Science  15 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5695, pp. 383

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  1. Database: From Gene to Flesh

    PhenomicDB is a new tool to help researchers determine how genes contribute to an organism's phenotype, or physical and behavioral characteristics. Compiled by bioinformatics expert Bertram Weiss of the pharmaceutical company Schering AG in Berlin, Germany, and colleagues, the compendium unites information on genes and their effects from WormBase, Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man, FlyBase, and other collections. Data cover humans and model organisms such as yeast, mice, and nematodes, allowing users to search for genes linked to a multitude of phenotypes—from neural tube defects to dwarfism to prostate cancer. By combining far-flung data, PhenomicDB makes it easier to determine which genes trigger similar outcomes in different organisms and to compare the impact of related genes across species.

  2. Fun: Our Lying Eyes

    Being fooled once is supposed to protect against further deceit, but we often fall for the same visual illusions time after time. A visit to this collection of optical tricks might not make you immune to them, but it could help you understand why your eyes and brain get duped. Neuroscientist Michael Bach of the University of Freiburg in Germany has animated 46 common and not-so-common visual illusions that skew our perceptions of motion, color, size, contrast, and other variables. The site's explanations take some of the mystery out of puzzles such as the café wall illusion. The horizontal strips of mortar between the tiles are straight, but for poorly understood reasons, interactions between orientation-sensing cells in the brain's striate cortex cause us to misread the lines as sloped. If you're hungry for more about such tricks of the light, Bach serves up plenty of references and links. The explanations are easier to grasp if you have some neuroscience background.

  3. Resources: Molecules Make a Move

    Proteins and other big molecules look stiff and static on the printed page, but in living cells, their twisting, bending, and flexing help them perform their jobs. Watch the action at the Database of Macromolecular Movements from bioinformatics maven Mark Gerstein of Yale University and colleagues. The site's animations portray the gymnastics of more than 100 proteins and RNA molecules, such as the cytochrome BC1 complex, which plays a key role in oxidative respiration. The flicks can clarify a molecule's function and help drug designers craft more potent compounds. If you have a sample that's not in the database, plug your data into the site's free software to animate its twists and turns.

  4. Links: Jurassic Louvre

    Looking for a good image of a plesiosaur snapping at a fish or a suitably ferocious portrait of Tyrannosaurus rex? You could wander the Web's badlands, or you can tunnel into this lode of links. The site leads to paintings and drawings of more than 70 kinds of dinosaurs and other ancient reptiles. Although many works are copyrighted, some of the galleries permit downloading for educational uses.

  5. Images: Stargazing Round the Clock

    You don't have to wait until dark to check out the stars, thanks to The Night Sky Live. A network of 10 cameras situated from Israel to Hawaii to South Africa snaps photos from dusk to dawn and beams them back to the site. The project from astrophysicist Robert Nemiroff of the Michigan Technological University in Houghton and colleagues captures the entire sky but doesn't have the resolution of larger telescopes. However, researchers can download the raw data to glean information on visibility, cloud cover, and the positions of bright objects. Casual visitors can compare the current images with star maps or join in discussions with Nemiroff and other habitués about interesting objects in recent shots.