Science  02 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5620, pp. 713

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  1. RESOURCES: Eco Data Cache

    Climate scientists probing the soil's role in carbon cycling and hydrologists studying river flow will find plenty of useful information in this archive of ecological and geochemical data sets from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The nearly 700 databases hold measurements recorded by satellites and earthbound scientists, as well as results of computer modeling. Many center around efforts to understand carbon storage in ecosystems, a matter of great interest because plants help soak up humanmade carbon dioxide that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

    For example, you can look up data from a global network of towers detecting carbon dioxide flows in and out of various ecosystems, from Canada's boreal forests to the Amazonian rainforest. Other data sets include carbon dioxide emissions by soils in southern Africa, the nutrient content of plant roots, biomass measurements of forests in the eastern United States, and global temperatures and precipitation dating back to the 1750s. The site requires free registration before you can download data.

  2. RESOURCES: Probing the Cell's Powerhouse

    Defects in mitochondria, the cell's power plants, contribute to disorders ranging from heart degeneration to deafness to some cases of Alzheimer's disease. The Human Mitochondrial Protein Database holds a trove of information on the molecular biology of these vital organelles.

    Hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the site merges info on mitochondrial protein structure and function from scattered databases, including SwissProt, GenBank, and the Neuromuscular Disease Center site. Looking for information on protein structure? The site lets you quickly search for 3D images of mitochondrial proteins, such as cytochrome c, from eight different species. You can parse the organelle's own DNA sequence to find out which segments code for proteins and which are edited out. Another tool lets you compare samples from more than 50 human populations from around the globe and highlight differences that can provide clues about human evolution and migration. The site also links to accounts of diseases connected to mitochondrial malfunctions.

  3. DATABASE: Plants of Moor, Glen, and Crag

    Need to find out which British flowers are the first to bloom in the spring? Want to know what English plants feast on insects and how they snare their prey? Check out the Ecological Database of the British Isles. Hosted by the University of York, U.K., the clearinghouse profiles nearly 1800 species of British plants, providing information on more than 130 anatomical and ecological attributes. You can find out a particular species' distribution in Britain and Europe, the composition and acidity of its preferred soil, and even what kinds of plant-eating insects munch it and which fungi it hosts.

  4. IMAGES: Paparazzi in Space

    Astronauts in orbit enjoy spectacular views of Earth and space that grounded photographers can only dream of. Fortunately, most of them remembered to bring along a camera. This NASA gallery offers a huge selection of astronaut snapshots, beginning with historical images from the first space shuttle mission in 1981 and including this month's pictures from the international space station. You can search for images by mission, subject, location, and other categories. Download shots that capture famous geological features such as Mount Everest, delicate Pacific atolls, and evidence of human impact on the planet, from Amazonian deforestation to strip mines in Montana. Here, swirling currents in the Bering Sea spin ice into beautiful patterns.

  5. E-PUBLISHING: Let's Get Metaphysical

    To spur discussion and debate, physicists, mathematicians, and other researchers have long shared preprints of their work online. Philosophers of science can follow suit with the 2-year-old PhilSci Archive from the University of Pittsburgh. Add your own contribution or browse the nearly 500 papers already online. They grapple with ideas ranging from Darwin's arguments that morality evolved to the assertion that thought experiments undermine empiricism.

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