Science  28 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5675, pp. 1221

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  1. DATABASE: They Sing By Night

    Crouched on a leaf in Costa Rica, a spiky conehead katydid (Copiphora rhinoceros) eyes a photographer. The insect's rapid-fire chirps, which sound a bit like a squeaky sewing machine, stand out in the rain forest's nocturnal chorus. You'll find a wealth of information about the conehead and more than 6800 other katydid (Tettigonioidea) species at this taxonomic database run by Piotr Naskrecki, an entomologist at Conservation International. What makes these species accounts stand out is the wealth of photos, sketches, and paintings. The collection includes more than 15,000 images of type specimens, the original samples used to describe the species. You can call up lists of collecting locales and find out which museums currently hold the specimens. Or listen to recordings of some species' calls.

  2. LINKS: A Net of Neuroscience

    Like children on a scavenger hunt, neuroscientists seeking information on the Web often have to hustle from place to place to find what they want. This new portal from the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C., can save some steps. The Neuroscience Database Gateway connects researchers to 76 sites that supply data, software, and other resources. Offerings include the Brain Biodiversity Bank, where you can scrutinize whole brains and tissue slices from various mammal species. For a quick tutorial on nerve cells, check out Synapse Web, which also provides software for making 3D models of brain structures such as axons. Other sites range from a fruit fly brain atlas to a database of odor ligands. The gateway is the first release from a project to integrate online neuroscience databases.

  3. TOOLS: Genomics Grab Bag

    If you need help with genome analysis, you might want to take a look at VISTA, a newly revamped site from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Its set of features lets you compare genomes from the site's collection of nine species or plug in your own sequences. Try the mVISTA browser to highlight similar and different regions in, say, a snippet of human DNA compared to that of a chimp's. Another tool locates attachment sites for transcription factors, which are proteins that flick genes up and down.

  4. EXHIBIT: Cracking the Code

    Everyone knows the names Watson and Crick, but how about Marshall Nirenberg? The National Institutes of Health biochemist figured out that triplets of DNA bases code for specific amino acids in 1961, 8 years after James Watson and Francis Crick unraveled DNA's helical structure. This new online exhibit chronicles the race to break the code by Nirenberg, who later won the Nobel Prize.

  5. WEBCAST: Venus Takes the Sunny Route

    Venus is about to glide into the limelight. For the first time since 1882, on 8 June our sister planet will pass directly between Earth and the sun, a maneuver called the Transit of Venus (Science, 14 May, p. 949). Past transits provided scientists with the first solid estimates of the distance from Earth to the sun, and astronomers hope this go-round will help their studies of extrasolar planets. Tune in to these three sites to watch the event live and read about the history of transit watching.

    The Web will be a boon for Venus fans in North America, who would otherwise see at most the transit's tail end. The Exploratorium in San Francisco will host two live, 45-minute Webcasts from the Penteli Observatory near Athens, Greece, located in the prime viewing zone. The first program starts on 8 June at 1 a.m. Eastern Time, minutes before Venus first nuzzles the sun. This NASA site will offer images from a dozen observatories in the Americas and Asia. Fun tidbits include photos from the 1882 transit and an animation of what the event might look like from space. The European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, promises live footage and commentary from astronomers.