Science  19 Aug 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5738, pp. 1161

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  1. DATABASE: Unveiling the Deep Sky

    To weed out distractions during his search for comets, French astro-nomer Charles Messier (1730-1817) tallied other fuzzy heavenly bodies that could be mistaken for the periodic visitors. His Messier Catalog, which you can browse at this site from Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, was more than a mere collection of interstellar smudges. Messier penned the first systematic listing of “deep-sky” objects that include star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae where new suns are born. Among the 110 Messier objects is the Whirlpool Galaxy M51, spotted in 1773. Each object's entry offers basic data such as its position and apparent brightness, describes its discovery and study, and features plenty of images.

  2. LINKS: The Social Scene

    The social sciences span disciplines as diverse as anthropology, economics, and linguistics. To find resources in this sprawling area, check out the Social Science Information Gateway from Bristol University in the U.K. This vast collection of annotated links includes an anthropological study of India's Andaman Islanders, a dictionary of phobias, and a statistical primer for social scientists. You can also page through a calendar of upcoming conferences or find potential collaborators using the “Likeminds” listing.

  3. DATABASE: Follow the Money

    The U.S. government pumped more than $111 billion into research and development (R&D) in 2003 and an estimated $121 billion in 2004. Find out how much money each agency doles out, who gets it, and what they're spending it on at RaDiUS from the RAND Corp. Users previously had to pay to see the database, but RAND made it free earlier this year.

    RaDiUS compiles all nonclassified federal R&D spending dating back to 1993. You can sift through more than 600,000 individual awards or organize them by agency, program, or project. At $59 billion, the Department of Defense was the largest funder in 2003, followed by the Department of Health and Human Services and NASA. Although access is free, you'll still have to apply for a “site license” and wait for a RAND employee to call with a username and password. Also note that the URL must include “https.”

  4. PODCASTS: Audio Infection

    Microbe buffs can get an earful of information from their iPods every day, thanks to the American Society for Microbiology. The society has begun podcasting its MicrobeWorld Radio, a 90-second daily program of microbiology news. Pod people can automatically download new episodes as soon as they go online, then listen to the files on the computer or a digital audio player. Recent MicrobeWorld Radio shows have explored subjects such as methane on Mars, a possible indicator of life, and antimicrobial foods such as garlic and dried plum extract.

  5. IMAGES: A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

    This year's Atlantic hurricane season opened with a roar. A record five tropical storms and two hurricanes hit the radar screens by the end of July. As we enter the most active part of the season, you can get updates on current storms and learn about incipient ones at this site, part of NASA's Life on Earth home page.

    Bulletins post fresh satellite shots and let you call up storm-tracking maps. The site also offers plenty of data on past events and background information on hurricanes. For example, a short video traces the storms' birthplace to the highlands of Ethiopia, where winds bouncing over the rough terrain spawn air eddies. You can also step into galleries packed with satellite photos, movies, and diagrams such as an illustration of precipitation from Hurricane Ivan, which swept ashore in Alabama last September. Green areas received 1.25 cm of rain or more per hour.