Science  24 Oct 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5645, pp. 541

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  1. RESOURCES: Enter the Termitarium

    Termites do more than just munch through beams and floor joists. The tiny, tender insects mulch hard-to-digest plant matter and churn the soil. In some habitats, termites may outnumber vertebrate herbivores and collectively outweigh and outeat them.

    For a rundown on the taxonomy of these key ecological players, bore into this sprawling site from termitologist Timothy Myles of the University of Toronto in Canada. To simplify identification, the site provides photos for most of the world's termite genera and nearly all the species from North and South America. The Brazilian Inquilinitermes soldier, for instance, battles interlopers with its forcepslike jaws. There's also a key to North American species, and Myles has tucked in plenty of basic data on termite biology and control.

  2. DATABASE: Genes at Work and at Rest

    Different casts of genes keep a pancreas cell squirting out insulin and a brain cell chattering with its neighbors. Compare gene activity in various cells and tissues with this free database of human and mouse gene chip studies from the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego, California. The measurements cover several hundred genes, from the insulin receptor to cytochrome c, profiling their expression levels in tissues ranging from the salivary gland to melanoma tumor cells. Find a gene by name or sequence, or sort out the genes that increase or decrease their activity by a selected amount in different tissues.

  3. E-PUBLISHING: Math Megalibrary

    Looking for a copy of Carl Friedrich Gauss's 1827 General Investigation of Curved Surfaces? How about the 1908 A Course of Pure Mathematics by British mathematician G. H. Hardy? Try the Multi-Repository Mathematics Collections, an online math library packed with full-text versions of more than 2000 books and monographs from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection represents a union of three sets of historic texts from the Göttingen State and University Library in Germany, the University of Michigan, and Cornell University. This page lets you search their holdings. If you prefer to browse, try this jump-off site, which links to all three libraries.

  4. DATABASES: The Facts of Life and Death

    Birth and death are fodder for epic novels and the raw material for demographic studies. These two databases might not inspire a modern-day Tolstoy, but they brim with the numbers demographers covet. The Human Mortality Database features long-term records of births, deaths, population size, and life expectancy for 18 countries. The database, which opened last year, began when the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany joined forces with the Berkeley Mortality Database (NetWatch, 11 January 2002, p. 239). Coverage includes the United States, Germany, France, Russia, and Japan, and the data often stretch back to the 1800s or beyond. Accessing the figures requires free registration.

    For demographic snapshots of more than 160 countries, click on this database from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For each country, the site provides data on year 2000 population size, birth and death rates, infant mortality, and life expectancy, along with projections for 2025.

  5. EDUCATION: Looking for Leonids

    Next month, Earth once again plows into the flotsam shed by the comet Tempel-Tuttle, sparking the annual Leonid meteor shower. Look skyward at the right time, and you could see more than 100 blazing meteors in a single hour. To find out when to spot the Leonids or learn about other upcoming astronomical light shows, check out this site sponsored by the American Meteor Society. A calendar pinpoints prime viewing times and dates for meteor showers. For U.S. sky watchers, the best viewing for the Leonids will be on 16 and 17 November. Seven visible comets are also lingering in our neighborhood. The site offers observing tips and background information on comets, meteorites, and asteroids.