Science  04 Jun 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5676, pp. 1421

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  1. LINKS: Current Chemistry

    Looking for some exercises that can put a jolt into your undergraduate electrochemistry lab? Want to bone up on methods for measuring electrochemical impedance or other techniques? Check out this electrochemistry portal from chemist Marty St. Clair of Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Experiments section provides references for more than 80 published labs from sources such as the Journal of Chemical Education, and many of the protocols are available online. One lab requires students to use cyclic voltammetry to determine the concentration of ingredients in over-the-counter painkillers; another challenges them to devise a procedure for detecting DNA bases in a sample. The Background section rounds up tutorials from journals, universities, and companies.

  2. WEB TEXT: The Good, the Bad, and the Deadly

    The pearly droplets in this photo are colonies of Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax. The bugs exude a goopy coating that repels immune system assaults and allows them to establish a foothold in the body. Learn more about the tricks bacteria use to prosper almost everywhere on Earth in this Web text from microbiologist Kenneth Todar of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. High school and college students can absorb the basics of bacterial structure, physiology, classification, and ecology. The book emphasizes medical microbiology, exploring how bacteria hitch a ride from host to host, how the body tries to corral invading microbes, and how the bugs elude these defenses. For example, the cholera bacterium releases a toxin that induces intestinal cells to spill ions and water, producing potentially lethal diarrhea.

  3. EXHIBIT: New Zealand's Atomic Hero

    Ernest Rutherford (1871–1937) discovered the nucleus and was the first to split the atom. He stamped his mark on scientific vocabulary, coining terms such as “half-life,” “gamma ray,” and “neutron.” Physics luminaries like Niels Bohr, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and James Chadwick apprenticed in his lab. He won the 1908 Nobel Prize in chemistry and had an element, rutherfordium, named in his honor. Not bad for a New Zealand farm boy.

    Find out more at Rutherford—Scientist Supreme, created by physicist John Campbell of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. As the site's biographical essay explains, Rutherford got his big break when he received a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge—but only because the top candidate had turned it down. He later pulled off a series of breakthrough experiments. For example, Rutherford noticed that firing bulky particles at a thin layer of gold occasionally produced a ricochet, and he deduced that most of the atom's mass must huddle in the core. Other features include book reviews and an essay describing how Rutherford's face ended up on New Zealand's $100 note.

  4. DATABASE: A Visual Take on Proteins

    The enzyme DNA polymerase is a molecular Xerox machine, cranking out copies of DNA before a cell divides. To investigate the architecture and activity of DNA polymerase or nearly 27,000 other proteins and nucleic acids, dig into the recently revamped PDBsum, created by Roman Laskowski of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, U.K. The database provides visual synopses of structural and functional information stashed in the Protein Data Bank repository. But the site also supplies additional info. For instance, you can highlight structures such as helices and sheets and diagram the interactions between a protein and other molecules or metals. If enzymes are your bag, the linked Enzyme Structures Database houses data on some 12,000 of the proteins, organized by reaction mechanism.