Science on the Internet: an introduction

This page was originally developed long long ago when the Internet was still new to many students. The idea was to give some examples of the range of science sites available. Most of our students are now familiar with the Internet, but some still find this survey useful or interesting. Explore!

The organization of this page is substantially as it was originally. I have updated the list of sites occasionally, mainly to replace dead listings. In addition to giving you a survey of some science sites, this page will give you a flavor of how we approached using the Internet in the early days.

There are many resources on the Internet with information on chemistry (and other sciences). The parts below will lead you to a few of them, and help you find more. The parts are independent. I suggest that you read this all through once before doing any computer work.

There are three main sections below:
Section 1 focuses on chemistry.
Section 2 is for general science interest.
Section 3 shows you how to find things for yourself.
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An early version of this page was used as a required assignment for some classes. In that context, for some sites below, there are requests for specific information; these are labeled "Report". Some may use these requests as a guide to getting started with these sites.

Your feedback on this page is welcomed. In particular, let me know if sites suggested here do not work.

Some sites listed here are also included on other pages at my site, either for specific courses, or on the page of Miscellaneous Resources. You can get to all of these pages from the List of pages of Internet resources.

Notes about the Internet:

Section 1. Chemistry

1. Go to the Biocatalysis/Biodegradation Database site (originally from the University of Minnesota, now at EAWAG):

Look up the pathway for degradation of 1,2-dichloroethane.

Report: What is made from chloroacetaldehyde (chloroethanal)? Give the name and structure of the product.

Other features at this site include:
* The Biochemical Periodic Table, with a delightful collection of information about the role of each chemical element in biology. Click on the link to the Biochemical Periodic Tables at the top of their main page. Look at how they classify the elements, and click on one to explore further. This page is also listed on my page Introductory Chemistry -- Internet resources in the section Periodic table.
* Microbial Biotechnology -- a nice list of "Useful Internet Resources". Click on Links at the left on their main page. This page is also listed on my page Internet resources: Biology - Miscellaneous in the section Microbiology: other.

What is EAWAG? From their page about the name (with slight adjustments of punctuation)... "The name 'Eawag' was originally a German acronym, standing for Eidgenössische Anstalt für Wasserversorgung, Abwasserreinigung und Gewässerschutz (Federal Institute of Water Supply, Wastewater Treatment and Water Pollution Control). This designation is still used in legal documents." Currently, the name is given in English as Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology.

2. A good periodic table is at
* The Web-elements site, from Mark Winter, University of Sheffield:

Choose an element (perhaps a "random" one? but better, one of some special interest to you). What do you learn about your chosen element?

Click on History. Look up when cobalt was discovered.

This PT site and many others are listed on my page Introductory Chemistry -- Internet resources in the section Periodic table.

3. Among the "newest" chemical elements are #113 & 115, announced in the Spring of 2004 by the lab in Dubna, Russia, in collaboration with Lawrence Livermore Lab. They made #115 by direct bombardment, and observed #113 among the decay products. The elements were actually made in July and August, 2003.

Here are two of the news stories for this announcement:
* Livermore Scientists Team With Russia To Discover Elements 113 and 115. Announcement from Lawrence Livermore, February 2, 2004.
* Transactinides: New superheavy elements created -- High-energy experiments produce a few atoms of elements 113 and 115. From C&EN, February 9, 2004; includes a link to the published article announcing the elements.

These sites are also listed on my page Introductory Chemistry -- Internet resources in the section Elements #113 and 115. Information about other new elements is also on that page.

4. Go to the Science & Arts Gateway for Education (SAGE) at Cornell University:

Go to the Chemistry section, and then to What's That Stuff?, a page from Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), from the American Chemical Society.

(A gateway is a site with links to many other sites. Caution... It is the nature of links that some break over time. Sites with collections of links, such as SAGE -- or my site, inevitably have some broken links. Explore anyway. And it is good to report broken links. To report bad links or other problems for my site, see the Contact link at the bottom of any page.)

5. Go to the Global Instructional Chemistry site at Imperial College in London, England:

Look for the Molecule of the Month, for February 1996. (Choose the H version, unless you have the special viewing program needed for the other versions.)

Report: What is the molecule of the month for 2/96? Give the name and structure, and tell something about it, from the site. (If you have a headache, you might want to visit it twice.)

