- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Twelve years ago, Eric Weisstein embarked on a mission to collect and disseminate mathematical and scientific information in a way that would be most accessible. He began work on a Microsoft Word document with his Macintosh Plus computer, carefully cross-referencing information in hopes that technology eventually would allow end users to manipulate and enjoy his growing encyclopedia. Enter the Internet explosion of 1995. Mr. Weisstein's massive resource of knowledge has been on the World Wide Web ever since.
Eric Weisstein's World of Science
Site address: scienceworld.wolfram.com
Creator: Eric Weisstein's World of Science is written and maintained by Mr. Weisstein, with contributions from the world Internet communities. Since December 1999, it has been hosted by Wolfram Research Inc. of Champaign, Ill., with additional support coming from the National Science Foundation.
Creator quotable: "I wrote the site as a scientific resource for students, educators, science enthusiasts and researchers. It is updated continuously with new content," Mr. Weisstein says. "I hope to provide explanations for science that are both clear and accessible. And the combination of advanced and extensive exposition of astronomy, chemistry, physics and mathematics with clear, understandable explanations, together with extensive feedback and contributions from Science World's many readers, makes it a unique resource for education and research."
Word from the Webwise: The World of Science offers referenced resources housing thousands of terms to try to clearly and concisely explain the mysteries of science.
Entry points into Mr. Weisstein's worlds physics, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics and biography all lead to simply laid out pages offering a list of subtopics to hone in on the various areas of knowledge, an alphabetical index and a way for contributors to add to the enormous databases.
In physics, for example, Mr. Weisstein breaks the discipline into astrophysics, electromagnetism, experimental physics, fluid mechanics, history and terminology, mechanics, modern physics, optics, states of matter, thermodynamics, dimensional analysis, and wave motion.
I clicked on astrophysics and was led to nine refined areas for investigation. Each of the nine displays the number of terms that will be defined in that area. Choosing cosmology led me to the 42 pieces of information that will be explained, including the Dicke Paradox, the Hoyle-Narlikar cosmological model and the Blandford-Znajek Process to critical density.
About the only entry in this area that didn't crush my brain with its intellectual weight was Big Bang. The fairly simple presentation explains Fred Hoyle's theory of the creation of the universe. In addition to a short list of books on the subject, word links abound that will take visitors to pages on determining the age of the universe, a biography of Mr. Hoyle and brief descriptions of cosmology and the Hubble law.
I must admit that most of the information Mr. Weisstein has compiled gave me a massive headache, and its dizzying array of primarily text-based entries always seem to come loaded with formulas and numerical computations.
My tip for the casual science buff would be to skip the hard-core studies and begin in the Biography section to explore quickly the lives of hundreds of scientists, including inventor Thomas Edison, astronomer Carl Sagan, the father of paleontology Georges Cuvier and radioactivity expert Marie Curie. Most biographies come with a photo and plenty of links to cause one to get lost enjoyably.
Ease of use: Thanks to multiple levels of cross-referenced entries, visitors will never get lost in a site that doesn't require plug-ins and only needs a fairly current browser to load.
Don't miss: Anyone exhausted by reading all of the polysyllabic words will enjoy the cool, manipulatable illustrations presented as LiveGraphics3D applets. Peppered throughout the Mathematics section are the likes of a rhombic dodecahedron or gyroelongated pentagonal cupola. The shapes have multicolored sides and can be viewed from various angles by holding down and moving the mouse cursor over the virtual masterpieces.
Elements on the horizon: Each section is updated about once a day, so visitors will find a variety of new content at almost any time.
Comprehension level: This site is strictly for the high school student in love with math and science, collegians in need of a quick reference before an exam, and anyone who understands the difference between an oscillating function and oscillating magnetic fields.
Overall grade: B+
Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.
Have a cool site for the science or technology fan? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).



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