Science  16 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5682, pp. 317

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  1. EXHIBITS: Bugs That Made History

    Textbooks focus on kings, queens, presidents, and generals, but insects and other arthropods have also helped shape the course of human events. Bugs get their due at the site Insects, Disease, and History from entomologists Robert Peterson of Montana State University in Bozeman and Gary Miller of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Almost everyone knows that bubonic plague spread by fleas upended European society in the mid-1300s, but the site's essays explore lesser-known episodes. For example, you can read how a 1914–15 outbreak of the louse-transmitted disease typhus prevented Austria from invading Serbia, possibly changing World War I's outcome. The site also offers a primer on bug-borne diseases such as yellow fever and leishmaniasis. Above, a World War II U.S. Army poster advises soldiers how to avoid the mites that spread scrub typhus.

  2. DATABASE: A Whole Lot About Ozone

    Nearly 20 years ago, British researchers discovered a gaping ozone hole over Antarctica, which fueled concerns that humanmade chemicals were gnawing away at Earth's shield against harmful UV radiation. You can gather information on the continuing problem of dwindling stratospheric ozone at this pair of sites. The Ozone Depletion page from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers everything from animations of the ozone hole to measurements of UV radiation reaching the ground in different parts of the United States. Teachers will find backgrounders on the causes and possible consequences of ozone depletion. Visitors can also read up on chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-destroying chemicals and peruse schedules to phase them out.

    Aimed at researchers, this growing portal from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center links to projects around the globe that are gauging ozone depletion. You can download data gathered by satellite, balloons, aircraft, and other means. One day last year, the hole was the second largest on record.

  3. FUN: Six Degrees of Erdös

    In April, somebody paid more than $1000 on eBay for the chance to get a better Erdös number by becoming co-author on a paper. Newbies can learn what the number signifies and mathematicians can calculate theirs at The Erdös Number Project from Jerry Grossman of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

    Paul Erdös (1913–96) was a famous Hungarian mathematician whose oeuvre totals more than 1500 works. An Erdös number indicates a person's intellectual proximity to him, based on common publications. Erdös scores a 0, his more than 500 co-authors rate a 1, their collaborators get a 2, and so forth. Visitors can work out their own Erdös number or see how various illuminati stack up. For instance, thanks to a paper he co-authored in 1979 when Windows was but a dream, Bill Gates rates an Erdös number of 4. The site's data can also help researchers studying collaboration and networks (NetWatch, 8 February 2002, p. 935).

  4. EDUCATION: Swim With the Ichthyosaurs

    While the dinosaurs stomped around on land, dolphin-like reptiles called ichthyosaurs glided through the ancient seas. A primer from paleontologist Ryosuke Motani of the University of California, Davis, offers a wealth of information about ichthyosaurs, which lived from 250 million to 90 million years ago. Pages trace the evolution of their flippers, which over time shed the thumb but gained new fingers, and explain how different ichthyosaurs might have swum. You can assess the evidence that some ichthyosaurs were deep divers. For example, their eyes—the largest of any animals'—were shaped to capture extra light, like those of many nocturnal animals today.

  5. TOOLS: Connecting the Dots

    Search for a gene in MEDLINE, and you'll probably get a long list of abstracts, but the results won't show how your target relates to other genes. Adding this context is the goal of a new site called iHOP, sponsored by the Spanish National Center of Biotechnology in Madrid. Type in the name of a gene, and the site maps the molecular interrelationships that abstracts reveal.