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Celebrating's 10th Anniversary

"Cool Things" about members of the Alliance

Delve into this brief collection of odd facts and interesting history from the members of the Alliance. The information will be updated periodically in celebration of our 10th anniversary, so check back often and surprise your friends with the cool stuff you know about Federal science.


NIST's weights and measures services, a job assigned to the federal government in the Constitution, provide the basis for the fairness and efficiency of sales. These services underpin the efficiency of about half the U.S. economy, or about $7 trillion of the U.S. gross domestic product.

From keeping the Global Positioning System on track to time stamps for the New York Stock Exchange, many technological systems depend on the precise synchronization made possible by NIST's atomic clock in Boulder, Colo., providing time accurate to a second in nearly 100 million years to the U.S. public and industry.

Four NIST scientists have earned the Nobel Prize in Physics: William Phillips in 1997, Eric Cornell in 2001, John Hall in 2005 and David Wineland in 2012.


Did you know NTIS has its roots in the capture of Nazi war secrets at the end of World War II? President Truman established the Office of Publication Board (which later became NTIS) to process these captured documents. They were microfilmed and sold at the cost of reproduction to American entrepreneurs hoping to capitalize on production secrets for medicines, chemicals, textiles, etc.

Today NTIS provides permanent access to the Nation's largest collection of U.S. Government SciTech information on a fully self-sustaining basis. In addition NTIS acts as a provider to other Federal agencies for a wide range of services, including Federal Energy Data Management, Shipping and Fulfillment - Distribution/Warehousing/Inventory, Government web hosting, and as an authorized OPM-approved service provider, e-Training and LMS/KMS & University Programs.


An oil separation invention by an Idaho National Laboratory researcher has significantly helped oil spill clean-up. The company that purchased the patent for this technology contracted with BP to assist with the Gulf oil spill clean-up, providing 32 oil-water separation devices. You can check out the patent in Department of Energy patents database.

Before you purchase a new car, check out the gas mileage of different models at

Allan M. Cormack, a high energy physicist at Tufts University, shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his work in developing methods for CAT scanners. At the time, these methods were widely regarded as the most significant advance in medical radiography since the 1895 discovery of x-rays. Learn more at DOE R&D Accomplishments.


Searched billions of times annually by people around the globe PubMed, the world's largest biomedical database, features more than 22 million citations. Other National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) products include PubMed Central, NIH's repository for peer-reviewed, full-text primary research reports in the life sciences. NCBI is also an important part of the 1000 Genomes Project, a deep catalog of human genetic variation.

When a Texas death row inmate and a Maryland housewife donated their bodies to science, little did they know that they would be frozen, electronically scanned, digitally photographed, and reconstructed a thin layer at a time into a vast database known as the Visible Human Project. Today, data from these virtual cadavers has been used to create everything from surgical simulators to computerized crash test dummies. To date, NLM has awarded 3,441 free licenses to harness the power of VHP data to individuals and organizations in 64 countries.

What does a medical library have to do with disaster preparedness and response? As it turns out, a lot! The mission of the Disaster Information Management Research Center is to develop and provide access to health information resources and technology for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Often, these resources are pegged to the headlines of the day, with specific posts related to Superstorm Sandy, the earthquake in Haiti, and California wildfires. A growing family of Web apps and mobile Web sites helps emergency responders get the information they need exactly when they need it, on chemical spills, radiation incidents, and other emergencies.


The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is funding the development of an unmanned underwater vehicle designed to resemble a tuna, called the BIOSwimmer™, to help protect our harbors and ships. Why the tuna? For those cluttered and hard-to-reach underwater places where inspection is necessary, the tuna-inspired frame is an optimal design. It can inspect the interior voids of ships such as flooded bilges and tanks, and hard to reach external areas such as steerage, propulsion and sea chests. It can also inspect and protect harbors and piers, perform area searches and carry out other security missions. For more information, visit DHS S&T Snapshots.

Did you know there is now actually a smartphone application for first responders to use in detecting bomb threats? The app provides information directly to first responders on their smartphones or laptop computers and is designed to help foster a quick response during emergencies. The apps provide a range of capabilities that include the ability to quickly define safe distances to cordon-off around a potential bomb location; calculate rough damage and injury contours; suggest appropriate roadblocks; determine when mandatory evacuation or shelter-in-place circumstances apply; and identify nearby areas of particular concern: schools, hospitals, care centers. The application also provides geospatial information regarding potential injury, glass, or structural damage impact area.

