Science  02 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5654, pp. 21

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  1. EDUCATION: The Prodigal Sun

    The sun has misbehaved lately. Twice last fall, massive solar flares pelted Earth with charged particles, befuddling satellites and sparking gaudy auroras as far south as Texas. To find out more about what triggers these outbursts and how the sun works, check out this primer from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Plunge into the sun's core, where at 15 million kelvin, hydrogen atoms fuse to form helium. Or cruise through the sun's roiling outer layers, such as the photosphere, the visible “surface” that's often freckled with sunspots. Flares such as the mammoth one photographed on 4 November of last year erupt when the magnetic field around a sunspot gets contorted.

  2. RESOURCES: No More Paper Chase

    Aimed at streamlining the grants process, is a new central listing of available awards from all 26 federal agencies that dole out money for research and other programs. The site will eventually allow you to download an application and submit the completed package online, using free software. So far, five agencies have posted applications for selected grants, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Energy.

  3. EDUCATION: Through the e-Microscope

    Few high school or college students get the chance to use an electron microscope, but they can operate a virtual one at this site from the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands. The simulator mimics controls on a field-emission scanning electron microscope, allowing users to zoom in on flea's stabbing mouthparts, for example, and probe the anatomy of a leaf's surface.

    The microscope activities anchor chapters that explore the plumbing system of plants, flower development, the structure and growth of hair, and other topics. These images of a cutaway leaf show a chain of chloroplasts and a close-up of one light-gathering organelle. Teachers will find a gallery crammed with more than 500 photos, animations, and video clips—from cross sections of a rat's intestine to footage of a fish louse munching a carp's skin.

  4. IMAGES: On Top of the World

    Seen from above the North Pole, Earth seems to have male pattern baldness, with a barren pate fringed by vegetation. Now researchers have compiled the first detailed map showing which hardy plants inhabit the far north. The Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map, available at this site from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, describes 400 plant communities covering 7.1 million square kilometers. Eleven years in the making, the chart will provide a baseline for a region that is changing rapidly due to shifting climate and accelerating development. Scientists from six nations layered data from existing maps and field surveys onto infrared satellite imagery. Link to the related Circumpolar Arctic Geobotanical Atlas for more maps that depict soil pH, plant biomass, and other data.

  5. NET NEWS: Popular Biology Portal to Close

    One of the first experiments in building an online biomedical community is shutting down. BioMedNet, run by Elsevier Ltd., served as a gateway to Elsevier journals and also offered free research news, databases, and job listings. Over 1 million visitors registered to use the site, which publisher Vitek Tracz started in 1996; he sold it to Elsevier 6 years ago. But apparently it got too expensive: The company's “business models” for making the portal “self-sustaining” had “limited success,” according to an Elsevier statement. Last year, Elsevier closed BioMedNet's free online magazine, HMS Beagle, which included book reviews, essays, and fiction.

    Elsevier is also shuttering ChemWeb, a similar site aimed at chemists, as well as ElsevierEngineering. The closures “perhaps indicate users want to go straight to the source” for scientific articles, suggests Mary Waltham, a publishing consultant in Princeton, New Jersey. Another factor may be Elsevier's financial troubles as it battles pressure from institutions to lower subscription costs.