Science  07 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5647, pp. 961

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  1. RESOURCES: Botanical Bounty Blossoms

    If you're looking for articles and books on plants or fungi, check out the bibliography of American botanical literature available at the New York Botanical Garden's newly spruced-up site. The database's nearly 39,000 entries include references from as far back as 1886. A project the garden began 4 years ago (NetWatch, 29 October 1999, p. 867) has also come to fruition. You can now consult more than 85,000 images of type specimens—the original samples taxonomists used to describe a species—such as a magnolia leaf (Magnolia roraimae) collected in Venezuela in 1944.

  2. TOOLS: Making Genetic Connections

    Genetic pathways govern many of life's biggest choices, from whether a slime mold cell gloms onto others or remains aloof, to whether a nematode hunkers down in a stress-resistant form. GenePath, a network analysis tool from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, can help researchers discern these genetic “chains of command” in organisms such as fruit flies and nematodes.

    Scientists can work out the links by hand from studies of how organisms respond—whether they congregate or sprout spores, for instance—when one or more of the genes doesn't work. But it's a time-consuming headache. “Most people can only think about four or five genes at once,” says geneticist and co-creator Adam Kuspa of Baylor. GenePath automates the analysis, letting users enter results from their own work and findings from the literature. The tool then deduces the interconnections, determining which genes fall in the same pathway. GenePath can also suggest further studies to shore up weak links in the inferred network. Kuspa and colleagues plan to upgrade their creation to accommodate data from gene chips.

  3. EDUCATION: No-Spill Chemistry Lab

    Doing chemistry in cyberspace can't duplicate the atmosphere of the real thing, with the clink of glassware and the hiss of Bunsen burners. On the other hand, nothing can blow up or catch fire, students can easily restart botched experiments, and there's no mess to clean up. This virtual laboratory applet from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh gives students a taste of lab experiments and lets them practice taking measurements and planning their work. Aimed at beginning undergrads, the more than 20 investigations probe topics such as chemical equilibrium, stoichiometry, and temperature's effects on solubility. Lab neophytes can try their hand at various techniques, such as titration, pipetting, and dilution.

  4. WEBCAST: Searching for Life Less Ordinary

    Hollywood has supplied its visions of extraterrestrial life, from the oozing, flesh-hungry mass of The Blob to Star Trek's ultranerdy Mr. Spock. During this 15 to 22 November series of daily Webcasts from the Exploratorium in San Francisco, experts will have their say about questions such as Does life flourish on other planets? If so, what might it look like, and how will we recognize it?

    Scheduled speakers include chemist David Deamer of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who is cooking up a novel recipe for life's origins on Earth, and UC Berkeley astronomer Dan Wertheimer, who listens for alien radio signals. The series will also feature experiments and on-the-spot reports from places such as Chile's 5900-meter-high Licancabur volcano, which cradles icy lakes that might replicate early conditions on Mars.

  5. IMAGES: Fire in the Sky

    Eerie red and green light paints the heavens near Dover, Oklahoma, where firefighter Dave Ewoldt snapped this photo on 29 October. It's rare for the aurora borealis to be seen so far south. But last week a humongous belch of ionized gas from the sun crashed into Earth's magnetic field, making the northern lights visible even in Texas. This gallery showcases some skywatchers' observations of the gaudy display. For more information on the sun's latest outbursts—which include the largest solar flare in 12 years—see this national Space Environment Center site. There you'll find real-time aurora maps, solar wind data, forecasts, and more.