SITE VISIT: For Whom the Clock Tolls

Science  18 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5397, pp. 2147c
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5397.2147c

From light-sensing pigments in plants to a new jet-lag cure (shining light behind the knee), chronobiologists offered us a bumper crop of findings in 1998. For a rundown on the circadian clocks driving these and other developments, check out the Web site of the Center for Biological Timing, a university consortium based at the University of Virginia and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Illustrated essays on the Clock Genome Project and on the biomathematics of clocks, linked to a glossary, help this site stand out. Also posted is a tutorial that reviews circadian clock history—a French scientist did the first experiment in this realm on a heliotropic plant in 1729—and topics such as restlessness in the elderly and clocks in various organisms. Aimed at high school students but “hierarchical in complexity” such that basic pages lead to more advanced ones, the tutorial will be gussied up with interactive simulations next year, says Web master Hal Noakes. Also posted are online science projects in which students can use real-time data from a light-and-dark experiment with hamsters.

Researchers can tap a monthly bibliography of new biotiming publications, a meetings calendar, and outside links: symposia proceedings, the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms, and a widely used atlas depicting how clocks respond to stimuli. Another offering is a set of classic papers by Colin Pittendrigh, who in the 1950s made the key finding that the period of a biological clock doesn't change with temperature. Also check out the links on related topics, including sleep and melatonin.

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