WEB TEXT: A Natural History Sampler

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Science  28 Jan 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5709, pp. 491
DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5709.491d

Wayne's Word isn't a Saturday Night Live sketch; it's a lower-division textbook on natural history that began 10 years ago as a cheeky newsletter about topics such as avoiding mountain lion attacks. Author Wayne Armstrong, a professor at Palomar College in San Marcos, California, eventually expanded the work into an online text to accompany his courses on basic biology and botany but continued adding interesting anecdotes about natural history subjects. For instance, Armstrong discusses speculation that Vincent Van Gogh's paintings owe something to the plant compound digoxin, which he took to treat his epilepsy. Heavy users have reported seeing rings around stars like those in Van Gogh's painting Starry Night. The site's roughly 2300 illustrations include many of Armstrong's photos, such as a shot of the formidable leaves of the monkey puzzle tree.


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