Note: The following was scanned, OCRed and converted to HTML.
Please be advised, Errors have crept in.
Ed Thelen

The Amateur Scientists'


Volume 5, Number 1, Winter 1998


From the Executive Director


In December's "The Amateur Scientist" in Scientific American magazine. I wrote about an exciting new competition which is being sponsored by the Foundation for the International Non-governmental Development of Space (FINDS), a Washington DC-based lobbying group. Dubbed the "Cheap Access to Space" (CATS) prize. FINDS will pay $250,000 to the first amateur group that can launch a 2 kilogram payload to an altitude of 200 kilometers. After developing a computer program to explore the feasibility of the contest, I discovered that if special care is taken to optimize the design. 200 kilometers should be achievable with a relatively small rocket.

Then it hit me. SAS counts as members over one thousand talented amateur scientists who are all looking for exciting projects. Why shouldn't we go after this prize? So I phoned SAS Roard member Dr Paul MacCready. Paul is a world famous engineer and technologist who, early in his career, won several large cash prizes for achieving mile stones in human powered-flight, including the first human-powered plane to cross the English Channel. Naturally, I figured Paul would be a kindred spirit.

Paul enthusiastically introduced me to Edward J. Dempsey, CEO of World Record Performance Associates (WRPA). a company created just to set world records WRPA agreed to join the effort as an equal partner and has frunded us with $30,000 for the attempt. In addition, dozens of volunteers and companies have already donated materials and work worth tens of thousands of dollars.

We are building two small rockets, standing about six feet tall. They are single stage, and will be propelled by essentially the same propellant used by the Space Shuttle's solid rocket boosters We plan to launch from San Nicholas Island, about 60 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. If all goes well, the rockets will reach speeds in excess of Mach 6, and coast to altitudes well above 200 kilometers- that's about as high as the Space Shuttle orbits.

However, the rockets will not circle the earth Once reaching their maximum altitude, they will fall back down and disintegrate in the atmosphere The current verified altitude record for an amateur-built rocket is 36 kilometers. So if we do shatter the altitude record. we will also set another mark the lowest ratio of cost per altitude obtained by any rocket program (professional or amateur) in history We will use any prize money we might win to continue to push back the frontiers in amateur rocketry annd all other areas of research.

I am heading the rocket team Jack Herron is heading up a team of volunteer machinists and rocket enthusiasts in Tucson. Arizona This team has built our "secret weapon." a most unusual launch platform which should dramatically improve our chances for success. Although we still have a ways to go. the project is well on its on its way to completion. We don't want to reveal too much just yet. but we will share the full details of our attempt in a future edition of the Bulletin.

If you would like to get in on this or future exciting space adventures, please contact our main office at (617)-239-8807. We especially need machinists, ham radio experts, electronic hackers, writers, html aficionatos and cash donations.


Check out Amateur Scientists' Forum in the SAS 'Web page! The new Forum already features dozens of ongoing discussions on all kinds of science-related topics. Get involved in some, or start your own discussions on any scientific topic you want. The Forum is your resource for intactactive science how-to's, general informatlon and materials.

In addition to the general discussions, you'll also find the following resources in the new Forum.

Additional information about projects featured in "The Amateur Scientist": We have started a discussion group from every column I`ve written for Scientific American, going back to Novemher. 1955. You`ll find important additional information that wouldn't fit in the original article, links to our index page, and links to other web sites that can provide you with even more assistance Also, if you have any questions about an AmSci project, go ahead and post them there. I check every folder once every two days and answer every question I can.

New interactive Snap Meet: Are you looking to purchase some equipment or perhaps sell something? The new interactive Swap Meet allows you to post your requests and offerings free of charge. And your messages won't become obsolete because thev are automatically deleted after four weeks. Feel free to post as many messages as you like and update them as long as you like. This is your resource at buy and sell the necessary materials of science.

Letters to the Editor: Feel free to share your suggestions about how SAS can better serve your needs as an amateur scientist.

Partial membership roster: Find out who shares your interests and let others know about you.

It's easy to get involved. Just connect to the SAS home page at: and click on the Forum button. Follow the directions to register (its FREE and open to all) and log on.

My special thanks go to Ed Thelen and Craig Chaddock for getting this going. Ed is doing an outstanding job as the Forum's sysop. The entire amateur community owes both of them a deep debt of gratitude.

SAS also wishes to express its gratitude to Lundeed and Associates, who donated their outstanding WebX software to SAS. WebX makes this new interactive Forum possible.


Thanks to a generous donation by SAS member Sam Hobbs, we will soon be able to supply our members with reprints of old issues of "The Amateur Scientist" from the days of CL. Stong and G. Walker. The rocket project is eating up all of our volunteer staff's time right now but we will soon publish a list of available articles in the Bulletin. We will also post the same index on our Web page.

My deepest and most sincere thanks go out to Sam for his generous donation. His generosity will help many amateur scienists for years to come. Also. it you have back issues of Scientific American and would like to donate copies of "The Amateur Scientist" we would very gratefully receive them. One day, we hope to have a complete set of reprints available online.

Shawn Carlson

Dragonfly is a wonderful publication for the younger investigator. A subscription to this entertaining and educational publication is offered to new members of the SAS when they sign up at the family level. See page 22 for more details. *


By Mike Garrison

When we watch a 747 take off, it's easy to forget that flight used to be the province of amateur scientists and engineers like Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Probably this is because of the swift pace of aeronautical history. Just 44 years after the Wrights' first flight, the X-l was breaking the sound barrier. And it only took 66 years to land men on the moon.

But the amateur spirit is alive and well in at least one area of aeronautics. And it just happens to be one of the most challenging applications of flight technology.

Human-powered flight has proven to be more elusive than anyone ever imagined it would be. Who in 1903 could have thought that we would have sent space probes completely out of the solar system before anyone managed to fly a human-powered airplane over a 100 mile distance?

Nevertheless, the current distance record for human-powered flight is only 115.11 km (72.4 miles) and the record for women is only 6.83 km. What keeps these records from being broken?

The designer of the RAVEN thinks he knows the answers.


The RAVEN is the brainchild of Paul Illian, a Seattle engineer and human-powered airplane enthusiast. Illian has worked on many human-powered airplanes, mostly in concert with another amateur designer, Wayne Bliesner.

Back in 1988 (the year MIT's Daedalus set the current record), Illian decided he could design an airplane which would break the 100 mile barrier. Bliesner, however, was more interested in working on highspeed designs, so Illian decided to set up The RAVEN Project, a non-profit educational organization affiliated with Seattle's Museum Of Flight.

Hundreds of volunteers have worked to design and build the RAVEN. Almost all of the materials have been donated by Puget Sound area businesses. Much of the labor has been done by undergraduate students from 11 Puget Sound area schools, who worked in industry-style design/build teams. Illian handled the preliminary design, but the design teams worked out the details.

Students have designed and tested the RAVEN flight control system. They have done most of the machining and composite lay-up work. They have designed and built the 60-foot transport trailer necessary for moving the RAVEN. In fact, they have been involved with everything from the initial design sketches to the final assembly.

But what is it about humanpowered flight that requires this much engineering and scientific effort?


Aeronautics is perhaps the most delicately balanced engineering discipline. Every aspect of the design of an airplane influences every other aspect, usually in a convoluted manner. For instance, in the 1960s aerodynamicists designed new transonic airfoils with greatly increased lift-to-drag ratios, but the new airfoils were not used to reduce the overall drag of the airplane. Instead, they were built into much thicker wings, with the same lift-to-drag ratio as the older, thinner wings. This increased the amount of fuel which could be carried and decreased the weight of the wing structure. Thus, a low-drag airfoil led to an airplane with the same drag but less structural weight and much greater flying range.

Model of completed RAVEN (92 K bytes)

These sorts of interrelated design improvements have been happening in all aviation-related technologies since the time of the Wrights, but the most important changes have been in propulsion. All powered airplanes, from the Wright Flyer to the latest military and civilian jets, are primarily designed around their engines.

Human-powered airplanes are the ultimate expression of this design philosophy.

