If Nasa has managed to establish contact, data from the surface of the Red Planet should be available at this official site, with photographs of the Martian south pole, instrument readings, and, it is hoped, traces of those elusive life soup ingredients. The Planetary Society (http://www.planetary. org/) has sponsored a special Mars microphone aboard the craft, and some Martian sound clips could also be online at its own site. Should things not quite pan out - the last mission, in September, was a flop - there are other diversions here, including a "Marsinator" that simulates the effect of the thin, carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars on the voices of Buzz Aldrin and others. Nasa, meanwhile, offers the chance to pilot your own Java-powered craft.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/ pages/frontline/shows/ apocalypse/
From the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586BC to present-day cults and prophets, the theory and imagery of "apocalypticism" is explained at this page, based around a US Public Broadcasting Service special. Serious and informative stuff, with contributions from historians and Bible scholars, but also an Antichrist quiz in which visitors are asked to choose from a range of possible candidates for the post, including Yasser Arafat, JFK, Pope John Paul II and Bob Dylan (all except Dylan qualify). Meanwhile, a Pentecostal preacher in Nebraska is shipping a specially bred herd of Red Angus cattle to Israel to facilitate the rebuilding of the Temple - his rationale, and many others, are elucidated here. More tongue-in- cheek eschatology at Apocalypse Pretty Soon: http:// apocalypseprettysoon.com/
A UK-based trio put together this extremely silly site, offering twice- weekly illustrated tales "in the cliffhanger tradition" and featuring Swiss killer gnomes on stilts, surveillance pigeons and International Moustache Wrestling. Apart from the occasional sound clip it is disarmingly old-fashioned in approach, but the line drawings and text have definite cheering-up potential. There's also a special section just for bears: "For too long, the needs of ursine Web users have been ignored."
This site begins with a map of North America, with the pink bit at the top slowly extending downwards to the Rio Grande or thereabouts. The Canadian Association for the Peaceful Takeover of the US, as if in riposte to the invasion fantasies of the South Park crew, argues that Canada should become the dominant party in a new superstate. One supporting argument is all the extra space available up north, even though much of it is "frozen wasteland fit only for polar bears and the heartiest of Inuit". In addition, "unlike Americans, Canadians are Loved by everyone from Albania to Zimbabwe." The site comes complete with testimonials from the Queen and Bill Clinton, and news that thousands of Mexicans have already joined up.
Send interesting, quirky or, at a pinch, cool site recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Vickers' New Media column returns next week