NetWatch

Science  22 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5598, pp. 1521
  1. EXHIBIT: Mapping Cyberspace

    What does cyberspace, once defined as “the ether inside and in between all computers,” actually look like? The new “Atlas of Cyberspaces” offers a collection of maps and other visual attempts to portray this growing worldwide digital landscape.

    The Web site, created by geographer Martin Dodge of the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis in London, U.K., surveys the different ways that people conceptualize cyberspace, from artists to geographers and topologists. Here, you can peruse creative impressions or filmmakers' fantasies. (Remember that weird green “corridor of code” in The Matrix?) Or explore the “Spamdemic”: Circuit diagrams show you the origins of those improve-your-credit offers and toner-cartridge ads jamming your inbox.

    For a brain-twister, check out the site's many-dimensioned mathematical cyberspaces. Or relax into a more familiar cartographic format and see how World Wide Web hubs link points across the globe.

  2. RESOURCE: Background Check for Beans

    Just to be on the safe side, the U.S. government last week ordered a biotechnology company to destroy 500,000 bushels of soybeans contaminated with corn genetically engineered to produce a drug. Now there is a way to keep abreast of which transgenic crops—from rice and corn to papaya and tobacco—have received approval for human or animal consumption or for release in more than two dozen countries worldwide.

    Agbios, an independent company in Merrickville, Ontario, Canada, that provides information to regulators, policymakers, and academics, maintains a crop database that allows the user to search by criteria such as species, traits (for example, male sterility or delayed ripening), and regulatory status. The site also includes risk-assessment training modules, based on a real-world case of insecticide-producing maize, to help readers understand the product-approval process. There's also a bibliographic database with more than 1400 papers about biosafety and genetically modified organisms.

  3. DIRECTORY: Calculator Collection

    Web calculators are not just for finding out how many drachmas equal $1 or what time it is in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. At Martindale's Calculators Online Center, you can do just about anything from calculating the estimated running speed of an extinct brontosaurus to figuring out the expected due date of your pregnant Nigerian dwarf goat.

    With over 16,495 calculators indexed on this site, look no further to remind yourself how to convert grams to moles or degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius. Part of Martindale's larger online science reference work (Science, 17 July 1998, p. 303), this site is organized alphabetically by topic, with annotations discussing each calculator's pros and cons. You can also explore how several different calendars can be used to look up today's date in the ancient Mayan timekeeping system, or translate your name into Egyptian hieroglyphics.

  4. EDUCATION: Get the Picture?

    Zoom up to the spiny surface of a sea star. Or plunge into the world of ciliated protists, single-celled animals that use hairlike structures to jet about, eat, and procreate. At the BioMEDIA Associates Web site, biology comes alive through photography.

    Geared toward teaching middle and high schoolers about the natural world, this site consists of a series of photo galleries. Students learn as they marvel at the images, and factoids roll out from under each photo as the cursor moves. Each gallery is supplemented with interactive essays that explain how each animal adapts to its environment.

    Although the site focuses on the microscopic world, a new photo essay on the evolution of eyes teaches about the many different ways to produce sight.

    To keep students coming back, a mystery organism-of-the-month contest promises the first five successful entrants a free CD-ROM or video of their choice from BioMEDIA's educational series.

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