Science  02 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5505, pp. 795

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  1. IMAGES: Moon-Eyed

    It may be older than bell bottoms, but the 1971 Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Moon is still the authoritative reference manual of Earth's nearest neighbor. One reason: The images, snapped in the 1960s to help plan Apollo landings and missions, were taken at low to moderate sun angles, so features are sharply shadowed and easy to see. A team at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston and Washington University in St. Louis has digitized all of the book's 675 prints, polished up the images, and archived them in a Web database that can be searched by feature name or coordinates. Another classic data set on the site is the 1960 Consolidated Lunar Atlas, which contains images taken with telescopes on Earth.

  2. FIELD GUIDES: Fishes of Oz

    The ornate ghostpipefish must be one of the most unfishlike fish alive, with its tubular body and spiky, pawlike appendages. Catch a glimpse of this and many more unusual fish at the Australian Museum Fish Site. The museum's ichthyology division maintains a collection of nearly a million specimens representing 2000 of the 4100 species known to swim Australia's biologically rich waters. The Web site includes a database of the museum's type specimens (the original specimens used to define the species); although it's targeted to experts, others may want to check out the many entries illustrated with beautiful drawings from the original publications.

    For students and general visitors, the fish site offers photos and fact sheets for nearly 300 fishes along with an identification key. There's also a rather macabre virtual tour of the museum's preserved specimens and a step-by-step guide to dissecting a blue mackerel.

  3. FUN: Not Dopey

    Why do pigeons bob their heads? Why do clouds of gnats always hover around a fixed point in midair? For smart, hip answers to these and hundreds of science (and other) questions, check out Cecil Adams's “The Straight Dope.” The Web site for a syndicated newspaper column started in 1973, the site archives over 2200 questions ranging from the practical to the bizarre. More examples: “When someone is executed by lethal injection, do they swab off the arm first?” (Yes, in case the execution is halted.) “Why doesn't Coke [which is acidic] dissolve the can?” (The inside is coated with plastic.) Despite scanty documentation for some of the gonzo-style replies, Ed Zotti, the enigmatic Cecil's editor, assures readers that all are “extensively researched.”

  4. RESOURCES: Botanical Garden

    Plant scientists, students, and weekend gardeners alike will marvel at the knowledge nurtured at Botany Online—The Internet Hypertextbook. Hosted at the University of Hamburg, the site was originally written in German and is now being translated into English. And branching out to a wider audience is a good thing, for the site brims with botany lore and links.

    Fifty-eight chapters cover botany basics, from cell structure to Mendelian genetics to molecular reactions in plants. Accompanying the clear text are many images and movies: micrographs of cells, interactive molecular models, even animations modeling how cells form patterns. Besides these pages, Botany Online is amply seeded with outside links. Highlights include Web-based botany courses, classic papers in biology, plant classification sites, and databases ranging from plant viruses to grasses of the world.

    Peter v. Sengbusch, Botany Online's founder, says the site's strength is that it's an “open source initiative”: Over 50 authors have contributed materials. Although his team is still translating 21 chapters (on Darwinian evolution and the plant kingdom, for example), the site already gets scads of hits—800,000 per month.

  5. DICTIONARIES: Techie Talk

    So you can program Web pages, but do you even know what HTML stands for. The Free On-Line Dictionary of Computing defines over 13,000 computer and Internet terms, from baud rate to object-oriented language to acronyms galore (HTML, for instance, means hypertext markup language). The collaborative site is also packed with nuggets of history, jargon, and culture: Read up on the demise of ASCII, or the “hacker ethic.”