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March 20, 1997 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-03-20

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LoCAL/STATE

The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 20, 1997 --9A

"U' weather website attracts students

dome-grown website
provides free weather
information
y Christine Paik
r the Daily
With spring just around the corner,
students can access a home-grown
website to satisfy their weather needs,
Supervised by Perry Samson, a
University professor of atmospheric,
oceanic and space sciences, The
Weather Underground was initially
created in 1991 as a supplement for
one of Samson's classes.
Samson said the small program was
coon being used by a wider audience
than just his students.
"It happened also that about a
month or so later, we had a get-
together here at the Michigan Earth
Science Teachers' Association and I
asked them if they would have use
for this, as well," Samson said.
"They said they would and so we
made it available on the Net via
MichNet."
S So what started as a -"weekend
hobby" began to attract thousands of
Web surfers.
"There was really a small number of
people using it until Hurricane Bob hit
in the East Coast and word somehow
spread around that this was a free ser-
vice," Samson said. "We jumped from
literally a few hundred people to
20,000 in a week."
Now .the site is storming up a
Rrowing swell of visitors. More
tan 1.5 million people visit The
Weather Underground site each day.
It is the third-largest weather ser-
vice on the Internet, preceded only
by The Weather Channel's and
NBC's sites.
Divided into two different sites, one
run from off campus and one run
through the University, The Weather
Underground attempts to attract visi-
ors of all ages.
"On campus, we have quite a team
doing research development, and most
of that is focused on the educational
aspects," Samson said. "Off campus,
the operational part for the weather is a
group of seven of us who are mostly
former students."
Blue Skies, located at
htt.p://blueskies.sprl.umich.edu/, is "the
main site of The Weather Underground
n campus," Samson said.
Used mainly as an educational tool
for K-12 classroois, Blue Skies offers
a variety of different activities for
younger students, as well as a link to

COURT
Continued from Page JA
sharply divided in both inclination and
legal approach. A decision in Reno vs.
American Civil Liberties Union may-
occur by July.
Some justices were clearly trou-
bled by how freely minors can get
access through their computers to
pornography, which they cannot get
in bookstores or adult theaters. But
they also questioned the practicality
of enforcing the law: How, for exam-
ple, could someone sending sexually
explicit material be expected to
screen out children yet still commu-
nicate with adults?
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
described the Internet as "a public
place . . . much like a street corner
or a park." But reflecting some of
her ambivalence as well as that of
others on the bench, she later sug-

gested that Congress may have
authority to restrict a narrow cate-
gory of "4patently offensive"s materi -
als.
Arguing in defense of the federal
law, Deputy Solicitor General Seth
Waxman said that an unregulated
Internet "threatens to give every
child with access to a computer a
free pass to the equivalent of every
adult bookstore and theater in the
country."
He also asserted that "it is techni-
cally feasible to screen for age."
Although the lower court that first
reviewed the law said it would be pro-
hibitively expensive for noncommer-
cial Internet users to verify the ages
of potential recipients, Waxman
insisted that young teen-agers could
be stopped from accessing indecent
material through the use of identifica-
tion numbers that would be distrib-
uted only to adults.

INTERNET
Continued from Page :A
University faculty were divided on
how to weigh the importance and scope
of the ruling.
Communication studies Prof. John
Stevens said he believes the decision
will be of monumental importance.
"It's the biggest decision on funda-
mental expression in the Court's histo-
ry" Stevens said. "I've heard (the
Internet's) impact compared to that of
the printing press, although I'm not
sure I would go that far personally."
Friedman said he doesn't believe the
decision will have a huge impact or set

AJA DEKLEVA COHEN/Daily
LSA senior Josh Brayer and LSA junior Kwesi Hutchful enjoy the warm spring weather on the Diag yesterday by playing
music.

a great precedent for cases of Internct
censorship.
"The decision may not have a'great
impact because people are not question-
ing obscenity and children with pornog-
raphy' Friedman said. "The act refers to
'patently offensive' material, a children's
issue, not adult (issues). I believe it will
be a more narrow and legal decision than
one with a broad impact."
Friedman said the case currently
before the Supreme Court tackles xn
issue that will remain in the spotlight.
"(The Internet) is obviously an
important medium," Friedman said.
"How it is handled will be very inter-
esting."

find the weather conditions in various
areas.
As the director of education for
Blue Skies, Samson said the site
"takes advantage of weather infor-
mation available on the Internet to
teach concepts of Earth science and
math, as well as communication and
teamwork at over 100 schools
across the country as well as inter-
nationally."
Blue Skies has become a popular
educational tool in schools throughout
the world.
Gabi Bartels, a fourth grade teacher
at Del Mar Pines Elementary School in
San Diego, said she uses Blue Skies in
her classroom.
"The students liked best the hands-
on activities and the possibilities of
communicating with other weather
specialists," Bartels said.
Janet Cook, a science instructor at
Colorado's Finest Alternative High
School in Englewood, Col., said Blue
Skies helps in the classroom.
"The program is great because it
gives the students a concrete reason for
collecting data" Cook said. "Besides
obvious weather info. they have
learned the need for consistency.
Netiquette and promptness."
Cook said her students are enjoying

the online experience, adding that she
would definitely recommend this pro-
ject to others.
Blue Skies is graced with colorful
graphics and bright lettering. Samson
said he deals primarily with the design
aspect of the Web page.
The Blue Skies site is run
through the University by Samson
and Jeffrey Masters, a graduate
student who wrote the initial pro-
gram. The other site, located at
http://w ww. wunderground.com, is
aimed at appealing to people who
need a quick way of finding the
weather. Samson said the site is
kept simple and that new forecasts
are obtained hourly from the
National Weather Service.
"We produce something like 6,000
Web pages an hour," Samson said.
"The entire site is destroyed and recre-
ated every hour. Of course, it is entire-
ly automated."
Samson says he never predicted this
much success and popularity.
"The feedback has been very
rewarding," he said. "We all wouldn't
be still doing this little hobby if it
weren't for the fact that we're getting
good strong feedback from the com-
munity"
Samson said he has bigger plans for

The Weather Underground. He said the
site will soon launch a new series of
educational activities aimed at home
use through Web TV, a system that car-
ries the Internet through a television
program.
Currently, the cost of operating
The Weather Underground isn't very
high, Samson said. The program
began to receive grants from the
National Science Foundation in
1992, which allow the sites' opera-
tors to design new software and
products for Internet use.
Samson said he hopes to raise addi-
tional funds for the site's expansion.
"We are just at the point where we
would like to raise some venture capi-
tal and be able to then make the com-
pany grow." Samson said.
Samson said that due to The Weather
Underground's rapid growth in recent
years, the site is always in need of more
help.
"Almost everything we've done has
been originally created by undergradu-
ates," Samson said, "and we are forev-
er on the lookout for undergraduates in
computer science, art, music and even
business."
Interested parties can reach The
Weather Underground at
luewskws{i mich. edu.

St~u dares, m y req uire a
International Student ID card. Taxes
are not included and may range from
$6-433. Fares are subject to change4
1220 South University Ave. 3
Ste. 208, Ann Arbor .
above Mc Donaldsl4
Tel: 313-998-02004
s~

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