Science  18 Mar 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5716, pp. 1701
  1. EDUCATION: Space Flight's Untold History

    The Soviet Soyuz 5 mission in 1969 wasn't one to boast about. The craft reentered Earth's atmosphere nose first and nearly burned up before righting itself. Cosmonaut Valentinovich Volynov then shattered his teeth during the rough, off-target landing. Little-known facts and behind-the-scenes stories like this one typify the Encyclopedia Astronautica, a massive space-flight compendium from enthusiast Mark Wade.

    Offering contributions by Wade and other writers, the encyclopedia can satisfy readers' hunger for, say, biographical details on the German rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth or maps of the Soviets' Baikonur Cosmodrome. Intriguing historical entries put a new spin on some familiar events. For example, in one article Wade summarizes the evidence that the race to the moon, which seemed like a runaway win for the Americans, was a squeaker. The Soviets planned secret launches into lunar orbit and onto the surface; only when both efforts failed at the last minute did they begin to deny they were competing. The site also covers recent space developments, such as the launch of the Delta IV Heavy in 2004, the first large-payload rocket the United States has introduced since the 1960s.

  2. RESOURCES: Life in the Colonies

    Known as the “moss animals,” bryozoans are tough to categorize. Some of the colony-forming creatures resemble fronds or shaggy shrubs, whereas others, such as the Australian species Triphyllozoon munitum, could pass for corals. Find out more at the site Recent and Fossil Bryozoa, hosted by paleontologist Philip Bock of Deakin University in Burwood, Australia. Fossil bryozoan skeletons can form whole limestone layers, and some modern species have become pests because they stick to ships' hulls or clog intake pipes. Visitors can brush up on bryozoan taxonomy or browse full-text versions of more than 30 classic publications. The site also offers the notebooks of bryozoologist extraordinaire Sidney Harmer (1862–1950), former head of natural history at the British Museum.

  3. TOOLS: A Human Gene Master List

    If you search several genome databases for information about a particular human gene, the results won't always match. That's because the various sites apply different criteria to pinpoint genes and often marshal different evidence to infer their functions. To straighten out these discrepancies, genome mavens have crafted a master catalog of nearly 15,000 of our genes that almost certainly code for proteins. The Consensus CoDing Sequence project involved organizations such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the European Bioinformatics Institute and entailed comparing the latest gene rosters compiled by researchers and by computers. Experts weeded out problem sequences such as pseudogenes, which lack a corresponding protein. Recent estimates suggest that humans might carry up to 10,000 more genes, but many of these didn't make the cut because of insufficient evidence.

  4. LINKS: Surfing the Rocks

    Somewhere on the Web lurks a list of accepted and rejected scientific names for dinosaurs and an introduction to soil liquefaction, which occurs when water-logged dirt loses its strength during an earthquake. You'll find these and more than 3000 other Web sites on earth sciences, geography, and related fields at Geo-Guide, a portal sponsored by two German universities. Geo-Guide is heavy on institutional sites, but it also includes plenty of databases, primers, and educational offerings for everyone from the general public to professionals.

  5. DATABASE: Microbial Get-Together

    This new clearinghouse from the U.S. Department of Energy can help researchers analyze the deluge of DNA data on microorganisms. Integrated Microbial Genomes stashes nearly 300 draft or completed genome sequences from archaea, bacteria, and other bugs, along with tools for sifting through the data. Visitors can get acquainted with all 2526 protein-coding genes carried by the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus, for example. Besides basic information about the gene, its protein, and its function, you can summon diagrams illustrating which biochemical pathways the gene influences. Browsing tools make it easy to pinpoint similar genes in different organisms and compare them side by side.

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