Their range can not be extended by adding more fuel. Nor can it be extended (to any practical extent) by using a more powerful or fuel efficient engine.

The range can only be increased by increasing speed or time aloft, while using the same engine.


To illustrate the problem, let's look at the current record holder. The Daedalus flew at about 15 miles per hour (airspeed) for about four hours at a power output of about 0.27 Hp.

Since the airplane is in constant, level flight:

1) Lift = Weight = constant.

If the airplane is flying near its maximum lift to drag ratio (L/D, a good measure of the aerodynamic efficiency of an airplane), then:

2) L/D is approximately constant

and thus:

3) Drag is approximately constant.

Power is determined by:

4) Power = (I/eta_p) * Weight * Velocity/ (LID)

where eta_p is the propulsive efficiency, the fraction of the power applied to the pedals which actually is used to overcome the airplane drag.

In order to maximize the propulsive efficiency at both cruise and takeoff, RAVEN will have a two-position variable pitch propeller. RAVEN's cruise propeller efficiency will be about the same as that Daedalus.

All of this means that in level, constant speed flight, the power required to propel the airplane is equal to the speed times the drag times the inverse of the propulsive efficiency.

If RAVEN tried to keep the same design as the Daedalus but increased the speed to 25 miles per hour, it would need 1.7 times as much power.

But the amount of power which can be provided by a human is inversely proportional to the length of time over which the power must be supplied.

The RAVEN pilot could never supply 0.45 Hp for any where near the four hours that Daedalus flew.

In fact, RAVEN's testing program shows that the pilot should be able to provide 0.25 Hp for five hours. With the Daedalus design, this would translate to a speed of 14 miles per hour (and thus a range of 70 miles).

To give a 100 mile range, RAVEN will need to fly at 20 miles per hour for five hours. To do that with 0.25 Hp, the L/D of the RAVEN will need to be about 60 (as compared to 40 for the Daedalus).

Since Daedalus and RAVEN will weigh the same, they will have the same lift. Therefore, RAVEN will have to have only 2/3 as much drag as Daedalus.

A drag reduction like that requires a major advance in aerodynamic technology.


Daedalus tripled the range of the previous record holder, Paul MacCready's Gossamer Albatross, by using a technology breakthrough in airfoil design state-of-the-art low speed air foils designed for it by Professor Mark Drela of MIT. In effect, the improved aerodynamic technology of the airfoils went directly into improved airplane aerodynamics.

RAVEN, however, will use the same airfoils as Daedalus. "I did not feel it was possible to achieve any significant improvement upon the Daedalus airfoils," Illian explained. "Any improvement would have to come from somewhere else." "I felt the improvement would come from two main areas: reduction of surface area and elimination of interference drag between airplane components," he elaborated.

Taking a page from the designers of the late 60s commercial jets, Illian decided to try to translate a technology advance in one area into a design improvement in another.

Until now, state of the art human-powered airplane construction has been balsa wood and foam covered by mylar skin. This requires guy wires to keep the wing in compression and give it strength. This form of construction also required the pilot's fairing to be separate from the wing.

RAVEN, however, is using carbon/foam composite skins and carbon/Nomex (TM) composite spars to support the wing without any external guy wires, eliminating a major source of drag.

Similar construction techniques for the fuselage also allow RAVEN to integrate the pilot fairing into the wing. This allows the pilot to be in a recumbent position, again dramatically lowering the airplane drag.

This aerodynamic improvement because of structural and material technology is roughly the same thing that happened when metal monoplanes replaced wood and fabric biplanes in the 1930s, except the new materials are so light that the entire plane (without pilot) should end up weighing about 80 pounds.


The hurdle RAVEN had to leap in order to use this semimonocoque wing construction was the weight of the stiff skin and the beams used to support it (called the wing spars).

For the skin RAVEN uses a composite material of carbon fiber and foam, drawn by vacuum into 60-foot-long, airfoilshaped aluminum forms. But even though the skin is strong enough to support the aerodynamic loads upon it, it would buckle if it had to carry all of those loads into the fuselage structure.

The wing spar, an internal beam which runs from the tip of the wing all the way to the wing root, is the traditional airplane design solution.

RAVEN's spars are made of Nomex honeycomb, capped on top and bottom with carbon fiber. The main spar is about 6.0 inches high and 1.5 inches wide at the wing root. It tapers to 1.5 inches high and 0.25 inches wide at the wing tip.

This spar carries XO per cent of the flight loads. A secondary spar, with similar construction, carries the remaining 3_0 percent and also controls the wing twist during flight. The secondary spar is only 4.0 inches by 0.5 inches at the root. It tapers to the same size at the tip as the primary spar.

To cure the spars, Illian designed 60-foot long wooden ovens lined with fiberglass insulation and electrical resistance heating coils. Unfortunately, during the cure cycle, the honeycomb cells kept collapsing.

It turned out that the heat from the oven expanded the volume of the air in the cells. The air simply squeezed past the end caps while they were still flexible. When the spar was removed from the oven and the air cooled, atmospheric pressure crushed the Nomex from the sides.

Eventually, one of the RAVEN volunteers realized that pinpricks in the cell walls would not hurt the strength of the spar, but would allow the air pressure to equalize inside and outside of the honeycomb cells.

A sewing machine with a diamond-tipped needle was used to perforate the honeycomb before curing the spars, and the problem was solved.


Another RAVEN feature new to human-powered airplanes is fly-by-wire flight controls. Instead of directly controlling the elevator and rudder, the pilot will use a control pad similar to those found in video game machines to tell the flight computer which direction the airplane should be heading.

The main computer is a Model 8 microcontroller donated by Onset Computer. "It is very fast, takes very low power, and weighs about one ounce." according to Roger Johnson, who headed the RAVEN flight control team. About eight people have worked on this team since 1995.

The computer relies on eight on-board sensors to measure altitude, heading, airspeed, and various other flight parameters. These are converted to analog voltages, then digitized and fed into the computer.

Converting the sensor readings into analog is not necessary for the operation of the flight controller, but it did help solve a problem Johnson faced.

In order to use the help of student volunteers, Johnson needed each part of the system to be able to be designed and tested in small, separate chunks. This made it easy to assign individual subsystems to separate volunteers. Converting everything to analog signals allowed the volunteers to test and debug the systems they worked on.

Once the analog signals are converted back into digital form, the computer takes the data from the sensors and the pilot's control pad and sends signals to electric actuator motors in the airplane tail. These actuators drive the vertical and horizontal stabilizers, allowing RAVEN to fly without control cables from the pilot to the tail (another reduction of drag and weight).

The side benefit, of course, is relieving the mental workload of the pilot. The computer will sense pedal RPM and calculate a target RPM, then display those to the pilot. Instead of flying the airplane, he or she will only have to tell the RAVEN where to go while concentrating completely on the pedaling effort.

In fact, the suite of sensors which feed into the flight computer are much more sensitive than a human pilot could be. They can detect and correct any deviation from optimal flight attitude, allowing the plane to fly at peak efficiency all of the time. That's important in an airplane which never gets more than 20 feet off the ground.


In effect, the new construe tion materials and flight control systems available today allows RAVEN to decrease drag by 33 percent compared to 19X8 technology, even though the basic aerodynamic technology is the same as the Daedalus.

At least, that's the theory. At the time this article was written, the RAVEN was nearing the end of final assembly. The next step (targeted for February 1998) is a flight test program to measure just how successful the drag reduction effort has been.

The current wings have been deliberately oversized in order to give RAVEN a large safety margin and ensure the airplane will fly. The data from the flight testing will tell Illian how small he can then build the record-attempt wings.

About the same time, the pilots and ground crew will have learned the best ways to handle the airplane, and the program leaders will know what sort of weather conditions the airplane can withstand.

With pilot, support crew and airplane tested and ready to go, hopefully RAVEN will be taking to the air a year from now.

For more information and the latest reports about the RAVEN, check the RAVEN web site at Raven *

An Experimenter's Electrometer

Sniffing out subtle electrostatic phenomena

By Richard Hull

The field of Electrostatics concerns itself with charges, potentials, and forces, and is often considered to have first been studied in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In today's modem world, electrodynamics is the dominant study in electrical engineering. Electrostatics is making somewhat of a come back, and the forces and charges involved can be used for a number of novel purposes in our day-to-day lives. Xerography is a prime example.