In the biggest news in Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) research in the last 50 years, DHS S&T's Plum Island Animal Disease Center has produced a molecular vaccine against one strain of FMD that does not use a live FMD virus for vaccine manufacture, and can also be used to differentiate an infected animal from an inoculated one using common diagnostic tests. It's the first licensed FMD vaccine that can be manufactured on the U.S. mainland, and it supports a vaccinate-to-live strategy in FMD outbreak response. For more information, visit DHS S&T Snapshots.


According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the world's largest recorded earthquake measured 9.5 on the Richter scale and struck Chile on May 22, 1960. The largest known earthquake in the U.S. had a magnitude of 9.2 and struck Prince William Sound, Alaska, on Good Friday, March 28, 1964. In southern California, there are about 10,000 earthquakes per year. Many are small enough they aren't felt. These and other cool earthquake facts can be found at USGS.

In the wild, whooping cranes lay two eggs per year, but usually only one chick survives. Whooping Crane pairs at the USGS Patuxent Research Center lay from 2 to 6 eggs each year. Because these endangered birds will only raise one chick, technicians will raise the others. These and other cool facts about endangered whooping cranes can be found at USGS.

During the past 4,000 years, Mount St. Helens volcano has erupted more often than any other in the Cascade Range. The first animals to return to the Mount St. Helens area after the May 18, 1980 eruption were spiders and beetles. USGS scientists found that they returned within two weeks of the eruption, many carried by wind currents. What modern instrument can detect movement of as little as 1/16th of an inch but uses less power than a refrigerator light bulb? The Global Positioning System (GPS) instrument at Mount St. Helens. These and other cool Mount St. Helens facts can be found here.


NHTSA has set the standard for safety, helping consumers find safer cars with its 5-Star Safety Ratings for more than 30 years. Now, buying a safer car just got easier with the new Overall Rating that makes comparing vehicles simple. Take a test drive of and explore the safety features and ratings of your next car.

The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States. Since 1992, the National Scenic Byways Program has funded 3,174 projects for state and nationally designated byway routes in 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.

National Traffic and Road Closure Information is a collection of links from public agencies and other entities that offer information about current traffic conditions across the nation. The links are organized by State and include information on road closures due to weather or road construction, and traffic conditions.


The Carl Sagan papers collection is comprised of 800 boxes of materials that document Sagan's life and work. The collection includes book drafts, files from his years at NASA and Cornell University, photographs, audiotapes and videocassettes, handwritten notebooks of his earliest thoughts and grammar-school report cards. The collection was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2012 and will be fully processed and available to scholars by 2014. You can see these papers of other noted scientists and inventors online now: Alexander Graham Bell | Samuel F.B.Morse | The Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers.

In 1903, the same year Henry Ford incorporated the Ford Motor Company and the Wright brothers first flew, William Harley and his friends Arthur and Walter Davidson launched the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Want to know more? See a century's worth of history, photographs and promotional materials at Hog Heaven: 100 Years of the Harley-Davidson.

You can view films about the Origins of American Animation (21 short animated films and 2 fragments from the years 1900 - 1921) online! Primitive by our standards, these little films were the starting point for the amazing special effects of today. The collection includes clay, puppet, and cut-out animation, and pen drawings.


The Method and Means for Creating Anti-Gravity Illusion consists of the patent for the shoes invented by Michael Jackson. The shoes enabled him to execute his signature dance move that allowed him to lean forward to an exaggerated angle while performing on stage the song "Smooth Criminal." Included are the abstract, patent drawings illustrating how the shoes worked, and amendments. The file also includes copies of other patent files from when the patent examiner searched for most relevant prior art. The patent for this Michael Jackson invention expired October 26, 2005.

Dr. John C. Cutler, a former employee of the U.S. Public Health Service, 1942-1967, was involved in research on Guatemalan soldiers, prisoners, and mental health patients who were exposed to the syphilis bacteria. The Papers of Dr. Cutler are available online from the National Archives. How to Build a Flying Saucer: Project 1794 Final Development Summary Report, 06/1956