Tullo C.,National Archives
Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications | Year: 2011
Legislation on the web gives rise to a unique set of challenges. The content is of a formal nature with strict rules governing its structure and typographic layout. One piece of legislation can change others, often in complex ways. The text may or may not be in force and may or may not extend to a particular jurisdiction. Yet many users of legislation online, especially those not legally trained or qualified, will assume that legislation is both current and in force simply because it is on the web and available from an official source. This paper sets out the approaches, strategies and technologies that address these challenges for legislation.gov.uk, the UK's official legislation website developed by The National Archives. © 2011 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
Documents from the Wright brothers' "Flying Machine" patent, filed in 1903: The patent oath and the patent drawing. The patent file for the Wright brothers' original "Flying Machine" has returned to the National Archives, after being misplaced 36 years ago. The long-missing patent paperwork filed by aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright on March 23,1903, included a diagram of their invention, their petition for patent approval, the patent registry form, and their patent oath, affirming that "they verily believe themselves to be the original, joint inventors" of the so-called "Flying Machine." The Wright brothers didn't wait for the patent to be granted to take flight. On Dec. 17, 1903, the brothers lofted their flying machine into the air for 12 seconds, flying 120 feet at Kitty Hawk, on North Carolina's Outer Banks. And a little more than three years after filing, the Wright brothers were granted their patent: number 821,393, assigned on May 22, 1906. For years, the files resided in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the federal repository for historically important U.S. documents. But more than three decades ago, the Wright patent took a wrong turn, embarking on an unexpected journey that diverged from its proper place for quite a bit longer than expected. In 1978, the National Archives lent a number of documents — including the Wright brothers' patent — to the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, for an aviation exhibit commemorating the 75th anniversary of the first successful flight of a manned, powered, heavier-than-air craft at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Archivists marked the documents as returned in 1980, but a later search failed to locate the patent, and it was added to the official list of missing files. Other important entries currently on the National Archives "Missing Historical Documents and Items" list include the patent drawing for Eli Whitney's cotton gin, assorted 19th-century presidential pardons, several telegrams written by President Abraham Lincoln, and a diamond-studded dagger that was given to President Harry S. Truman. Sometimes, historic documents and artifacts are stolen for private sale, and the National Archives exhorts collectors and dealers to avoid illegally buying, selling or trading in stolen government documents, and to report any that they might encounter to the proper officials. But important documents can also simply be misplaced. With more than 107,600 cubic feet (3,047 cubic meters) of patent files in storage at the National Archives, containing 269 million pages, it's not very difficult to imagine how a single patent could "disappear" if it were mistakenly filed in the wrong spot. Which is apparently what happened to the Wright brothers' patent. A National Archives representative revealed in a statement that the patent had been filed in the wrong box, and that the Archival Recovery Program tracked it down on March 22, after a targeted search. A folder holding the missing documents had surfaced in a National Archives storage "cave" in Lenaxa, Kansas, The Washington Post reported on April 2. After spending more than three decades in hiding, the recovered documents will be getting some long-overdue attention. Several pages will appear in an exhibit at the National Archives Museum's West Rotunda Gallery, beginning May 20, to celebrate the 110th anniversary of Orville and Wilbur Wright receiving patent number 821,393. Follow Mindy Weisberger on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
News Article | August 22, 2016
Donald Trump laid out his environmental policies in a speech last week in Bismark, North Dakota. As usual, The Donald spoke in broad generalities without giving specifics. He told his audience he would roll back President Obama’s climate change regulations, build the Keystone XL pipeline, and “cancel” the landmark Paris climate agreement. He has said many times he would re-open America’s coal mines and put coal miners back to work. In essence, he proposes to undo virtually every US initiative to combat climate warming and ameliorate the effects of climate change in the past decade. Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University and one of the world’s most highly esteemed climate scientist, said after Trump’s remarks, “In my assessment, it is not an overstatement to say that Donald Trump’s climate change views and policy proposals constitute ‘an existential threat to this planet.’ ” Other climate scientists were quick to echo Mann’s point of view. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Science, noted that Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate agreement are “absolutely critical steps in the right direction.” She said reneging on the Paris climate agreement and rolling back the Clean Power Plan would be detrimental for future generations — and to her personal patriotism. “Turning back would not only diminish the quality of life for our children and their children, but it would also be a sorry message to the rest of the world that US leadership does not base its decisions on facts or science but rather on greed and selfishness,” she said. “I would be much less proud to be an American if Trump gets his way.” Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, used even stronger words. “[My] quick reaction is that his comments show incredible ignorance with regard to the science and global affairs,” he said. “He absolutely must not be elected and it would be a disaster if he were,” he added. Trenberth praised the “remarkable” achievements of the Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate agreement, both of which Trump has promised to eliminate. The Clean Power Plan is the Obama administration’s regulatory effort to limit carbon emissions from power plants, which are America’s largest source of carbon emissions. Katharine Hayhoe is director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. She sees Trump’s words as undermining the position of leadership among the world’s nations that the United States currently enjoys. “If the US does nothing on climate, the chances of every other nation succeeding in its targets are small, due to the impact of the US economy on everything from trade to technology transfer,” she says. Her position is supported by a recent New York Times/CBS poll, which found that approximately two-thirds of Americans “support the United States joining a binding international agreement to curb growth of greenhouse gas emissions.” She goes on to say, “As the impacts grow ever more evident, severe, and costly, what was obvious to the 195 nations who met in Paris will become obvious to every human on this planet: doing something about climate change is far cheaper than not.” Under a Trump administration, the United States is in danger of becoming a pariah nation, shunned by the other nations of the world. Trump’s words have the effect of labeling China, India, and all of Europe, all of whom are working aggressively to curb their carbon emissions, as being little more than idiots. It is unlikely that message will do much to endear the United States to its global neighbors. Of course, The Donald could care less what anyone else thinks. His egotism knows no bounds. Rather than making America great again, his policies will make the United States irrelevant on the world stage and the object of derision by other nations. As the Clean 200 report makes clear, companies that are investing in low-carbon technology are thriving, while the fossil fuel sector is facing an increasingly dismal financial future. The pathway forward for America is to embrace a carbon-free future based on clean, renewable energy rather than looking backwards to an era when belching smokestacks were the symbol of its prosperity. Source: Think Progress | Photo credit: The US National Archives via Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions Drive an electric car? Complete one of our short surveys for our next electric car report. Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
News Article | February 1, 2016
Millions of pages of CIA documents are stored in Room 3000. The CIA Records Search Tool (CREST), the agency's database of declassified intelligence files, is only accessible via four computers in the National Archives Building in College Park, MD, and contains everything from Cold War intelligence, research and development files, to images. Now one activist is aiming to get those documents more readily available to anyone who is interested in them, by methodically printing, scanning, and then archiving them on the internet. “It boils down to freeing information and getting as much of it as possible into the hands of the public, not to mention journalists, researchers and historians,” Michael Best, analyst and freedom of information activist told Motherboard in an online chat. Best is trying to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter in order to purchase the high speed scanner necessary for such a project, a laptop, office supplies, and to cover some other costs. If he raises more than the main goal, he might be able to take on the archiving task full-time, as well as pay for FOIAs to remove redactions from some of the files in the database. As a reward, backers will help to choose what gets archived first, according to the Kickstarter page. “Once those "priority" documents are done, I'll start going through the digital folders more linearly and upload files by section,” Best said. The files will be hosted on the Internet Archive, which converts documents into other formats too, such as for Kindle devices, and sometimes text-to-speech for e-books. The whole thing has echoes of Cryptome—the freedom of information duo John Young and Deborah Natsios, who started off scanning documents for the infamous cypherpunk mailing list in the 1990s. In all, the project will likely take years, and also depends on how frequently the archive workers can replace the paper and ink of the printers. “If I'm able to make it my full-time focus and keep the scanner going at 15,000 pages a day, like it's rated, then it would take between two and three years,” Best said. As for the files themselves, CREST contains 11 million pages, according to the CIA's website, which Best says make up around 700,000 documents. “There are about three times as many CIA files in the CREST database as there were diplomatic cables that were leaked by Chelsea Manning and Wikileaks,” Best said. These include high level records from the agency's early years, completed intelligence reports, and daily briefings sent to US policy makers from 1951 up to 1979. “The Central Intelligence Bulletins and National Intelligence Daily(s)/Dailies give insight into what was known when and what was a focus for the government on any given day, while the files from the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence give a top-down view of how CIA operated,” Best said. CREST even includes a wealth of documents on “STAR GATE”, the (obviously) failed attempt to use so-called psychics and clairvoyants for military purposes. “I'm hoping WikiLeaks will want to add the digitized files to their Library of US Diplomacy, that'd be a great way of integrating the documents with other intelligence/diplomacy papers in a searchable database,” Best added. “Information doesn't do any good if it's hidden away in a locked file cabinet,” Best said, or, in this case, an intranet server which is a pain to access.
