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Science  11 Aug 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5481, pp. 827
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5481.827c

Bioinformatics cornucopia. Named after the Greek goddess of the harvest, Demeter's Genomes hosts a smorgasbord of plant genome databases, from BeanGenes to SoyBase. Most are geared toward specialists, who can search for genes, chromosome maps, and beneficial traits. Amateur botanists may enjoy digging into databases of Native American plants used for food or medicine, as well as the known ranges of temperature, rainfall, and soil pH for 887 plants.

Molecular Monte Carlo. Although Bunsen burners will never go out of style, chemists are tackling a diverse range of molecular puzzles with random numbers and probability statistics. These stochastic models are known as Monte Carlo methods, for their mathematical resemblance to gambling. The Molecular Monte Carlo Home Page has links to dozens of groups, advanced tools, and tutorials for the curious.

Track the virus. What with West Nile virus making its way down the East Coast toward AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., NetWatch was glad to learn that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other agencies have teamed up to post maps of West Nile virus cases. You can look for cases reported in humans (the first was reported last week) or birds, and check to see whether your county has chicken or mosquito surveillance.

Pooper scoopers. What can you learn from ancient feces? Plenty! The Dung File contains an extensive and well-annotated bibliography covering mainly human and mammal deposits, often called coprolites. There's lots to discover about ancient diets, as well as a cringe-inducing cadre of parasites. Conservation biologists might be intrigued to hear about the first occurrences of 20 beetles introduced from Europe to the New World—found in a colonial privy that may date as far back as 1650. Don't turn up your nose at this site.∼abeaudoi/stuff/dung.htm

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