The real beauty of the Internet to a knowledge junkie like myself is that it is a seemingly endless resource of information available at all times, for any question that might come up about literally anything. That is why I often find myself searching the Web for dictionaries or encyclopedias or any old site that can feed some bit of my obsession for obscure knowledge. And since I have a particular fondness to "things scientific," I took advantage of the opportunity as this week's Das Bot writer to spend the better part of a whole day at work surfing the net in search of sites dedicated to what can be broadly termed Science. Yeah! There's nothing like putting an info junkie like myself behind a T-1 line with the sole purpose of surfing for all things cool.
Keep in mind that I do sit behind a great internet access line so I am no longer content with simply reading about various subjects. Nowadays I hope for -nay- I demand an exciting multimedia adventure with every click! Having said that, I am still interested in the content; I still want the "beef," as They say, I just want said beef to be interactive.
Which is why I was happy when I stumbled upon WebElements, on online Periodic Table of Elements. This may not sound exciting to you, but for Web science geeks, to find an online table where each element is set up as a link to individual pages filled with information on that element's history, discovery, atomic structure, etc., well, it's clearly scientific nirvana. Add to that images of every element and, perhaps the most relevant scientific information one needs, QuickTime movies of chemical explosions, and you have a receipe for online beauty <g>.
This site doesn't overlook geeks on the go - you can download a Palm version of the site to your handheld. Very useful for the next time you happen to be riding public transit and are forced to become audience to some drugged out conspiracy theorist rambling on about the infinite energy supplied by element 115, which was "used to power the alien space crafts concealed at Area 51." Now, you can look right on your PalmPilot and see where on the periodic table of elements it would be located if it actually existed. And who doesn't need that kind of information at their fingertips?
In addition to lots 'o' good content, WebElements is also very concise and easy to navigate. In a similar vein, so to speak, I enjoyed discovering The Visible Human Project. This site boasts thousands of "anatomically detailed, three-dimensional representations of the normal male and female human bodies." Again, it is not only chock full of enough information to keep my left brain occupied for hours on end, but it also is presented in such a manner that my right brain doesn't get bored during my exploratory endeavors. Links to the various imaging projects are easily located. Be forewarned though, a good number of these projects require the download of specific viewers to preview the images. A link to 3D Virtual Colonoscopy is supplied where one gets do a bit of biological spelunking inside of a human colon (don't read too deeply into that - it was an accidental find).
This brings me to the last of my three favorite discoveries during my most surf-heavy day of work to date. A site devoted to the exploration of the The Cave of Lascaux in France. This site may be lacking the latest and greatest technology, but the presentation is crisp and subtle. Entering the site, your mouse suddenly becomes a "flashlight" shining on one of the cave's painted walls. A virtual tour of the caves is presented and a site map is always nearby to keep one from getting too lost in the dark.
By way of conclusion, and at risk of over-emphasizing my point, the three sites mentioned above all supplied interesting content that took advantage of Web technology in a way that books just can't. And that, for an information hound like myself, is what I am really looking for in a Web site. Content tied to relevant content, tied to even more relevant content. Whatever the subject matter, the success of a Web site is tied to it's ability to exploit the medium.
Randall Lusson is a psuedo-psuedo-science geek who loves nothing more than sitting in his cube screaming King Crimson and Bill Laswell tunes all day long while surfing the Web.