Science  01 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5595, pp. 929

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  1. EXHIBIT: Ancient Art Extravaganza

    They're the original old masters: early European artists who began adorning caves, stones, cliff faces, and other surfaces more than 30,000 years ago. The researchers behind the new Web site EuroPreArt plan to document the diversity of this work from the Stone Age through the Iron Age.

    So far, the collection, sponsored by the European Community and other organizations, holds records (not always in English) for more than 800 works from seven countries, including art-rich France and Spain. Each record provides sketches or photos of the original creation, expert descriptions and interpretations, a bibliography, and the latest information on site conservation. The art runs the gamut from mysterious etchings and abstract figures to representational paintings of elk and horses. Above, a mix of real and abstract from Madsebakke, a Bronze Age site in Denmark.

  2. RESOURCE: All About Reefs

    Coral reefs are the rainforests of the ocean: diverse, showy, and abused. Reef experts and curious visitors will find a trove of data about these rich ecosystems and the threats they face at the Coral Reef Information Service Web site, a new portal for coral data amassed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    Atmospheric scientists studying climate change, for instance, can download measurements of the ratio of oxygen-18 to oxygen-16 isotopes in coral samples, useful for reconstructing past temperatures and rainfall. Marine biologists can nab coral growth rate measurements or pick through fish censuses for reefs in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. There's also a guide to nearly 3300 coral-inhabiting fishes from around the world. For nonspecialists, the site offers plenty of background information. Essays explore reef-wrecking diseases such as black-band disease, a bacterial slime that smothers the coral animals, leaving behind a barren skeleton. To get eye to eye with some reef inhabitants, plunge into the reef section of NOAA's photo library, which features 800 images.

  3. DATABASE: Garden of Vanishing Plants

    In an unlucky twist, the native habitat of the beach clustervine (Jacquemontia reclinata) is also some of the most desirable real estate in Florida: the state's southeastern barrier islands. Jeopardized by urbanization and invasive species, the ground-hugging vine clings to existence at only 12 sites. To root out other plants in trouble, check this database of U.S. protected species. Recently revamped with state listings as well as federal ones, the database serves up a profile for each plant that includes habitat, range, and taxonomy as well as links to more info. The listing is a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's sprawling PLANTS Web site (Science, 3 November 2000, p. 895).

  4. COMMUNITY SITES: A Face in the Crowd

    In a controversial response to last year's hijackings, some airports have decided to install face-recognition systems that will scan the terminal for terrorists by comparing snapshots of passengers to pictures of known evildoers. This pair of sites (∼peterkr/FACE/face.html; focuses on the technical challenges of discerning and recognizing human faces. The Face Detection Home Page lists links to technical articles—on using neural networks to detect faces, for example—research groups and companies, free software, and databases of facial images for testing new programs. The Face Recognition Home Page offers a smaller selection of similar material. Be sure to check out the sites on prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces.

    To speed frequent travelers through immigration, London's Heathrow airport has already tested machines that identify people by the distinctive pattern of an eye's iris. Offering a peek at this new technology, The Iris Recognition Homepage includes this eye-opening disclosure: Two recent patents describe inventions to dupe eye- recognition machines. One scheme involves changing the color of the eye by zapping the iris with a laser, the other implanting an ersatz iris.