The experimenter can arm him or herself with an old classic electroscope and investigate a number of rather large electrostatic effects. In order to gain real insight and do more subtle and difficult experiments, an electrometer is often needed. The electronic electrometer is nothing more than an ordinary voltmeter. The salient difference between your digital VOM and the electrometer is one of input impedance. This relates to the amount of load that the instrument places on the circuit under test. Most good electrometers have input impedance's of 200 teraohms. This is tens of thousands of times greater than the average electronic VOM(I - 10 megohms). It will immediately amaze the experimenterjust how electrical the world really is, once armed with an electrometer.

Modern electronic electrometers are very expensive. $5,000 will buy a fairly nice instrument, while $10,000 would be needed for a superlative one. Keithley Instruments and Victoreen are major suppliers of these specialized instruments. This article will supply the experimenter with schematics and a broad overview for assembling a first class electrometer with a very modest outlay of cash. Actually, this is a unity gain impedance translator or electrometer IX amplifier, in the s trictest sense, as the experimenter will have to supply the readout system, (usually a VOM or oscilloscope.) It will be assumed that the experimenter has a modicum of experience in assembling simple electronic circuits.


As the frequency response of this junior electrometer is limited by the low pass filter circuitry to around 10Hz, no special PC boards are needed. Point to point or wirewrap type connections are all that is required. I have assembled many of these circuits on the simple pad per hole, 2"x3" circuit boards found in local Radio Shacks. The key point is shielding and insulation. The front end of the system utilizes a special precision CMOS FET Integrated Circuit by National Semiconductor. (LMC 6081) This special IC can be purchased from DigiKey. The only other IC is an LM-324N and can be found at most Radio Shack stores. I recommend first quality machined pin IC sockets (DigiKey). Radio Shack also has aluminum chassis cases which will be needed for shielding. The input connector must be a Teflon insulated, chassis mount, female, UHF connector type PL-259.

The output connector is unimportant and can be a RCA type phonojack. I chose a BNC chassis jack for my output connector. The system is powered by two common 9 volt transistor radio batteries. Parts layout is only critical in that the part of the PC board containing the input IC (LMC 6081) be located immediately at the input connector.'The critical input pin to this IC (pin #3) is carefully lifted and not inserted in its socket at all. The two components from this IC lead to the input connector center terminal are connected floating in mid-air!! All batteries and wiring should avoid this area and be on the opposite side of the board and shielded container box. Beyond this, the builder is totally at liberty to do as he or she pleases. I have a proposed lay out diagram included.


Begin by soldering the sockets to the PC board. Next make all connections to all the various tie points. When the board is wired, add the battery clip leads. The box should be a fully enclosed all metal item. Place the input connector at one end and the output connector at the other end of the box. For convenience in some models, I put the input connector on the top of the box at one end. Holes must be drilled for standoffs or long machine screws to support the board near the input connector. The batteries are best placed in the opposite side of the box near the output connector. Make sure at each step of the drilling process that all components will fit in the box and not short out or touch one another. The power switch should also be positioned near the output end of the box. If you still haven't picked up on it, the input end of the box is special and PRIVATE! Only the input IC and the ultrashort input connection, and air, are allowed. You are on your own from this point! Good luck. I expect the builder to rely heavily on the supplied visuals to complete the circuit.


With the shielded box still apart. get a 1.5 volt battery and connect it to the input. Turn the unit on. Measure with a VOM the voltage on the battery. Write it down. Now go to the output with your VOM and adjust the gain potentiometer until the reading exactly equals the input voltage of the battery. `This sets the instrument for unity gain. You are calibrated! Next, we have to check out the finished system. Assemble the box and case for final use. I prefer to use a banana plug with a stiff 24 gauge rod soldered inside the plug to make a vertical whip antenna if the input connector is on top of the instrument. If not, just use a short flexible wire soldered to a banana plug and connect it to a stainless steel salad bowl which is setting on a clean drinking glass. It is crucial that no path of any resistance exist to ground from the isolated and insulated metal object. Ground the chassis of the instrument (a good solid earth ground is needed.) Connect the output to an Oscope or VOM. Set the scope's sweep for a long period sweep of 10 seconds across the screen or more. Set your meter for the 10 volt range if you have no scope. Turn on the instrument. Now move about a bit and notice the varying voltage you are impressing on the bowl or antenna! The impedance is so high (teraohms) that the instrument can resolve voltages that would be overloaded and swamped back to zero by other meters of lower impedance. If you have encountered any problems in getting the system to work, you have made a simple mistake somewhere. Check your batteries. Are they good? Are they hooked up right? Are the ICs in their sockets correctly? Recheck all wiring. You can blow the input IC very easily by touching the input lead while your body is electrostatically charged. I hope you purchased a spare!


It seems bizarre that we use static sensitive components in an instrument and then use them in static experiments. The instrument gets its ultrahigh impedance from the use of feedback and the delicate micro thin layer of insulation separating the FET gate lead from the main substrate in the device.'This is a layer which is easily punctured by static. Needless to say, such puncture means the destruction of the device and IC. The wise application of the electrometer device is the best precautionary measure one can take. Never leave anything hooked to the input connector when the instrument is not in immediate use! The size of the isolated capacity (item hung up as an antenna and hooked to the input) relates to the amount of charge collected, and thus the voltage collected. This instrument will respond to voltages in the range of +/- 7 volts or so. Large collectors around high voltage equipment such as Van DeGraf Generators, Wimhurst machines, Tesla Coils, etc., will collect hundreds of volts and thus destroy the input IC. The voltage collected also relates to proximity of the source of charge for any given collector size. If in doubt, use small collectors or a whip antenna hooked to the input. Never walk across the room and just touch the input collector or connector. You may carry thousands of volts on your body! Always ground yourself on the grounded instrument box. Remember, the box must always have a solid connection to a real earth ground to function properly.


Your meter can be used to determine the polarity of various insulators. Plastics are all negative. Polished, clean glass is always positive. Tapping one's toe in time with a piece of music while sitting on a modern carpet can induce +/-10 volt potential change on a can of Spam 5 feet away! The study of atmospheric electricity can be investigated. A people proximity detector could be devised. No matter what your use, you will see in short order, that every object is continuously exchanging charges with other objects in our everyday world. We exist in a sea of charge. For more information on electrostaties, an excellent book by A.D. Moore entitled Electrostatics is available again at a very modest cost and many experiments are suggested to introduce the amateur scientist to the fascinating world of electrostatics.


  1. Local Radio Shack stores and outlets.
  2. Digikey Electronics, 701 Brooks Avenue South, Thief River Falls, MN 56701-0677 1-800-344-4539 Digikey order line.

Fig 1. Electrometer Amplifier Layout on Bottom of Board 40 K bytes
Fig 2. Basic Electrometer Circuit 25 K bytes

A true and properly driven electrical ground just for an electrometer would be a costly and time consuming business. A good alternative would be an AC plug which has only a single wire connection. A modern three wire grounded plug can be purchased from a hardware store and used to supply an electrical ground for the instrument in this article. I would recommend a 10 piece of common lamp cord in which both of the two 18 gauge wire leads are connected to the ground lug of the plug. Please be sure that the connection is made only to the ground of the plug!!! The hot AC connection must never come into contact with the wire and is left unconnected as is the neutral connection. I use a hot glue gun to cover and insulate the hot and neutral connections inside the plug in order that no accident can occur. The other end of the cord can be hooked to an alligator clip, spade lug or other convenient method of attachment to the case of the electrometer. Needless to say, never use a two to three prong adapter. If you use this type of plug it would defeat the whole concept. If you have only two terminal outlets in your home, you must secure a good ground elsewhere. This may mean driving a 6 or 8 foot ground rod just outside a window. These copper clad steel rods are available at most home builder supply stores. You should then run a wire lead inside your house through a window. Both the noise immunity of the instrument and reliable results rely heavily on the excellence of the ground connection.

