Science  14 Mar 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5613, pp. 1637
  1. EXHIBIT: Start Your Engines

    This fun site lets you look under the hood, so to speak, and discover how engines work. Software engineer and technology buff Matt Keveney of Oakland, California, takes apart 19 types of historical and modern engines, and his clever animations show each mechanism chugging along. Fire up the first steam engine, a hefty contraption patented in 1705 by Thomas Newcomen that often powered pumps to drain English mines. Low-pressure steam from boiling water and the weight of the pump rod drive the engine's piston. You can also study the innards of rockets and jets, as well as turboprops, in which exhaust gases spin turbines that drive the plane's propeller.

  2. COMMUNITY SITE: Avoid Separation Anxiety

    Scientists who use electrophoresis, chromatography, and other techniques for splitting up chemical mixtures will find plenty of useful information at the community site separationsNOW. The free portal from publisher John Wiley and Sons offers a discussion forum on particular techniques, a calendar of upcoming conferences, and a jobs list. There are also links to more than 15 Wiley and other journals, some of which offer free online content. The news and features section highlights fresh findings and new products on the market. Educational features include a tutorial on instruments for performing gas chromatography and a glossary of mass spectroscopy terms.

  3. DATABASE: Swap Meet for Brain Mappers

    A technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measures blood flow to different parts of the brain, enabling researchers to chart which regions are active when subjects perform a mental task such as tracking a moving target with their hand. The fMRI Data Center at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, helps neuroscientists share data from their fMRI experiments, so other teams can reanalyze results or pool information for comparison studies.

    The 3-year-old clearinghouse, which now holds 36 data sets and adds about 20 more each year, accepts only studies published in peer-reviewed journals. Because fMRI files can be gargantuan, the center will mail you a free CD—containing the data and details of the experimental methods—for your chosen study. However, the center will soon provide online access to some results and add free Java tools for managing the deluge of fMRI data, says operations director Jack Van Horn. fMRI researchers are tackling involved questions, such as how brain processing goes haywire during Alzheimer's disease and how neural regions respond during social interactions. “We're anxious to have any and all of these studies,” Van Horn says.

  4. TOOL: DNA Primers to Go

    Our genes are messy, with stretches that code for proteins interrupted by extraneous DNA. This jumbled construction complicates the job of designing primers, the short sequences that serve as a starting point for the gene-copying technique known as PCR. ExonPrimer, a tool designed by Tim Strom of the Institute for Human Genetics in Neuherberg, Germany, helps researchers clear this hurdle. Users enter a gene's raw chromosome sequence and the sequence of its cDNA, a DNA version of its messenger RNA. Out pops a set of primers that can be used to replicate the functional part of the gene.

  5. RESOURCES: Interior Design for Primates

    Helping researchers improve the lives of apes and monkeys used in research is the goal of the Primate Enrichment Database, a bibliography listing more than 1800 papers, abstracts, books, and other sources of information. Hosted by the nonprofit Animal Welfare Institute, the database rounds up references—many full-text—on diversifying the animals' surroundings and diet. The site's authors have also written a photographic guide full of pointers for housing and studying rhesus monkeys. For instance, it isn't necessary to pinion or anesthetize animals to obtain a blood sample; they can usually be trained to offer up a leg. A parallel site provides more than 1100 references on the care of nonprimate lab denizens, from gerbils to snakes.

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