NetWatch

Science  31 Jan 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5607, pp. 635
  1. FUN: Taxonomists at Play

    What do the Roman emperor Caligula, cartoonist Gary Larson, and tennis player Boris Becker have in common? All have species named for them. Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature, created by biologist and computer scientist Mark Isaak, unravels the etymology of hundreds of clever, silly, and weird scientific handles. For example, the creature that carries Larson's name is a louse, Strigiphilus garylarsoni, that nestles among an owl's feathers. There are trilobites that commemorate Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and all four members of the punk band the Ramones: Mackenziurus johnnyi, M. joeyi, M. deedeei, and M. ceejayi. Groan-inspiring puns like Phthiria relativitae (a fly whose name sounds like “theory of relativity”) and Ytu brutus (a beetle) suggest that some taxonomists might be drinking out of the specimen bottles. Sometimes a scientific name even reveals juicy personal details. The British adventurer and ornithologist Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen bestowed some variant of “Theresa” on more than a dozen species or subspecies of birds to honor “a close ‘confidante’ 33 years younger than himself,” Isaak notes.

    home.earthlink.net/∼misaak/taxonomy.html

  2. EDUCATION: Best of Earth Science Ed

    The creators of the Digital Library for Earth System Education have corralled links to thousands of sites in fields such as geology, meteorology, planetary science, ecology, and oceanography. Run by a coalition of academics, librarians, and teachers, the collection provides capsule descriptions of educational Web sites submitted by users and aimed at every level, from elementary school student to professional scientist. Search for graduate-level info on seismology, for example, and you'll get 12 links that range from the U.S. Geological Survey's earthquake monitoring center to course notes for a geophysics class. The site is also a meeting place for anyone interested in Web-based education, with resources such as conference announcements and discussion groups.

  3. IMAGES: How to Change a Broken Gene

    With gene therapy in the headlines again, teachers might be looking for a simple explanation of this promising but troubled technique. Although created for high school students, this collection of animations from the Indiana University School of Medicine is also suitable for lower-division college classes. The shorts walk students through the steps in gene therapy, such as loading refurbished genes into a virus and delivering them to their targets in the body. Above, a virus snuggles up to a cell before injecting a curative gene.

    Another clip explains a protocol for using a mouse retrovirus to treat Fanconi anemia, an inherited deficiency of blood cells. Students can also explore the workhorses of the molecular biology lab, such as electrophoresis, PCR, and flow cytometry, which researchers use to measure and sort cells.

    www.iupui.edu/∼wellsctr/MMIA/htm/animations.htm

  4. EXHIBITS: Making Space Exploration Pay

    Tang, the powdered orange drink, didn't make the list, but the Global Positioning System and liquid-cooled garments did. Every year since 1988, the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has honored the most influential spin-offs of space technology by enshrining them in its Hall of Fame. Check out the inductees at the Web site of the nonprofit, which uses criteria such as economic payoff, appeal to the public, and benefit to society. Last year's winner, for instance, was satellite radio, which allows subscribers to hear music without annoying commercials. This year's selections will be announced next month.

    http://www.spacetechhalloffame.org/

  5. RESOURCES: Plants of Paradise

    This exuberant lobelia growing on the island of Kauai is one of more than 1300 species of plants endemic to Hawaii. You'll find a trove of taxonomic data on these unique species at Flora of the Hawaiian Islands, created by botanist Warren Wagner of the Smithsonian Institution and colleagues. The growing site now holds information on more than 800 genera of flowering plants and ferns. Pick your favorite species and dig up its distribution, conservation status, and the date and location for the first specimens collected. A parallel site covers the Marquesas Islands in the southern Pacific, another hot spot for plant diversity.

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