Meet Your New Research Assistant: Uncle Sam!

By Sheldon Greaves

Not all science is done in the laboratory or the workshop. Doing good science means you need to know what has already been done, and that means hitting the library. Most amateur scientists are adept at finding books and periodicals in a public or academic library, but if you end your search there, you're probably missing a lot of good stuff. Did you ever think that there might be a lot of information out there that eluded you because you didn't know where to look? There is. Lots of it.

Your tax dollars help fund the activities of the largest single publishing entity in the world: the United States Government. Every year the Government Printing Office oversees the production of tens of thousands of documents on an incredible variety of subjects. Ironically, very few researchers actually make use of this treasure of information. There are several reasons why. First, government documents use a different cataloging system. Unlike the Library of Congress system, which categorizes items by subject, the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) call number system classifies materials according to the department that produced it.

Because of this incompatibiiity, government documents are not listed in most card catalogs, indexes, or databases found in regular libraries. It also means that government documents are usually shelved in different areas apart from the rest of a library's collections. Government documents are listed only in a series of separate, specialized indexes, rather than a single catalog or index. Second, the government spends very little money advertising these publications, and they are usually not sold in commercial bookstores. Finally, most librarian degree programs do not require their graduates to be familiar with use of these government documents or with the methods necessary to search them.

The practical upshot is that there is an enormous amount of information, much of it useful to the amateur scientist, lying hidden away, yet requiring just a little extra effort and research savvy to access. In most cases, the extra effort will produce unexpected riches of information.

A government document can be just about any form of information: books, periodicals, slides, videos, films, posters, maps, photographs, pamphlets, kits, etc. They are usually commissioned by a government department as part of a study or as a public service. Congress, oversees many projects and, produces many reports on a wide variety of topics. Others are reports or the results of studies conducted using government funds.

There is far too much for an article of this size to cover; we can't even scratch the surface. But I will try to give you some good starting points from which to start making your own discoveries. Below are some of the resources most relevant to the amateur scientist that are available in most parts of the country. There are about 1,400 libraries throughout the United States and its territories, at least one in nearly every District. All provide free public access and are expertly staffed. In addition, many of these libraries have special subject collections. For a list of all depository libraries, write to the Government Printing Office, 732 N. Capitol St. N. W., Washington, DC 20401.

The mother lode of government technical information is the National Technical Information Service. The NTIS was created during World War II to process and translate the mountains of military, industrial, scientific, and technical data captured from the Nazis as the war drew to a close. The infermation was translated and sold without copyright restrictions to American and allied entrepreneurs who eagerly awaited the latest bibliographies of available data. Today, it is a clearinghouse for unclassified scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information produced by government agencies. Any time someone uses federal funds for a research project, they are required to submit a report on the results of that research. Government Rewrts Announcements & Index (GRA&I) (Springfield, VA: Department of Commerce (NTIS), 1946- )is an index of that research appearing semiannually, with annual cumulations. Each abstract provides complete references to the reports, along with a full abstract. More than 6,000 titles are added every month, so it's a good bet there is something of interest here.

The entire catalog is available for computerized searching through DIALOG, a fee-based electronic search service. DIALOG connects you to a massive array of databases via the internet. For more information about DIALOG, call 1-800334-2564. Because it is a feebased service, DIALOG searches can be expensive. Many commonly run searches are available in bound form as Published Searches that can save you both time and money. For more information on Published Searches, call 703487-4650, and ask for PR186NEB. NTIS Alerts is a catalog that appears twice a month with summaries of the latest government-sponsored projects and their findings organized into some 30 broad subject areas. There are also specialized "Alerts" on over 150 subtopics. For a free catalog, call the number given above and request PR-797NEE. Copies of individual reports are available for a fee from the NTIS sales office, 5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA, 22161 (703487-4650).

Congressional Information Service, Inc., 1970- . Congress generates a large number of reports at the request of committees concerned with many subjects, including those of scientiic interest. The CIS Index catalogs hearings, House and Senate reports, committee reports, etc. A good complement to the CIS/lndex is an index and abstracting service called GAO Documents. The Government Accounting Office monitors the effectiveness of government programs and expenditures. The reports they produce as part of their work often contain valuable information of a scientific and technical nature. One important publication you should be aware of is the Directory of Government Document Collections and Libraries, 7th edition (CIS).

Index to US Government Periodicals (IUSGP) (Chicago: Infordata International Inc., 1970- )This is a Quarterly index with annual cumulations with author and subject indexes to roughly 170 government periodicals, most of which are not covered in most other indexes, including the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. There is also a set called Current US Government Periodicals on Microfiche that provides fulltext versions of all articles indexed on IUSGP.

If you are searching under a general subject, you should consult the Subiect BiblioaraDhies, or SE-series (Washington: GPO). This series contains over 300 subject-specific bibliographies, each revised irregularly. Each one lists in one place a range of in-print government publications on a given subject. The Government Printing Office provides a list of the subjects covered in this series, as well as free copies of the bibliographies themselves. Call your nearest government bookstore and ask for the latest Subject Bibliography Index. It's free. It also contains a list of government bookstores around the country. If you have trouble locating a federal bookstore, call the Federal Information Center at 1-800-688-9889. If your regional government bookstore does not carry a particular title, you can try ordering it by calling 202-783-3238.

Another good source of bibliographic information comes from the Library of Congress. The Science and Technology Division publishes LC Science Tracer Bullets (LC 33.10). This is an informal series of "pathfrnders" or literature guides that present a listing of resources available to library users. New Tracer Bullets are announced in the Library of Congress Information Bulletin (LC1.18). Individual titles in the Tracer Bullet series are available free of charge from the Library of Congress, Science and Technology Division, Science Reference Section, Washington, D.C.20540-5581.

Finally, if you really want to dig deeply, or if a lot of work on your topic has appeared in non-English journals, take a look at Joint Publications Research Service Translations. JPRS is a government agency that publishes thousands of foreign newspaper and periodical articles in English translation on microfiche. These translations are stored in regional depositories and many other libraries that subscribe to the service. The number of articles is staggering; in 1981 alone over 86,000 articles were published. The current index is called Transdex, covering 1970 onward. For articles prior to 1970, look in BiblioeraDhv-Index to Current US JPRS Translations. Items are listed by subject, author, country, and title of the translated publication.

Here are a few other books that someone using Government Documents should know about:

Over the last few years the GPO has emphasized putting more and more government documents on the internet in order to cut publishing costs and make documents more available to the public. Web sites are maintained by the individual government agencies, and they vary widely in the way they are organized and the type of content that is available. Although things are still in a formative stage, the current state of things and the prospects for the future are impressive. The NTIS maintains an excellent site with a wide variety of useful services. Their URL is, or try going through The National Science Foundation maintains a site at with a searchable database of NSF publications, information on grant programs, educational materials, etc. Also worth a look is the National Institutes of Standards and Technology at The "Tracer Bullet" Guides are available at gopher:// ibs.guides/tracer.

The Library of Congress' main page,, also provides access to tools for researchers. The Subject Bibliography series is also available online. Just point your browser to to get started. Other noteworthy sites are the US Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA http://www.nasa,gov, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Smithsonian Institution

If you are working on any science project, there's a good chance your tax dollars have helped fund a document that is relevant to your work. Take a good look at these resources. Visit your Federal Depository and get to know the staff. They can help you find information many professionals don't know about. Good hunting!*

Some Medicinal Herbs and Their Uses by the Kumeyaay Indians

By Lisa Bridenstine Chaddock

As discussed in a previous article, prehistoric habitation sites, or living areas, of the Kumeyaay Indians in Southern California are being surveyed and recorded by SAS volunteers for archaeology and ethnobotany. Ethnobotany includes the plants the people used not only to eat, but also for medicines and religious ceremonies. A report of the different types of medicinal herbs was compiled during the Volcan Mountains study. This article includes a few of those herbs and their uses.

