DATABASE: Crystal Palace

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Science  20 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5687, pp. 1085
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5687.1085e

Geologists, surface chemists, and video game designers attend different conferences in the real world, and you wouldn't expect them to congregate in cyberspace. Yet all three groups have been visiting this crystal structures database, built by Robert Downs of the University of Arizona, Tucson, and colleagues. The collection corrals all the diffraction data ever published in four leading journals, including American Mineralogist and The Canadian Mineralogist—about 7000 minerals in all. The site also offers free software for viewing and analyzing the entries. So what would lure video game mavens to a bare-bones site with no connection to Doom? Crystallographers' shorthand distills a complex shape into just a few lines of numbers, Downs explains, and gamers are looking for a similarly concise way to render elaborate virtual environments.

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