(Some chemical structures at the Molecule of the Month site require the RasMol viewer. If you want RasMol for your own computer, you can download it by following the links. For more about using RasMol for viewing molecular structures, see my page RasMol - An Introductory Guide.)

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Section 2. General science

For each, report on a specific article or exhibit from the site, as appropriate. Identify the specific page, and tell something about what you learned from it.

6. Not Exactly Rocket Science -- and more from science writer Ed Yong.

Journalist Ed Yong excels at explaining science stories.

Numerous posts in my Musings newsletter refer to specific news stories by Ed Yong, many of them from his blog Not Exactly Rocket Science. Yong's work was hosted by various sites; some stories were at his independent site. (Some of the posts are now best available from the Internet Archive.) Here is a sampling...
* Snake venom gland organoids (March 17, 2020).
* What should a plant do if it hears bees coming? (December 10, 2019).
* Cats, fats, and Toxoplasma. And mice. (October 21, 2019).
* The effect of hurricanes on lizards (August 14, 2018).
* An eye that forms an image using a mirror (February 13, 2018).
* Is Bcbva anthrax a threat to wild populations of chimpanzees? (September 8, 2017).
* The Asgard superphylum: More progress toward understanding the origin of the eukaryotic cell (February 6, 2017).
* Is the warnowiid ocelloid really an eye? (October 12, 2015).
* Were dinosaurs cold-blooded or warm-blooded? (August 23, 2014).
* Bacteria on human teeth -- through the ages (March 24, 2013).
* Did you see what the sawfish sawed? (April 27, 2012).
* What is it? (March 8, 2011).
* Can the Staph solve the Staph problem? (July 12, 2010).
* Origin of gas warfare (September 11, 2009).

* A book by Yong is listed on my page Books: Suggestions for general science reading: Yong, I Contain Multitudes (2016).

7. Why Files.

The "Why Files" ceased new work in 2017. Their archive is available through the Wayback Machine: Why Files archive

The "Why Files" generally dealt with current events related to science, and are intended for a broad audience. There is also a Forum section for public dialog.

Some posts in my Musings newsletter refer to specific Why Files pages...
* Twenty percent of the females are genetic males (October 6, 2015).
* Small numbers to the left? Chickens may agree (February 17, 2015).
* How to climb a pile of sand (November 7, 2014).
* Should you give Librium -- an anti-anxiety drug -- to crayfish? (October 6, 2014).
* Quiz: What are they? (September 27, 2013).
* Pink corn or blue? How do the monkeys decide? (June 9, 2013).
* Using DNA for data storage (March 5, 2013).

8. Exploratorium.

Visit the world's finest science museum, famous for its informal and interactive exhibits. Several exhibits are online (mostly involving visual effects).

Better yet, why not just go over there in person?

A post in my Musings newsletter was about the Exploratorium and its founder... Frank Oppenheimer, on his 100th birthday: the Exploratorium (August 14, 2012).

9. The nano scale.

This is the STM Image Gallery at IBM in San Jose; now archived. (STM = scanning tunneling microscopy; STM is one variation of AFM = atomic force microscopy.) This site includes the IBM logo, written with xenon atoms, and the carbon monoxide man. I suggest that you start with the "Atomilism" section of the gallery. Caution... Linked sub-pages may load slowly; be patient.

The IBM logo image was featured in a post in my Musings newsletter: The 35 most famous xenon atoms (June 29, 2010).

For more, see the Atomic force microscopy and electron microscopy (AFM, EM) section of my page for Internet Resources for Introductory Chemistry. That section also lists other related Musings posts.

10. EurekAlert!.

Current research news -- science, medicine and technology. Companies and universities can post news releases here. (Maintained by AAAS.)

More news sources are listed in the section Science: News, Discussion forums, General of my page Internet resources: Miscellaneous page.

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Section 3. Searching the Internet

11. The Internet contains programs that will search the 'Net.

You may use your favorite search program here, or you may try one that I suggest.

A popular search engine is Google:

You might try searching on some common household chemicals or medicines. Try a couple of links.

Try to learn something from each site you visit.

Report: Search program and search terms used, exact site address, something interesting from the site.

[Searches can yield a very large number of hits. Searches on scientific topics can lead to scientific links, such as university labs. Some of these may be interesting, some may be too technical. Such searches also lead to nonscientific sites, including commercial sites -- of varying quality; use your judgment. If you find a link uninteresting, just go "back", and try another one.]

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Last update: February 6, 2024