The Kumeyaay women were the primary gatherers of plant material. Gathering and processing food plants included not only selecting a plant, but also checking to make sure that the plant was the correct one to take. This would be accomplished by checking the surrounding plants and not taking the largest or a whole plant, unless called for specifically in a medicine recipe. The Kumeyaay respected the earth and understood the balance between what they took and what the earth could and could not replace. Special grinding surfaces were prepared for medicines as well. This would include smaller, oval-shaped basins and slicks (flat, slick ovals on bedrock) with specific medicines prepared in a selected basin. For instance, sage would be ground in one oval, and manzanita in another so as not to mix medicines.

There were numerous medicinal herbs and plants. Kumeyaay medicine began first with the diet. For life to balance, the diet had to balance. Important to the general diet were acoms, buckwheat, agave, honey mesquite, tornillo, and insects, most notably the grasshopper. (Although the insects are not plants, they are included merely because of the exotic nature of them to our pallet.)

The primary plant used by the Kumeyaay was the acorn. From the acorn many things were made, including acorn soup, biscuits, and mush.

Soup was flavored for daily use, however there were many more medicinal and tonic uses for the acorn than simply making a meal of the mush. The soup or mush was used as a medicinal wash for sores because of its antiseptic properties. Another use for the oak tree comes from the tea, made from budding oak leaves. The tea was used to reduce fever, as a goiter remedy, for a "female remedy," and for hemorrhoids and boils in a sitz bath.

Another very important plant was the elderberry. Elderberry (Sambucus mexicanal was a favorite in combination with acorn soup. This was also a necessity. The elderbeny can cause nausea when eaten raw, but is rendered harmless when cooked. The elderberry blossoms were boiled for tea to reduce fever The Kumeyaay also used elderberry in a tea for eye infections. If you have an elderberry tree, cooking the berries and adding them to pie crust bakes them into a sweet treat.

Among the Kumeyaay numerous remedies are recorded for colds and lung diseases. The mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus beteloides) bark was pared from the tree and put on the patient to dry, then removed and boiled into a tea for treatment of colds and for diseased lungs. White sage (Salvia apiana) tea was used for respiratory sicknesses, including asthma. It is a strong antihistamine. The leaves were burned as a fumigant and to cleanse a place for sacred ceremonies. Flattop buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) was used in a tea to treat coughs, as was peony (Paeonia californica), and sugar bush (Rhus ovata).

White sage leaves were rubbed on the body to ease sore neck muscles. Skin allergies such as poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) were treated by picking out a branch of white sage that was growing nearest to the poison oak, crushing the leaves with the hand, and vigorously rubbing the affected area. White Sage contains camphor, which is an active ingredient in many muscle creams and respiratory medicines currently on the market. For other itchy skin ailments, including skin fungus, creosote bush (Larrea tridentato) was used as a salve to rid the patient of the offending fungus. Mistletoe (Phoradendron californica) was used as a mash to eliminate lice and bugs from the scalp.

Chia sage (Salvia columbariae) was an extremely useful plant, even though the seeds are small. Although one would normally use the seeds to season soup, these seeds were invaluable medicinals. The seed produces a mucous-like substance, which was useful in removing foreign objects from the eye. The patient would insert a chia seed in the eye prior to going to sleep, and would awake with the eye clear of the object.

Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) was used as a disinfectant. The leaves and branches were boiled and used to bathe infected, sore or swollen areas of the body. The Kumeyaay also used Chamise for firewood. Some of the desert bands used bound branches of the chamise for torches.

Dove Weed (Eremocarpus setigerus) was used in an infusion as a laxative. The stems and leaves were crushed into a mush, then placed in decaying, open wounds on horses to kill the maggots and allow the wound to heal.

Deer Vetch Lotus (Lotus bicolor) was primarily used for food, however the plant was added to dry pine needles andspread as a layer in the pit roasting the yucca. The decoction of this foliage was used for coughs. The Kumeyaay also fed lotus leaves to their domesticated animals.

A very important plant in the Kumeyaay ethnobotany was Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia). The fruit of the plant blooms in December, and is eaten as food. However, the plant also has a medicinal use. The plant yields a treatment for skin ailments, including using an infusion of leaves and bark to wash infected wounds.

Another medicine widely used by the Kumeyaay grows in three varieties, but is commonly called Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon crassifolium, E. chrysanthemfolia, E. trichocalyx). The primary use of these plants was to chew the small, new leaves to ease a sore throat or to relieve a cough or cold. This plant was also used blended with other medicines, such as Horehound, to cure colds and fever. During the field work on Volcan Mountain these plants and other medicinals were found adjacent to each other in areas containing medicine rock configurations. This was a significant find by SAS volunteers!

SAS is working with professional archaeologists to survey and record the distant and recent history of San Diego at a variety of locations. If you are interested in the continuing research on Volcan Mountain, contact Susan Hector at the County of San Diego, at (619) 694-3037. For either the Bancroft House project (Carol Serr), or for Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary project (the author) ca11(619) 5788964.


If you are are interested in making acorn muffrns, try making the acorn mush by husking and food processing acorns. Gather the acorns while still light brown. Take the mush and boil in water, draining and replacing the water 3 or 4 times until it is no longer purple in color. Then, add the mush to your favorite corn muffin recipe or boxed corn bread mix. This makes a much lighter version of the acorn cakes, and one of them will satisfy your hunger for most of the day. *

Building a Hot Plate

By Ely Silk

I required a hot-stage to do some work with liquid crystals. Hot-stages on the market, if you can find them, are very expensive. I decided to try using electroconductive glass. This is the glass used by automotive manufacturers in electrically operated defrosting windows. A local glazier ordered some of the glass for me, and I had the large sheet material cut into 2 x 2 inch squares. The glass is handy for performing liquid crystal experiments, since one surface is electroconductive due to a layer of tin oxide or indium tin oxide. Two pieces of 2 x 2 with conductive surfaces facing each other and shimmed with a mylar or teflon spacer make a great LC cell when connected to a 20-volt square wave signal generator (60 Hz is satisfactory).

But the glass can be used for heating materials as well, and that is what this technique for the microscopist is all about. A piece of 2 x 2 electroconductive glass is prepared with two thin copper strips epoxied to the outer margins. One needs a conductive epoxy, and I used a silver epoxy (40-3900 resin and catalyst) obtained from Epoxies, Etc. of Greenville, RI (401-231-2930).

In the center of the conductive glass surface, place a small drop of a high boiling point, non-reactive liquid such as glycerol (bp 290 degrees C). Next, lay a thin microscope cover glass (#O is ideal) about 22 x 30 mm in size on top of the drop of liquid. Place a few crystals of the material being studied on the cover slip either in solid form or dissolved in a suitable solvent. If a solvent is used, allow it to evaporate, and lay another cover glass about 18 x 18 mm and #1 to #2 thinness on top of the crystals, centering the smaller cover glass in the larger. See Figure 1 .

Place the heating device on the microscope stage and connect the leads to a DC power supply (variable 15 volts @ 1 amp is fine). Then set up the polarizers (if these are being used) in the crossed position. While examining the crystals, slowly raise the applied voltage and look for melting. Fine adjustment of the applied power will increase, decrease, stop, or reverse the melting rate. Examining anisotropic crystals forming or melting while viewed under polarized light is an unforgettable experience. Orchestrating the growth and melting of the crystals at the twist of the dial is even more unforgettable!

A few safe materials to try include thymol, camphor, menthol, stearic acid, and myristic acid. I extracted the myristic acid from nutmeg using methanol. Trimyristin also crystallizes out of the impure nutmeg extract. The combined mixed crystal is interesting to observe, albeit slow to crystallize when viewed under the microscope. Studies of crystal habits, changes of polarization, etc., may now be easily and inexpensively performed. Bear in mind that the device is unsealed. If materials such as naphthalene, anthracene, biphenyl, and other hazardous compounds are to be studied, some provision must be made to produce a sealed heating cell.

If you need to measure the temperature of the plate, use a digital thermometer with a fine metal probe tip and immerse the tip in a drop of glycerol (or similar high boiling point liquid) placed on the glass surface in 4 the region of interest. Alternatively, the temperature can be measured using pure organic solid reagents with known melting points. Also, liquid crystal sheets are available which can be placed in contact with the glass to map the temperatures.

