Science  30 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5684, pp. 585
  1. EDUCATION: Multicultural Math

    Modern churchgoers might toss a few dollars in the collection plate, but they probably don't think to leave math problems. In 17th to 19th century Japanese temples, however, mathematically adept worshippers often posted geometrical puzzles carved into wooden tablets, known as sangaku. The purpose of sangaku remains mysterious; they might have been offerings or intellectual taunts to other temple visitors.

    To try solving some of these problems or to learn more about the math know-how of various cultures, drop by the Ethnomathematics Digital Library. With information for everyone from students to scholars, the site provides annotated links to more than 300 papers, Web sites, book reviews, and other resources. You can delve into cultures ranging from New Zealand's Maori to the Incas of South America, who recorded numbers on knotted strings called khipus.

  2. DATABASE: Get Primed for PCR

    Researchers use reverse transcription PCR to measure amounts of mRNA in a cell and gauge gene activity. Find the right primers for a particular mouse or human gene at this new database from the National Cancer Institute. The site profiles more than 3000 primers and probes, all gleaned from published papers. Search the data by gene, by species, or by assay to find the primer's location, sequence, original reference, and other information.

  3. IMAGES: Putting Natural Disasters on the Map

    If you're wondering about earthquake risk near Missouri's New Madrid fault or hurricanes that have torn through Maine, check out from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. The site lets you map the occurrence of natural disasters at scales from the neighborhood to the nation. You can pinpoint past temblors, plot hurricane tracks, identify tornado-prone locales, or chart five other types of hazards. In this view of the Los Angeles region, the broken house symbols indicate the most destructive landslides between 1928 and 1999, and the forest-green patches delineate areas with the highest risk of future slumps.

  4. RESOURCES: Quick, Call a Tree Surgeon

    The blackened leaves of a rhododendron are telltale signs of an infestation by Phytophthora ramorum, a funguslike pathogen that causes sudden oak death. The disease, which attacks many plants besides oaks, began laying waste to California forests in the mid-1990s and has now spread to at least 21 states. To uncover more about maladies that assail trees, flip open this Web text from plant pathologist James Worrall of the U.S. Forest Service. Forest and Shade Tree Pathology starts with general backgrounders on rusts, cankers, wilts, and other types of plant ailments. Other sections cover the causes, symptoms, and control methods for specific diseases such as sudden oak death, which appears to have traveled from state to state in nursery plants (Science, 26 March, p. 1959). Readers can add their opinions on tree sicknesses to the site's “Log Blog.”

  5. RESOURCES: Genetic Laws of the Land

    Need help sorting through the tangle of laws and regulations covering genetic testing, DNA patenting, and related concerns? This new database from the National Human Genome Research Institute corrals the relevant federal and state rules, policies, and legislation. You can sort through government responses to issues such as genetic discrimination by employers and insurance companies—several states have passed protective laws—and informed consent for use of patient data, covered by the recent federal Privacy Rule. Options include searching by state or federal agency. To help people who can't read the legalese of full-text documents, many entries also include plain-language summaries.

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