Science  23 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5683, pp. 457

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  1. EXHIBIT: Taming the Brain's Storms

    Today doctors know that epileptic seizures result from erratic firing by brain neurons, and they can recommend treatments such as drugs or surgery. But during the Renaissance, people blamed stones inside the skull for the convulsions, unusual sensations, and other symptoms of the illness. And quacks who claimed to be able to remove the stones abounded.

    Learn more about the disease's history and cultural impact at the Epilepsy Museum, created by Hansjörg Schneble, a doctor in Offenburg, Germany. One room displays erroneous and valid statements about epilepsy from authorities such as the Roman physician Galen. He was the first to describe the aura, the hallucinations and “out-of-body” sensations that often precede an attack. But he mistakenly believed that seizures could originate in the extremities as well as in the brain. Another room is stocked with evidence that various historic figures suffered from epilepsy—including Julius Caesar, Napoleon, and the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

  2. DATABASE: Eavesdropping on the Immune System

    The immune system depends on molecules called cytokines to send messages to its defensive cells. To find out more about these proteins and their genes, drop by the Cytokine Family Database from Kumamoto University School of Medicine in Japan. Each search connects you to a wealth of protein and gene databases. For instance, click on the entry for interleukin-6, which prods B cells to divide, and you can compare the gene's sequence across species with Ensembl and learn about its involvement in diseases at Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man. If you want to know more about how cytokines motivate cells, try the linked Cytokine Signaling Pathway Database.

  3. LINKS: Mushroom Hunting

    The Mycology.Net, a portal sponsored by a group of German institutions, can guide researchers to a wealth of sites about mushrooms and other fungi. The site lists more than 70 online keys for identifying specimens. If you're looking for a potential collaborator, check the directories of fungal experts. Mycology.Net also links to some 30 galleries that display pictures of various mushrooms, yeasts, molds, and other forms.

  4. RESOURCE: Follow That Front

    A familiar sight for San Franciscans, fog often shrouds the Golden Gate Bridge. Fogs are frequent along the West Coast in late summer and fall because warm, dry air streaming from the land cools and picks up moisture, which condenses on specks of salt and pollution. You can discover plenty more about weather and climate at MetEd, a collection of tutorials aimed at everyone from pilots to meteorology students and researchers. Created by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, the multimedia tutorials interweave graphics and text and sometimes include lectures from atmospheric scientists. You can delve into more than 100 topics, from dust-storm prediction to global warming to the Pacific Ocean's El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle.

  5. EDUCATION: Shooting the Sun

    NASA's graphics-packed Sun-Earth Media Viewer helps students understand that our star's impact on Earth involves more than just heat and visible light. The site features regularly updated images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, which can capture flares and other solar outbursts, and a collection of illustrations, such as cutaways of the sun's interior. Animations in the visualizations section let viewers dive into a sunspot or follow a blast of solar particles that speeds through space and crashes into the magnetosphere, the magnetic sheath that protects Earth from the sun's radiation. Strong bursts of these particles can toast satellites and even knock out power plants. In video interviews, NASA researchers and outside experts explain everything from why the sun is hot to what causes the resplendent auroras that tint the sky at high latitudes. These light shows result when solar particles hit the magnetic field, jolting atoms in the upper atmosphere into emitting photons.