The benefits of this simple to-construct hot-stage include: low-cost, very rapid response and low thermal lagging (due in part to the liquid interface between the tin oxide and lower cover glass), and transparency which allows transmitted light viewing. The thinner the glass, of hot-stage plates and see how high a temperature you can reach safely. Be aware that prolonged viewing of a high-temperature surface with a high-power microscope objective may be detrimental to the objective. Also, evaporating solvents and the better as far as being able to set up critical (Koehler) illumination, but under low power, even the thicker glass will perform well. With this setup I easily achieved 100 degrees C on the surface. How long this would last before the glass cracks is an unknown.

Materials with melting points up to 85 - 90 degrees C may be readily examined with the setup. There are dozens and dozens of compounds which can be studied with melting points in the range of room temperature to 90 degrees C. Definitely construct a number subliming crystals could harm an objective. In the event that these deleterious conditions are encountered, some means must be taken to protect the microscope objective. A gentle flow of air near the objective lens (lowpower) could help keep the heat, solvent, and crystal vapors away.

Uses for this setup include:

  1. Observing and recording growth of bacteria and other microorganisms at different temperatures in an inexpensive onstage incubator.

  2. Studying the behavior of liquid and ordinary crystals at different temperatures to study phase changes. Crystals may be observedduring melting,subliming, or solidifying either as the pure crystalline compound or in a saturated solution. Viewing crystal changes under polarized light is most instructive and beautiful.

  3. Testing for the purity of low-melting point solids by checking the melting points in comparison to suitable standards of pure substances.

  4. Examining the effect temperature changes on refractive indices.

  5. Looking for liquid inclusions in minerals and crystals.

  6. Studying phase changes of low boiling point liquids (with a suitable housing to protect the microscope objective).

  7. Examining plastic and polymeric films for their behavior during polymerization.

  8. Studying denaturing of proteins.

There are many other uses as well. I hope you and other amateur scientists find this technique of interest. *

Temperature Conversions:
F" to C": Subtract by 32; multiply by 5 and divide by 9. Ex: 125F"-32 = 93 x 5 = 465 /9=51.67C"
C' to F': Multiply by 9; Divide by 5; add 32. Ex: 18C' x 9 = 162 / 5 = 32.4 + 32 = 64.4F"

Amateur Birding Surveys: Two Experiences

By Jan Herron and Martin Bailey

A year ago the Amateur Scientists' Bulletin 1 introduced me - a neophyte birder - to the work of the Cornell Laboratory of Omithology, which is a worldwide leader in the coordination of amateur bird research. The Lab operates a broad range of programs geared to the varying skill levels of its volunteers.

Project Feeder Watch requires no more than a backyard birdfeeder, a reliable field guide, a supply of birdseed, and a #2 pencil. Birds in Forested Landscapes sends experienced birders out into the woods to study the relationship between habitat restriction and egg production; and in the medium ability range there are, for instance, volunteers whose task is to track the spread of disease through the House Finch population in the eastern states.

Since my abilities are strictly entrance-level, I'm a FeederWatch person. In October the Lab sends me a batch of data forms, and from November through March, on pre-selected days at two-week intervals, I count the size of the bird flocks around my feeder and enter the results on a computer form. The aim of the exercise is not to tally the total number of birds visiting the feeder, but to establish the maximum size of the flocks in which each species is traveling so many Brown Towhees, so many Mourning Doves. (Or in my case, so very many House Finches.) The form has spaces also for recording precipitation, daytime temperature, and snow and ice cover. These data are probably more meaningful in other locations: here in Central California they can usually be covered by three zeroes and a ditto.

At the end of March a deluge of data (69,785 forms for the 1996-97 season) floods back to the Lab. There it is indexed and made available to researchers who use it for such purposes as documenting large-scale movements of bird populations and investigating the relationship between population shifts and weather patterns.

In October the Lab distributes to its volunteers a report studded with fascinating pieces of information (in 1996-97 Hairy Woodpeckers increased by more than 20% continent-wide; Clark's Nutcrackers are spreading out across the West; Siberian Accentor has been spotted in the lower 48 States for only the second time in recorded history) and nicely timed to get us out there cleaning our feeders and dusting off our binoculars in preparation for a new feederwatching season.

The forms are simple and easily completed. The birds are more complicated. My FeederWatch area is pretty basic a single feeder hanging from one of the lower limbs of a large California Sycamore. Surrounding trees and shrubs supply additional food in season as well as welcome cover for birds, and my kitchen and bedroom windows have a clear view of the whole area. Before I signed up for Project FeederWatch, my bird-watching style tended to broad generalizations (a finch of some kind, an unusual sparrow.) Now I keep binoculars and an increasingly well-thumbed Peterson Field Guide by the window because there is no space on the Cornell form for Unidentified. Accuracy is important.

The hardest commandment for many birders to follow is the one that says, thou shalt select thy count days in advance and count the birds only on those days. Invariably, that incredible flock of Cedar Wax-Wings will surround the feeder on the day before a count period, and that Redtail Hawk will fall from the sky onto a Sycamore branch on the day after. The Lab obviously understands the birder's need to count coup, and provides a blank page in the data booklet for the counter to detail the ones that got away.

I welcomed the opportunity to write up the Wax-Wings and the hawk, but realized I still have a long way to go when the next newsletter from the Lab thanked volunteers for their "photographs, sketches and poems." These birders are an enthusiastic lot.

What do we get out of all these days of compulsive counting? Theobvious answer is the satisfaction of giving something back to the birds. A data bank that can document their habitat needs is, along with the birdseed, something of a repayment for their graceful and musical presence in our backyards and gardens. Our second benefit occurs when the Lab sends out its report and we see how our work fits into a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Finally and personally, I find that, thanks to being committed to identifying every bird that visits my feeder on four days out of every month, I pay more attention. And not just to the birds: now I have a butterfly guide, too, and can point out most of the spots in my garden where frogs reside. There is a wonderful amount of activity going on under my feet and above my head, and as long as I'm out there watching for the Lazuli Bunting I'm not going to miss a bit of it.

Jan Herron

Recently I had an article published in a journal devoted to birding. It was an analysis of over 50 years of Christmas bird counts in Saskatchewan. All of the statistical proofs that were the backbone of the article had been edited out. More than one person asked me if I survived the surgery. Yes. I remain embittered by the same old things. Nothing has changed.

Statistics are a tool. A means to an end. Nothing more, nothing less. When used properly, they enhance a finished product. Badly used, they are the foundation stones of a building that will soon fall.

The gathering of the necessary data to do the 50 year study was time consuming. No way around that. Fortunately, I am the owner of an 8088 chip computer with 640 kilobits of random access memory, retail value $Can. 0.00.

I used a once popular spreadsheet program to set-up a matrix of about 160 columns by 52 rows. Into this matrix I lobbed my 150 plus winter bird species that had been found in Saskatchewan over the course of 52 years. I took one precaution. I made sure I could transport the data from the spreadsheet program into the statistical programs that I would be using to do the actual analyses.

I now have grey hair. But in my youth, before personal computers, if you wanted to do any kind of statistical analysis you had to write your own programs. Hard work. But it meant that you actually understood the mechanics of the maths behind the statistic that you were going to play around with.

Initially I thought this was wonderful. No half-baked arts major could muck around with statistical formulae to come up with mistaken conclusions. Time took its toll. I met up with engineers, and even folks with masters degrees in statistics, who played with equations to make their living, who came up with rather unique and one of a kind conclusions. Garbage in, garbage out. They never bothered to find out whether the raw data that they collected from sources unknown was valid.

Today, with my fully depreciated computer, I can enter any kind of weird group of numbers and get a result displayed on my monitor. Or press Ctrl P for printout.

Yet, I hardly see this as a desperate situation. The easy availability of canned software programs also makes it easier for you to do good work as well as poorly thought out drivel. I would never have considered doing in my spare time Time Series Analysis with a hand held calculator, even if I could, on a 52 by 160 matrix. What really matters has not changed. Science is a systematic gathering of observable data in such a manner that not only can you do it, but someone else can do it as well and come up with the same conclusions as you did.

