NIST Virtual Museum

The National Institute of Standards and Technology keeps an archive of its online exhibitions in its virtual museum (the Institute has a real museum as well, but you needn't move more than your mouse finger to catch these art shows). Check out an exhibit on The Standardization of Women's Clothing, wherein you'll get a short history of ready-to-wear and learn how NIST (then the National Bureau of Standards) played a role in women's vanity by instating--and then withdrawing--commercial standards for clothing sizes. Also of note, an exhibit on Marie Curie and radium standards, and one on the use of magnetic disks for recording music.

The Biotech Adventure

In the guise of an animated video game, The Biotech Adventure teaches all levels of biology, from What Is a Cell? to dideoxy DNA sequencing. The characters that accompany visitors on the journey are hilarious and diverting, each with elaborately carved personalities and idiosyncrasies that make the absorption of hi-tech info fun instead of mind-numbing. Live-action movies elucidate concepts such as cloning, vaccination and forensics. Highest praise to the biotechnologists at Oklahoma State University for making learning this addictive and fun. Note: Site works best with Shockwave and Internet Explorer.


How Stuff Works is exactly what it bills itself to be: your single destination for the answer to how pretty much everything operates--and that means car engines, lock-picking, guide dogs, stun guns, atoms, hardwood floorsget it? If you're feeling a little giddy with the possibilities awaiting you, no need to read any further--just click and go. You won't be able to digest all the secrets in one sitting, so be prepared to devote the rest of your life to absorbing all the behind-the-scenes-of-your-existence intelligence here. Step-by-step, easily comprehended explanations replete with photos and diagrams add to the thrill of discovery.

IEEE Virtual Museum

Far more exciting than it sounds, the Museum of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is a beautifully designed Web site featuring a cornucopia of exhibits encompassing topics as wide-ranging as microelectronics, women and technology, and microwaves. You'll need Flash and Quicktime to view all the extras buried in these online presentations. The IEEE truly does socket to you by suggesting that without their work, you'd be living in a world not only without TV, telephones, computers, x-rays and the like, but, when you get right down to it, pretty much every modern convenience you can think of. Start digging--you'll be just as grateful as the Institute expects you to be!

The Official Rube Goldberg Web Site

Celebrated here: Reuben Lucius Goldberg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and engineer best known for his whimsical and complex comics portraying man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results. Goldberg's comics portray hilariously complicated processes employed to accomplish simple tasks. The site features a gallery of Goldberg's work and information about the annual Machine Contest in his name, which invites college teams to create machines to do quick jobs, such as adhering stamps to letters or putting paste on a toothbrush, in no fewer than twenty steps. 2004's challenge invited students to select, mark and cast an election ballot by as complicated a means as possible. Goldberg died in 1970, but he might have had a laugh at how often his playful theory rears its head in real life.


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