SITE VISIT: Isotope Bonanza

Science  28 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5419, pp. 1427
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5419.1427a

If you thought the periodic table was hard to fathom, glance at a table of isotopes. Each atomic element (defined by its number of protons) comes in different flavors, depending on the number of neutrons. Scientists have tallied more than 3600 isotopes, the majority radioactive, and scores of new isotopes are discovered every year. Want a rundown? The Isotopes Project at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California has a Web site for you.

The site began in 1995 as an online supplement to the classic reference book Table of the Isotopes (TOI), first published by the late Glenn Seaborg in 1940. One way to see TOI data is to click on an element in the periodic table. Another section, the “Table of Radioactive Isotopes,” is meant to help people in fields like nuclear medicine and chemistry quickly find the data they need—by searching for a radiation energy, for instance. For physicists, the site provides Isotope Explorer, software for viewing nuclear data in tables or graphs; an up-to-date bibliographic database; and specialized pages, such as data on isotopes in stars. There are also educational links, including a glossary with animations of decay reactions.

The Isotope Project's data page could use a design overhaul—the frames format especially is confusing. But altogether, the supply of up-to-date information is a glowing example of scientific dissemination on the Web.

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