Science  18 Nov 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5751, pp. 1099

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  1. RESOURCES: Death in the Woods

    The killer stalking the cool, damp forests of the U.S. West Coast sounds familiar: a rootless drifter that slays silently and often gets around by hitchhiking. The wrongdoer is the funguslike parasite Phytophthora ramorum, which causes sudden oak death and has attacked oaks and other woodland plants in 14 counties in California and one in southern Oregon. This site from the California Oak Mortality Task Force features a chronology and maps that track P. ramorum; the organism first appeared in 1995, and its origins are unknown. Visitors can also learn how to diagnose infestations and read about the pest's impact on U.S. nurseries. A gallery of species felled by the pathogen includes an aerial photo of dying and dead tanoaks in California's Los Padres National Forest near Monterey.

  2. NET RESOURCES: Disease Daily

    The bird flu virus (H5N1) spreading from Asia to Europe has the world worried about a possible human flu pandemic. For the latest on avian influenza and other microbial threats, click over to the Web site of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. The clearinghouse holds information on more than a dozen illnesses, from SARS to potential bioterrorism weapons such as bubonic plague. Visitors can read daily news reports, abstracts of recent papers, and other documents. For some diseases, you'll find backgrounders that describe symptoms, epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment.

  3. DATABASE: Out of Synch

    People with long QT syndrome can faint or die suddenly because their ventricles are prone to rapid contractions. The disease results from mutations that make heart muscle cells repolarize tardily after firing. Find out more about the DNA defects behind long QT syndrome and eight other arrhythmias at Gene Connection for the Heart, hosted by the IRCCS Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri in Pavia, Italy. The database describes the diseases and profiles each mutation, indicating its location and how it changes the gene and the protein. Included is a diagram showing where mutations alter the SCN5A protein, which allows sodium ions into heart cells during contraction.

  4. TOOLS: Stacking Gene Chips

    Microarrays reveal which genes crank up or slow down in diseases such as diabetes and cancer, but they yield a torrent of data that leaves many researchers feeling swamped. A new site called L2L (for “list-to-list”) from the University of Washington, Seattle, can help scientists cope with the flood. Users plug in their lists of regulated genes, and L2L compares them to more than 350 other lists compiled from published microarray papers. The output highlights common patterns of gene expression that suggest underlying molecular mechanisms. L2L can help researchers tease apart the effects of complex diseases on gene activity.

  5. WEB LOGS: Talking Physics

    What are people saying about the latest papers on the physics preprint site arXiv or the report that the solar system's putative 10th planet has a moon? Keep up with the latest physics chatter at this pair of Web logs. For nearly 3 years, mathematical physicist John Baez of the University of California, Riverside, has discoursed on books and papers that catch his interest,* particularly if they relate to gravitational theory. Recent indications that a moon orbits what might be the 10th planet—it hasn't received official recognition yet—inspired him to write a tutorial on the solar system's suburbs, complete with diagrams and photos.

    More provocative is Not Even Wrong, in which mathematician Peter Woit of Columbia University takes a critical look at string theory and other timely topics in physics and science. In a recent commentary, he compares string theory to “intelligent design,” arguing that we might have passed the point at which further work to understand the theory “stops being science and it too starts being a nonscientific activity pursued for sociological and psychological reasons.”