news is somewhat old, but I still wanted to share this with the Eckerd community for those who might not have heard. The omnibus bill signed by President Bush on December 26, 2007, included a provision in which National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers will be required to send their published research to PubMed within a year of publication. To read more about this requirement, see the BioMed Central blog post, which includes the NIH text of its policy and links to a public forum on the issue:

BioMed Central Blog

Also, here is an article from the Seattle Times.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My intro to NCBI resources

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) offered a course for librarians on Molecular Biology resources at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas last week. One of approximately 12 information professionals, I was introduced to a variety of freely available resources from NCBI and other institutions. After a concise and thorough overview of molecular biology (as our instructor said: 2 years of college bio in 2 hours), we spent an intensive 2.5 days exploring Entrez databases for genes, genomes, proteins, and structures. Our instructors were two professionals with vast knowledge of information-seeking behaviors in bioinformatics and molecular biology:

  • Dr. Ansuman Chattopadhyay, University of Pittsburgh, Health Sciences Library System, Molecular Biology Information Service
  • Dr. Kevin Messner, Miami University, Brill Science Library, Life Sciences Librarian
We conducted activities in text-based Entrez search engine as well as the sequence-based BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool). Entrez search engines, such as Entrez Gene or CoreNucleotide, to name a couple, are searched using text (e.g., MLH1 or “colon cancer”). BLAST, on the other hand, is searched using protein or nucleotide sequences within the entire database or for some individual species. Finally, we examined the three-dimensional modeling application that NCBI has developed, titled Cn3D.

At the end or the workshop, we discussed ways to promote use of these resources. It was suggested that a brief overview of what NCBI offers would be a great way to start getting the word out to students in molecular biology. I hope to offer such a workshop sometime in Spring.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New electronic resources for NAS

Welcome back!

I know many of you have been back for a week and a half, but I spent last week at an NCBI training workshop on microbiology resources. So can I find you the DNA sequence for PER2 gene? Yes, I can now--but more about that in an upcoming blog post.

For now, let me tell you about our new resources. We have added GeoRef, a geology database accessible to all Eckerd community. To quote from the Web site,

The GeoRef database, established by the American Geological Institute in 1966, provides access to the geoscience literature of the world. GeoRef is the most comprehensive bibliographic database in the geosciences and continues to grow by more than 90,000 references a year. The database contains over 2.8 million references to geoscience journal articles, books, maps, conference papers, reports and theses.
A complete title list is available at http://www.agiweb.org/georef/about/serials.html

GEOBASE will remain available with a password available from the librarians or your professor.

In addition, we have added the complete full text to BioOne. Any article you locate via BioOne should be available in full-text format. Furthermore, if you search BioOne through the CSA Aquatic Science and Fisheries Abstracts interface, you will be able to connect to the full text from there.

Finally, the JSTOR Biological Sciences Collection is now active. This would provide the backfiles in full text for most of the journals we get through BioOne. Full title list is available at http://www.jstor.org/about/biosci_content.html.

As the Spring semester approaches, please remember that I am available to conduct a class on these resources and others that may be pertinent to work being done in your classes. Contact me as soon as possible to book the lab.