With this in mind one does not have to look very far to find thousands of volunteers who are carrying out good science with the outcomes described statistically. The Cornell Lab of Omithology has several projects on the go where volunteers are gathering data on a number of bird species. The ongoing results of these studies are regularly reported on in their publication BirdscoDe using statistical nomenclature where applicable, but with a difference. For example, they use charts with parallel lines to allow you to visually see how strong that correlation is between the factors being studied. Or they write N = 78 participants. A smooth way of teaching the observant that if they see N = in some smart academic journal, they may now figure out what it means without any additional help.

Leica is sponsoring a project in conjunction with the American Birding Association to encourage birders between the ages of 10 and 18 to keep a field notebook for one year. Judging will be based on how the participants have improved over the year in their observational skills.

The purpose of the program is to help young birders to "develop the skills of detailed and accurate observation and record keeping."

It really does not seem to be all that different than what the British expected of their army and naval officers in the eighteenth and nineteenth century as they went about mapping planet Earth, as well as collecting flora, fauna, and rocks for military advantage and commercial gain.

So why did I not care if all my statistical formulations were gutted out of an article that could not have been possible without me doing a great deal of statistical analyses? I have always found that the guys whose signatures were imprinted on the bottom right hand side of cheque blanks never wanted to be bothered with reading through my esoteric analyses. All they cared about was, was it done right. And most importantly, would they feel comfortable in making decisions based on my findings?

You may ask, how could I feel comfortable with data gathered by the academically uncertified. I worked for a number of years for the Canadian Census where every five years hundreds of supervisors with three weeks of training train in turn for one week thousands of others who would go out and collect data on millions. Surprisingly enough, we research officers back at head office felt quite comfortable with the results. We knew that for everyone who under-counted, there would be some else who over-counted. Regression to the mean.

We live in trying times without much political will to change. This is why I find the projects carried on in the birding community so exciting. They involve thousands of voters in scientific study. Folks start seeing things rather than just being entertained on T.V. by them.

(seems to be a break in the text in the magazine)

make you laugh, or things that give you a good fright. Hearing about species extinction or global warming may get you momentarily excited, but being involved in a project that monitors weather changes in your local area makes you want to do something about it.

Martin Bailey

Other Groups:

Join In! These Folks Would Like to Meet You!

The Society for Amateur Scientists' promotes all science-oriented organizations. You can find more infermation about some of these groups on our Web page. If there is a group that you want others to know about, please tell us and we'll list them in these pages and on our Web page. Send a post card to our San Diego office, or send an e-mail to


American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) Since its founding in 1911, the AAVSO has logged over 7 million observations of variable stars taken by amateur and professional astronomers. You can get involved with a telescope of any size - even a pair of binoculars! Dues: $50 adults, $25 ages 16-20. Members receive Journal of the AAVSO, AAVSO Newsletter, AAVSO Bulletin of Annual Predictions of Maxima and Minima of Long Period Variables, plus all the info they need to make observations. Contact: AAVSO, 25 Birch St., Cambridge, MA 02138-1205 Phone: (617) 354-0484 e-mail: aavso@

Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers If you're interested in radio astronomy, you've got to join this group. SARA is dedicated to real hands-on radio astronomy. Learn to build your own radio telescope capable of picking up radio waves from Jupiter and looking for extraterrestrial civilizations. Contact: Chuck Forster 5661 Vineyard, 5420 Glenway Circle, Oregon, WI 53575 (608) 835-9282; e-mail: cforster@ SARA Bulletin Board: (608) 835-9605 Web:

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific The world's largest general astronomy society, is a conduit for collaboration among professional astronomers, amateur astronomers, and K-12 educators. The ASP's Project ASTRO brings together astronomers and teachers in six cities; the ASP's flagship magazine, Mercury, offers an observing activity each issue. Web: Elko Astronomical Society Newsletter. Hosts events of interest to all star gazers. 550 S. 12th #22, Elko, NV 8801 Contact: Leonard Seymore. (702)738-7816

Escambia Amateur Astronomers' Association Newsletter. Monthly meetings and special events. c/o Physical Sciences, Pensacola Junior College, 1000 College Blvd., Pensacola, FL 32504-8998

Mclennan County Astronomy Club Located in Mclennan County, Waco, Texas. Star parties are held monthly at a dark sky location. Contact Johnny Barton, 528 Wildwood Trail, Lorena, Texas 76655 or Michael Robinson at thomrob@ia

Williamson County Astronomy Club Monthly meetings. Great activities that support people with an interest in the heavens. 901 S. Church St., Georgetown, TX 78626 Contact: John Upton.

Colorado Springs Astronomy Society Newsletter. Monthly meetings with events of interest to all star gazers. PO. Box 62022, Colorado Springs, CO 80962

San Diego Astronomy Association Newsletter. Monthly meetings in Balboa Park. Hosts events of interest to all star gazers. P.O. Box 23215, San Diego, CA 92193 (619) 495-1787 Info. and messages; e-mail:

San Diego L5 Society Newsletter. Chapter of the National Space Society. Sponsors lectures and activities dedicated to the development of space as a vital resource. P.O. Box 4636, San Diego, CA 92164 Contact: Mitchell Meyers (619) 484-4418

Westport Astronomical Society Newsletter. Monthly meetings. A very active group. Star Parties, classes and public viewing on 25 inch reflector. P.O.Box 394, Fairfield, CT 06430 (203) 234-5428 Contact: Thomas E Davis.

SETI Quest Quarterly print/electronic publication devoted to bioastronomy, exobiology and its subset SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) SETI Quest, Helmers Publishing, 174 Concord Street, Peterborough, NH 03458-0874 (603)9249631 Fax (603) 924-7408, email: SQINQNET@ pixelacres.


TWITT (The Wing Is The Thing) International group of aviation enthusiasts dedicated to exploring the virtues of single-winged aircraft. Lots of very knowledgable people who love planes. Contact: Robert Fronius, Western Glider & Sailplane Museum, P.O. Box 20430, El Cajon, CA 92021


Earthwatch Puts amateurs in the field with researchers for a fee. Amateurs get directly involved in research projects and generally have a great time doing exciting field work. They've been doing great things for 22 years. Sixty-five thousand people are already members of this worthy nature organization. For more info contact: Earthwatch, 680 Mount Auburn St., P.O. Box 403, Watertown, MA 02272-9924 (800) 776-0188

Gee-Monitor Monthly publication about earthquake prediction, amateur geophysical monitoring and earth mysteries. Editor: Charles R. Patton. (909) 698-9657. 21490 Camino Arriba, Murrieta, CA., 92562. $2uyear domestic, $30 foreign. If you're interested in earthquakes and associated EM waves, get it!

Long Wave Club of America Dedicated to monitoring natural radio emissions. They publish Natural Radio, edited by Dan Levitt, 320 Harold St., Crystal Lake, IL60014-7211. A great hands-on publication! Also contact: Bill Oliver, 45 Wild Flower Road, Levittown, PA 19057

Public Seismic Network The Public Seismic Network is an international group of amateur seismologists concentrated in California, who record earthquakes with their own digital instruments and exchange the waveform records and maintain an e-mail, list-server and Web sites to communicate with each other via the Internet. No dues. Contact: Larry Cochrane, 24 Garden St., Redwood City, CA 94063 (415) 365-7162 They have 5 web sites:
Redwood City, California PSN at
Fairbanks, Alaska PSN at
UserslAPSN/> Memphis, Tennessee PSN at
Dunedin, New Zealand PSN at http://psn.quake. net/dave/quakes.htm
Pasadena, California PSN at


Association for Women in Science Committed to equal opportunity for women in science, AWIS is the leading organization for women scientists. You don't have to be a professional to join, or even a woman. Anyone who advocates equality for women in the laboratory should support this worthy group. Contact: AWIS, 1522 K Street N, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20005 (800) 886-AW1S

Elementary Institute for Science This group has been quietly doing great things for minority education in science for 30 years. They have the highest success rate in the country for encouraging disadvantaged students to find careers in technical fields. To get involved, or learn how they do it, contact: Doris Anderson, Exec. Dir., Elementary Institute of Science, 608 51st St., San Diego, CA 92114 (619) 263-2302.

Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Center The R.H. Fleet Science Center is dedicated to increasing the public's understanding of science. Among the attractions is a handson interactive science center and an OMNIMAX theater. Membership includes free tickets for films and free admission into the science center and monthly planetarium shows. For more info or to charge a membership to your VISA or MasterCard call (619) 628 -1233 x848

Science 21 This new magazine is dedicated to promoting the work of young scientists. Publishes both original research and how-to articles for young scientists and science teachers. Through special arrangement with the publiser, SAS can provide its members with a FREE copy. To get yours, send $2 for postage and handingto SAS's San Digeo Office. To contact Science 21 directly, write to Science 21, Alin Foundation, 1 Alin Plaza, 2107 Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-2062 (510) 644-3366; email:


Electrostatics Society of America The ESA supports hobbyists and professionals with an interest in electrostatics, including people who want to build extremely high-voltage electrostatic generators or who want to demonstrate electrostatic phenomena in classrooms. Their bi-monthly newsletter covers topics of interest to all electrostaticians. Memberships: $20 per year. Contact: Dr. Emery Miller, Secretary ESA, 641 East 80th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46240 Web. esa.html

Electrostatic Source/ Laplacian Press Extensive collection of titles, all on electrostatics. If you want to learn anything about electrostatics, including how to build low power high voltage generators or create exciting classroom demonstrations, this is your resource. The hobbyist will especially enjoy Electrostatics, by A. D. Moore. To get their catalogue send $1 to Laplacian Press, 16525 Jackson Oaks Dr., Morgan Hill, CA.95037-6932 Phone: (408) 779-7774 FAX: (408)779-3638 E-mail: Web:


Sensors Every experimentalist should get this magazine! Sensors is simply the best publication out there for anyone who wants to keep up-todate on sensor technology. The ads are as enlightening as the articles! It's FREE if you qualify. Contact: Helmers Publishing, 174 Concord Street, Peterborough, NH 03458-0874; (603) 924-9631


American Association of Feed Microscopists c/o Janet Windsor, 1118 Apple Drive, Mechanicsburgh, PA 17055

American Microscopical Society c/o Melvin Denner, Division of Science and Mathematics, Indiana State University, Evansville, IN 47712

Georgia Microscopical Study Group c/o Thomas J. Hopen & Associates 5500 Oakbrook Parkway #200, Norcross, GA 30093

Leidy Microscopical Club Mr.W H. Yest, 9802 Redd Rambler Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19115

Los Angeles Microscopical Club c/o Gil Melle, 33016 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Maryland Microscopical and Instrument Society 8621 Polk St. McLean, VA 22102

Microscopy Society ofAmerica Box MSA, Woods Hole, MA 02543

The Microscopical Society of Southern California. (MSSC.) A non-profrt organization founded in 1938, for individuals with an active interest and experience in optical and electron microscopy and associated science and technology. Meetings: Crossroads School in Santa Monica. the third Wednesday of each month. Open to the public. Monthly newsletter. Corresponding membership fee is $40.00/year. $50.00/Regular membershp. Info: Dave Hirsch at (310) 397-8357 Web:

Minnesota Society of Optical Microscopists c/o Ron Youngquist, 1436 East Idaho St., Paul, MN 55106

New York Microscopical Society c/o American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024

San Francisco Microscopical Society c/o James F Fidiam, 773 Euclid Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94708

State Microscopical Society of Illinois 2820 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60616


REEF Sort of the Earthwatch of the sea. Nice bi-annual newsletter. REEF organizes expeditions to study marine biology at exotic locales all over the world. Memership is free, but the expeditions will set you back a bit. You must be a certified diver to participate. Contact: REEF, PO. Box 246, Key Large, FL 33037 (305) 451-0312


National Audubon Society The National Audubon Society is one of the oldest and most effective conservation organizations in the world. With over 155,000 members, it is also one of the very largest amateur organizations there is. Its yearly Christmas Bird Count (CBC) has been continuously registering the status of bird populations for nearly 100 years. Today thousands of birders take part every year. Local chapters exist almost everywhere. National Headquarters: 700 Broadway, New York, NY 10003-9562 Phone: (212)979-3000 FAX: (212)328-0974


Florida Paleontological Society, Inc. More than 300 people belong to this international organization dedicated to hands-on paleontology. Dues are $5 for folks under 18, $15 for adults, $20 for couples and $25 for families. Contact: Eric Taylor, P.O. Box 3506, Lake City, FL 32056 (305) 361-5890


National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) NASA Tech Briefs NASA has been quietly publishing this little gem for over 20 years. NASA Tech Briefs is a gold mine of solutions to problems you probably didn't even know existed. Tech Briefs is NASA's forum to educate the public about its technical advancements. Just about every innovation NASA develops finds its way into this wonderful publication. A fantastic resource for ideas! Subscriptions are free if you qualify. Contact: NASA Tech Briefs, PO Box 10523,Riverton NJ 08076-9023 Web:

High Tech Publications Marvelous small press with some wonderful how-to science books, including the latest stuff from Forrest Mims. Every amateur should have their catalog. SAS especially recommends The Art of Science. For info call (619)793-4141.


Communications Quarterly Magazine dedicated to communications technology. It is of special interest to ham radio operators. This magazine is full of hands-on help for radio buffs. $29.95/year in US, $39.95 foreign. Contact: 76 North Broadway, Hicksville, NY 11801 (516) 681-922. To order call (800) 853-9797


Tripoli Rocketry Association Support for anyone interested in high power rocketry. P. O. Box 339, Kenner, LA 70063-0339

National Association of Rocketry Support for people interested in rocketry. PO. Box 17, Altoona, WI54720

DART San Diego chapter of the National Association of Rocketry. Support for people interested in rocketry. Contact: Kevin Funk, 25944 Kaywood Court, Escondido, CA 92026 (619) 432-0526


The Bell Jar Quarterly magazine dedicated to amateur uses of vacuum techniques. Great Stuff! A wonderful hands-on publication full of practical techniques to apply vacuum technology to your projects. $20/year and well worth it! Contact: Steven Hansen, Editor, 35 Windson Dr., Amherst, NH 03031; (603) 429-0948 *

Looking Back...
A Year of Articles for the Amateur Scientist

We've been asked on a number of occasions to provide a list of the articles we've published over the last year, so here is the list with authors.

Volume 4 No. 1 .
Inside an Insect George Schmermund
Ball Lightning Ely Silk
Hand Drawn Holograms Bill Beaty
Obtaining and Collecing the Elements Richard Hull
Tracking Ants and Insects Roger Baker
Volcan Mountain Cultural Survey Lisa Chaddock
Bookshelf Jack Herron
What's New Robert L Park
Volume 4 No. 2 .
Hale-Bopp: A Photo Op! Dennis Mammana
Easy Prototyping Roger Baker
Foods of the Kumeyaay of Southern California Lisa Chaddock
Hardware Hunting Richard Hull
A Naturalist's Handbook Sheldon Greaves
Bookshelf Ralph J. Coppola
Comell Laboratory of Omithology Margaret Barker
Bookmarks Ralph J Coppola
What's New Robert L Park
Volume 4 No. 3 .
Things Miss Muffet Overlooked George Schmermund
A Brief Survey of Easy Ways to Measure Trace Elements Roger Baker
Partners In Profile: Steve Hansen Jack Herron
Infrasound Monitoring with a Microbarograph Steve Hansen
Seismometer Calibrator Bob Barnes
The Amateur's Bookshelf Richard Hull
Volume 4 No. 4 .
King of the Amateurs: Don Kunz Jack Herron
Can You Dig It? Jack Herron
The Plundered Past Sheldon Greaves
Radio-Jupiter for Amateur Observers Jim Sky
Building a Capacitance Micrometer Roger Baker
The Amateur's Bookshelf Sheldon Greaves & Sharon Herron
Bookmarks Ralph J. Coppola

The Society does have a limited number of back issues available, so if you find you are missing one and would like a replacement, call (619) 2398807 or (520) 885-6933 to see about issue availability.

Also, you might find the text portion of an article at the Society's Web Site at:

View My Stats