Science  01 Sep 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5791, pp. 1211

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  1. RESOURCES: Dragons of the Ancient Sea

    Dinosaurs weren't the only charismatic reptiles alive during the Mesozoic Era from 245 million years ago to 65 million years ago. Plying the oceans were plesiosaurs such as the snake-necked Elasmosaurus, which could reach 14 meters in length. Get a close look at these aquatic creatures at the growing Plesiosaur Directory. The not-so-invisible hand behind the site is grad student Adam Smith of University College Dublin in Ireland. A taxonomic listing describes more than a dozen plesiosaur genera and includes images, details of fossil discoveries, and distribution information. Pages on the creatures' biology delve into their anatomy and dining habits and offer animations depicting how their flattened limbs might have moved during swimming. The directory also showcases some plesiosaur appearances on TV and in films, none of which was Oscar-worthy.

  2. COMMUNITY SITE: Recipe Swap

    A few tips from a veteran cook can ensure that your first soufflé comes out fluffy instead of leaden. The same principle motivates the SyntheticPages, hosted by the University of Warwick in the U.K. Midway between a journal and a user-written wiki, the site allows researchers to share not just the procedure for making a compound, but also pointers and common problems. So far, contributors have submitted 220 protocols for synthesizing everything from quinoline to substituted flavones. In contrast to wiki-style sites, editors vet the procedures before they're posted. The site's goal isn't to replace traditional publications but to allow researchers to pass on their experience with a reaction. Visitors can also have their say, adding clarifications and refinements.

  3. EDUCATION: On-Screen Physics

    Physics topics such as kinematics and traveling waves are obvious subjects for teaching animations. But plenty of other ideas become clearer if they're put in motion, as shown by this collection of Flash animations from physicist David Harrison of the University of Toronto in Canada. Harrison's 87 creations will help introductory students follow the dynamics of a projectile, for example, or understand the time-dilation effect predicted by Einstein's special theory of relativity. Included is the double-slit experiment illustrating the wave-particle nature of electrons.

  4. LINKS: Bypass the Bookstore

    The Textbook Revolution offers college students something almost as welcome as cheap beer: free textbooks. The site from undergrad Jason Turgeon of Boston University links to a library's worth of texts and other educational materials that users can read online or download as PDFs. If you're looking for an advanced treatise on electromagnetic field theory or an introduction to physical geography, you'll find them among the site's more than 150 science titles.

  5. EXHIBIT: The Nation's Photo Album

    The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has been amassing photographs such as the 1890 shot of a snowflake almost since the medium was invented. Now you can check out highlights from the museum's more than 13 million images at the new Smithsonian Photography Initiative Web site. Visitors can flip through about 1800 photos, some of which date back to the 1840s. The subjects of the nearly 600 entries on science and nature range from a water-scarred martian crater to native seal hunters in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Some of the images are historically important. The snowflake shot, for instance, is part of a collection from Wilson Bentley (1865–1931), a Vermont farmer and self-tutored scientist who was the first to photograph an individual snowflake.