SITE VISIT: Straight Dope on Chemicals

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Science  17 Apr 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5362, pp. 351
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5362.351b

It may not sport fancy graphics or Java applets, but for chemists and physicists, one of the hottest draws on the Web is the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST's) Online Reference Databases site. A rare source of free information on chemicals, the site maintains several databases covering everything from melting points to half-lives. One repository is the Chemistry WebBook, full of spectroscopic and thermodynamic data—entropy and vapor pressure, for example—on over 5000 organic and small inorganic compounds, not to mention data on ion energetics and fluid physics. A second cache worth plundering is called Physical Reference Data, where you can look up, for instance, x-ray and gamma ray data on radioactive isotopes, or uranium's energy levels. All data are scrupulously assessed, referenced, and updated by NIST experts.

Three specialized databases contain information on topics such as superconductors and enzymes, and more are coming soon, says NIST's Charles Sturrock. “It will become more and more useful,” notes Chuck Huber, chemistry librarian at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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