- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

PBS’ award-winning, three-decade-old science documentary series, “Nova,” has debuted an ancillary newsmagazine program, “ScienceNow,” which enables correspondents and veteran reporter Robert Krulwich to cover the latest developments and personalities in science and technology five times a year.

Of course, a complementary Web site exists that in many ways overshadows the program by presenting an even denser look at some fascinating topics.

Nova ScienceNow

Site address: www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow

Creator: WGBH, the 50-year-old Boston public broadcasting outlet, developed and maintains the site.

Creator quotable: “We created this site to be an informative, engaging, interactive destination on cutting-edge science as well as a companion to the broadcast series ‘Nova ScienceNow.’ By updating the site weekly with fresh content on upcoming stories, the site provides a continuous presence for ‘Nova ScienceNow’ and a community for people interested in the world of science,” says Lauren Aguirre, the Web site’s executive editor.

Word from the Webwise: Although visitors will find content from just the first two “Nova ScienceNow” broadcasts, the site nevertheless contains more than enough thought-provoking features to engage the brain.

It breaks down the latest programs into their topic segments. The segments are turned into multimedia modules where science seekers can view clips of the entire show and then find online fare such as quizzes, articles, more video clips, sound clips and interactives.

My favorite module explores the life of Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist James McLurkin and his groundbreaking work on miniature robots. By watching his 10-minute segment, visitors learn about his research, his incredibly painstaking attention to detail and his mission to maximize the efficiency of his life. Hopeless science nerds also may be inspired to know that the self-professed geek has an attractive girlfriend.

After watching the segment, visitors will find a pop-up box offering seven text responses to questions posed to Mr. McLurkin and a photo-filled timeline of his world, highlighting pivotal moments such as when he received his first Lego set and when he built the world’s smallest robot, Goliath.

Other modules include a look at brain activity as neuroscientist Daniel Glaser discusses his latest research on how the brain responds to movement; the work being done to discover why sand burps, croaks and booms; and how experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined that an average hurricane’s power is equivalent to 200 times the worlds’ electricity-generating capacity.

Ease of use: Visitors will need the current version of Macromedia’s Flash plug-in and either QuickTime, Real-Player or Windows Media Player to watch the videos. Recommended browsers include Internet Explorer 6, Netscape 7.x and Firefox for Windows 98 or later systems and Safari 1.2.x, Netscape 7.x, Internet Explorer 5.2.x or Firefox for Macintosh (OS 10) computers.

Don’t miss: I am not sure why this fascinates me, but the module on Mr. McLurkin gives visitors a chance to see what he carries in his backpack. A multimedia presentation features items that are identified when the cursor passes over them. The 37 items, weighing a total of 12 pounds, include Taco Bell napkins (to clean motor oil off hands), a daily document folder, a 6-foot tape measure and Chapstick.

Elements on the horizon: The modules featured on the home page will be updated regularly with reports from the production team on stories team members are investigating as well as occasional guest dispatches from experts. Also, an Ask the Expert area will be added in the spring, in which visitors to the site will be invited to ask questions related to any topic covered in the broadcasts.

Comprehension level: According to Miss Aguirre, visitors in middle school and older will most appreciate the content.

Overall grade: A

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, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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