Click on the stone tablet for an interactive guide to life in the Nile Delta two or three thousand years ago, courtesy of this new venture from the British Museum's education department. Mummification, pyramids, temples, gods and goddesses, and other topics are given a child-friendly, hands- on treatment: users can play a Shockwave version of Sennet, an ancient Egyptian stick throwing game, or explore the detail in wall paintings from a Theban tomb. The more intrepid can take an animated trip through the underworld, after selecting crucial spells from the Book of the Dead to protect themselves from crocodiles and snakes - best avoided by turning into a swallow and flying over their heads. Elsewhere, the Rosetta Stone is on display, and kids can have a go at deciphering hieroglyphs.
More decoding here, at what some may consider the ultimate spoilsport site. Instead of pondering for hours over those cryptic clues, crossword fiends can simply call up this online solution. Enter a clue phrase, and the length of the required answer, and this variation on a meta-search engine will comb the web, as well as its own database of 9,000 puzzles and 750,000 clues, for a result. The creators, at Duke University in the US, claim a success rate on a par with good human solvers. The site is a simplified web version of a bigger research project called, catchily, The Probabilistic Cruciverbalist.
The Search for Intelligent Monkeys on the Internet (SIMI)
This simian SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrials Intelligence) send-up claims to interpret not extra-terrestrial signals, but the creative writing output of a team of monkeys. The idea is to test the old saying that 100 chimps and 100 typewriters, with a century or so to spare, will eventually result in a Shakespearean sonnet. Unlike the SETI@home project, special software is not necessary to scrutinise the texts for signs of literary leanings. Output so far is less than Bardic: "mongo like banana. mongo mongo. mongo like type banana."
Western Outlaw-Lawman History Association
Textual and historical thrills at this site devoted to picking at the minutiae of Western myth. What tends to emerge can be a little specialised, such as the musings of an outlaw symposium in Argentina over whether Butch and Sundance did or did not commit a particular 1905 hold-up. Links for less intellectual gunslingers include The Gunfighter Zone with ads for holsters and leatherwork.
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