From robotics to space research, from physics to computer science, the Internet is a vast trove of information about the sciences. Resources such as Wikipedia (and its easy-on-younger-minds counterpart, Simple English Wikipedia) and online video make the process of learning about and teaching science subjects much easier than ever before.
Rather than resorting to yet another 600-page textbook, next time you’re hard up for understanding or inspiration, check out one of these six websites that offer information on the sciences. And particularly if you’re a scientist or educator yourself, let us know in the comments where you hang out online to learn about and discuss your favorite science topics.
If genetics and evolution are of interest to you, Scitable is a must-see resource. This free (paid for by sponsorships from brands) science library acts as a classroom resource as well as a personal learning tool. The site comes from Nature Publishing Group, a reputable publisher of science-related materials. Users can pursue topics in learning paths or build online classrooms of their own. The site has an “ask the expert” feature that is staffed by four internal PhDs who help students answer series of questions with a turnaround time of less than 48 hours. Most importantly, the articles and information on this site are peer-reviewed for journal-level quality.
Cool Fact: “Genetic drift describes random fluctuations in allele frequencies in populations, which can eventually cause a population of organisms to be genetically distinct from its original population and result in the formation of a new species.”
Must-See Page: Student Voices, a blog about science by students, for students.
2. iTunes U
More than 600 universities — including Stanford, Yale and MIT — distribute lectures, slideshows, PDFs, films, exhibit tours and audiobooks through the iTunes Store. The U also includes content from public broadcasting outlets and public libraries. For educators, iTunes U can be useful for the distribution of syllabi, notes, schedules and other important documents. The Science section contains multimedia content on topics including agriculture, astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, ecology and geography. Beware: iTunes U just might be the most education time sink since Wikipedia.
Cool Fact: “This immense machine will recreate, on a tiny scale, conditions that existed just after the Big Bang. It is hoped that the Large Hadron Collider will provide a glimpse of the theoretical Higgs boson and explain the origin of mass.”
Must-See Page: A series of lectures on entomology, the study of insects, from Texas A M.
If the firmament is your thing, look no further than Space.com. This site is a massive repository of information on the heavenly bodies, including space flight missions and space-related technologies. Multimedia features let users watch videos of solar eruptions or view galleries of photographs of Saturn’s rings. A team of space news veterans also present the weekly video series, “This Week in Space.”
Cool Fact: “Future satellites could deploy solar sails to help take down pieces of space junk floating around Earth and a tiny new spacecraft hopes to make it possible.”
Must-See Page: For the stargazers, a calendar of celestial events that will take place in 2010.
4. Scientific American
With subtopics in the categories of basic science, space, medicine, energy, evolution and more, Scientific American’s website is one of the most thorough resources available online for learning and teaching science. The site also hosts a bevy of blogs and 60-second podcasts — perfect supplements to the well-rounded roster of news articles and in-depth features offered. And of course, an important aspect of the site is its link to and content from Scientific American magazine.
Cool Fact: “Feathers developed differently in dinosaurs’ life cycles than in those of modern birds. A rare fossil find of two young feathered theropods has revealed that these animals sprouted a much wider range of plumage as they matured than contemporary birds do.”
Must-See Page: Expeditions, field notes from the far edges of exploration.
Physics is a topic of fascination for many curious minds, young and old. This site, a product of the American Physical Society, offers features that help researchers communicate their passion for physics to students of all ages. PhysicsCentral offers a hub of information, from how physics makes the world around us “work” to how physics applies to current events, with a decidedly kid-friendly bent.
Cool Fact: “A free-floating ball of plasma (electrically charged gas) is created when electricity is discharged into a solution.”
Must-See Page: Physics in Pictures features exciting illustrations of nature’s infinite variety and humankind’s ingenuity.
6. Learn About Robots
This resource is more 1.0 than the rest of the community-oriented, feature-rich sites we’re exploring today, but we can’t resist a site that’s all about robots. Most robotics sites cater to postgraduate academics or hobbyists and professionals in the field of robotics. For the casual and curious learner, this site is a great starting point. It features a not-so-frequently updated but still fascinating blog as well as encyclopedic information given in formats that are simple to digest and understand. The site houses sections on undersea and airborne robots, on nuclear and military robots, on space robots, and on the basics of how robots work and who builds them. In short, if you want to know more about a particular area of robotics, Learn About Robots is a good jumping-off point to explore the web for more information.
Cool Fact: “The folks working on the first atomic bombs pretty much defined telerobotics in this country. They had no other way of working with the radioactive materials.”
Must-See Page: Jobs in Robotics , a fascinating read for the young and ambitious. or unemployed and curious.