NetWatch

Science  03 Mar 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5765, pp. 1221
  1. RESOURCES: The Compleat Evolutionist

    Charles Darwin recorded his experiments, observations, and thoughts in 16 books, 150 papers, and more than 80,000 pages of notes. This new digital library from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City will post the Darwin oeuvre, including previously unpublished notebooks and drafts, along with a host of other key evolutionary texts. Among the titles already on the shelves are two of Darwin's early sketches on natural selection and his colleague Thomas Huxley's book on human evolution. The library will add works by his predecessors, successors, and detractors, including early French anatomist Georges Cuvier, the late Stephen Jay Gould, and Edward O. Wilson.

    darwinlibrary.amnh.org

  2. EXHIBITS: Little (and Big) Engines That Couldn't

    A bicycle powered by solid-fuel rockets sounds like one of Wile E. Coyote's schemes for catching the Road Runner. But in the 1920s and 1930s, German inventors built and even raced the souped-up cycles. In a 1931 trial, one model reportedly hit 88 km/h before the “pilot” wiped out. The rocket bike is one of the doomed designs on display at the Museum of RetroTechnology, curated by London-based audio equipment designer Douglas Self. Crammed with period photos, the exhibits explore dubious achievements in transportation, power generation, computing, and communications. Self explains how the machines worked—most got at least to the prototype stage—and why they failed to catch on. Although it's tempting to laugh at contraptions like the strap-on helicopter and the steam lawnmower, “poking fun at misguided inventors is absolutely not the aim of the museum,” Self says. Instead, he says, scrutinizing these machines might furnish insight into how inventors create.

    www.dself.dsl.pipex.com/MUSEUM/museum.htm

  3. DATABASE: Flu Finder

    Need to know which hemagglutinin proteins were carried last year by influenza viruses in Asia? Want to compare your viral samples to the deadly H5N1 subtype? Visit the Influenza Virus Resource from the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information, which houses all influenza virus sequences stashed in GenBank and provides tools for analyzing them. Users can dissect viral proteins and nucleotide sequences from all over the world and from a variety of hosts, including humans, pigs, and birds.

    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genomes/FLU/FLU.html

  4. DATABASE: Stellar Speed Trap

    A new database may help astronomers figure out how much our galaxy weighs and whether it filched some of its stars from other galaxies. The Radial Velocity Experiment is an international project to gauge the temperature, composition, surface gravity, and speed of up to 1 million Southern Hemisphere stars by 2010. Captured by an instrument at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia, the data supplement other surveys, such as the Hipparcos mission, by adding hard-to-obtain readings of radial velocity, a star's speed toward or away from us. Last month, the site posted the first measurements on nearly 25,000 stars. Included is a view of the night sky showing the project's current coverage, with red marking the swiftest stars.

    www.rave-survey.aip.de/rave

  5. EDUCATION: The Really Big Chill

    If the “snowball Earth” hypothesis is right, our planet froze at least three times in the distant past. To learn more about the controversial notion, schuss over to this site sponsored by geologist and snowball Earth advocate Paul Hoffman of Harvard University. The hypothesis holds that ice encased the planet for several million years starting about 2.2 billion years ago, again 710 million years ago, and then 640 million years ago. Background pages present supporting evidence and probe the cold spells' possible causes and consequences for life. One trigger may have been the continents clumping along the equator, where the torrid conditions could have paradoxically set off a global chilling by accelerating a form of weathering that depletes atmospheric carbon dioxide. The site also offers nearly 200 downloadable slides for classroom use, such as a map of “oases” where life might have endured the big freezes, and other resources.

    http://www.snowballearth.org/

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