Whaling ships kept meticulous daily logbooks of weather conditions during their often yearslong voyages searching the globe for whales, valued for their light-giving oil, said Michael Dyer, senior maritime historian at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which is supplying much of the data. Some logs include information about life on board, such as sailors falling overboard, or being disciplined for stealing or other transgressions, and of course, notations whenever whales are spotted. More important for this project, they include precise longitude and latitude measurements, weather conditions, the presence of icebergs and the edge of the ice shelf. "If they're cruising in the Bering Strait and there's ice, there will be a notation in the logbook that ice fields are present," Dyer said. The project, called Old Weather: Whaling, is led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The whaling museum is transcribing and digitizing its own logbooks, as well as original data sources from the Nantucket Historical Association, Martha's Vineyard Museum, Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, and the New Bedford Free Public Library. The digitized logbooks are being posted online so ordinary "citizen-scientists" can help researchers sift through the vast amounts of information. The museum has about 2,600 whaling logbooks dating from 1756 to 1965, but the project so far includes just about 300 logbooks related to whaling trips to the Arctic from the mid-1800s to the first decade of the 20th century. One entry from the San Francisco-based whaler Beluga during a two-year voyage to the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas from 1897 to 1899 is typical of the information in the logs. "Lat. 61.19. Long. 175.42. Fast to the ice till 6 A.M. then made sail and worked to the N.E. at 8:45 A.M. Commenced steaming. Steamed till 1 P.M. then struck open water. Carrying topsail and fore and aft sails. Steering from N.N.W. to N.E. as the ice allowed. Wind light and variable first part. Latter part strong E.S.E. winds thick and snowing. Ther. 30. Bar. 29.60." On a most basic level, the information from an old whaling logbook can be compared to current conditions; for example, is there sea ice today in the places where whalers saw sea ice 150 years ago? But the project is much more than that, said Kevin Wood, a climate scientist with NOAA's Joint Institute for the Study of the Ocean and Atmosphere at the University of Washington and a lead researcher on the project. By recovering as much weather data as possible, the information could help create sophisticated computer models of past climate and help predict future conditions. "We can build an enormously detailed reconstruction of the conditions at the time ... and we can we can understand how the climate has been changing over a longer period of time," Wood said. The project launched this month is an offshoot of Old Weather, an ongoing partnership between NOAA and Zooniverse, the citizen science Web portal that is looking at logbooks of other vessels, including merchant and naval ships. Sifting through the documents is where the public comes in. There is just too much data for a small group of scientists to pore over. High-resolution images of historical documents, extracted data and related research products are available online, sad Michael Lapides, the museum's director of digital initiatives. Already, the logbooks of more than 20 whalers are online. The project is expected to take about a year, Lapides said. Explore further: NOAA, National Archives team up with citizen-scientists to reconstruct historical climate of the Arctic