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Indy Lifestyle Online
"With 12 main sections and more than 40 sub-sections, the variety of information and entertainment on our site can be more than a little daunting. Here is an overview of what we offer at a glance." Wow! A magazine Web site run by someone who has thought about the needs of a new reader. The site is New Scientist: Planet Science ( - although in fact most other science magazine sites I've found also take the same elementary precaution of explaining their structure. Non-scientists please copy. Planet Science is the natural starting point for a UK-based exploration of the science scene. There is lots of interesting stuff here, including samples from the current edition of New Scientist; a Grand Tours section with descriptions of British science-related sights (and links to their sites); and Strange Ways, where you can pose questions and maybe get them answered (eg, Why are most eggs egg-shaped? Do hiccups serve any useful purpose? No known one.) As I'm sure real scientists are already aware, the site also contains a jobs vacant database.

There are good links. From a news item on the suspension of American work on charting the Gulf Stream, for example, you can dodge out to the German Climate Computing Centre to read (in English) a concise summary of the scale and importance of the phenomenon. Another link takes you to an exercise for students (meaning schoolkids, I guess) to chart the flow of the Gulf Stream yourself, using drift-buoy location data published monthly through the page. Neat. Hot Spots is the Planet Science structured links section.

Curiously, there are no links to the two other magazine sites I've found most rewarding to explore. Maybe the guys at Planet Science are worried about losing readers. Maybe they rate Nature (, "the world's most cited science journal", as a rather dusty, academic affair. Certainly, there's a lot of meat in its site, but there's also plenty for the non-specialist. Articles in recent issues are summarised, and Nature Science Update consists of research overviews for a general audience. Here, you'll find possible answers to the question, Why do birds fly south? and a summary of the alarming emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Nature Past offers a small selection of notable pieces from the archives, including Charles Darwin's last contribution (6 April 1882) and his obituary (27 April 1882).

Maybe they ignore the less academic Scientific American site ( because it's dogged by slow access during the American daytime and uses large graphics to boot. But it's worth persisting to get to this stimulating mix of extracts from the current issue and thoroughly constructed background features. In the Explorations section, for example, I jumped on a piece reviewing the evidence about melatonin, the hormone popped by all cool transatlantic travellers to promote sleep en route, but also credited with various other miraculous properties. You get a clear exposition, with lots of good links - including one to a page with more than 5,000 further relevant links! Sleep seems assuredn

Chris Gill