Science  03 Dec 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5702, pp. 1661
  1. IMAGES: Rock-Art Festival

    Getting lost in the outback was a trial for rancher Joseph Bradshaw and his brother, but it was a boon for rock-art enthusiasts. Wandering remote northwest Australia in 1891, the pair stumbled across stunning paintings, some of which are at least 17,000 years old. The works, along with many other examples of ancient creativity, are on display at this site from the Bradshaw Foundation, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

    The site's many educational features include photo surveys to a host of rock-art sites around the world. For example, a gallery showcases 32 of the so-called Bradshaw paintings. Who painted these statuesque, 73-centimeter-tall figures and what they signify remains a mystery. Other locales range from Easter Island to Twyfelfontein in Namibia, where beginning 6000 years ago, unknown artists engraved a menagerie of animals and speckled the rocks with golf ball-sized indentations. Be sure to check out the site's interactive map that traces the expansion of our species throughout the world.

  2. DATABASE: To Build a Fly

    An inert egg can't morph into a flitting fruit fly without tinman and Mothers against dpp, klumpfuss and knirps, legless, heartless, tailless, and hairless. Find out how these and more than 600 other genes mold Drosophila development at the Interactive Fly, created 9 years ago by neurogeneticist Thomas Brody of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and hosted by the Society for Developmental Biology.

    The genetic encyclopedia includes detailed accounts of each gene's role in shaping the insect. tinman, for instance, is vital for heart formation, and knirps helps with construction of a wing vein. You can browse the genes alphabetically, by pathway, or by function. The site also brims with background information on fly formation, including a developmental atlas. A gallery links to FlyMove from the University of M√ľnster in Germany, where you can screen videos and animations of the stages from egg to grub.

  3. NET NEWS: A Google for Academia

    As if you weren't spending enough time Googling, now the search engine offers another reason to loiter there: a bibliographic tool aimed at scientists and other researchers. Google Scholar, a beta version of which launched last month, trolls for articles, reports, and other documents from publishers, universities, professional societies, and abstract databases such as PubMed. Almost all top scholarly publishers have agreed to let Google index their sites, says principal engineer Anurag Acharya, including the publishers of Science and Nature.

    Instead of the list of Web sites, an author search for Francis Crick returns a roster of his works, beginning with a citation for the 1953 paper on DNA structure. To rank the results, Google Scholar applies the same criteria that scientists use when deciding which papers to read, says Acharya, including the importance of the journal and how often the work has been cited. Although you can obtain abstracts for most articles, you or your library will need a subscription to download the full text of some publications. Acharya says upcoming features will include limiting searches by date.

  4. TOOLS: Silicon Cell Biology

    Forget petri dishes and incubators; the cells at this site never need food or clean glassware, and they can't die if you neglect them. The Virtual Cell from the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington lets researchers customize models to simulate biochemical and electrophysiological activities of cells. You can install structures such as organelles and channels through the cell membrane, stock the cytoplasm with various molecules, and specify what biochemical reactions can occur. What sets the Virtual Cell apart from most modeling software, says project director Leslie Loew, is that it allows users to incorporate processes involving cell structure, such as diffusion and membrane transport. Visitors can share their creations through a central database. Other models have tackled everything from calcium balance in pancreatic cells to the breakdown of the nuclear membrane during mitosis.

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