SITE VISIT: Navigating Physics

Science  01 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5364, pp. 647
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5364.647a

Physicists, says McGill University postdoc Mikko Karttunen, may have been a bit slow to embrace the Web as a useful communication forum, not just for “reading the newspaper” or online preprints. But they have made up lost ground with The Internet Pilot to Physics (TIPTOP) (, a site for posting everything from job ads to tutorials that's become one of the Web's biggest draws for physics since it went up in 1994.

The operating principle behind TIPTOP is that almost everything on it—from announcements to outside links—is added by users through an automated database system, says Karttunen, who runs the site with a grad student in Austria and a postdoc at Sweden's Umeå University, which hosts the site. In part, TIPTOP is a bulletin board replete with job openings, conference announcements, and even ads to sell equipment. It also has a grab bag of Web tools such as Java applets that, for example, let one imagine running a nuclear power plant, as well as other features—including advice on how to organize a thesis. Also on the site is Physics Around the World, a directory with URLs for everything from science Olympiads to journals and about 2500 physics departments.

Although TIPTOP's hits are at 15,000 a day and climbing, its caretakers have reached a turning point: “We're starting to find jobs,” Karttunen says. So TIPTOP is being transferred to the Institute of Physics in the United Kingdom, which intends to keep access free.

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