Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Browsing for truth

The truth may be out there, but sometimes you don’t know in advance what you’re looking for. One of my favorite places to find fascinating cutting-edge information is Science magazine. Recent articles describe how an archive of spy satellite photos is giving scientists more detailed data about Arctic ice; how plant “phenomics” may accelerate plant breeding; and the use of gravity to more accurately survey coastlines (July 24, 2009 issue.) The AAAS* website has a lot to offer as well, with reports about disease prevention efforts, neuroscience issues that affect the judicial system, and how early humans treated stones with fire to make better tools. The special section for kid-friendly science news has articles such as How the turtle got its shell, and DNA does yoga (creating new DNA shapes for use in nanotechnology.)
*The American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Most people are aware of the online New York Times (free registration required) but what I find extremely handy is the email subscriptions you can choose from with headlines on the arts, books, health, technology, and much more. It’s easy for me to get buried in my work cocoon, so these missives are an easy way to stay in touch with new information that might be worked into an existing project or possibly inspire a new book.

Like most of us, I’ve accumulated bookmarks galore in my web brower, but how often do I actually return to a site? RSS feed readers have been around for a long time, but it took me a while to realize you can create your own custom “research assistant” based upon your interests. Many mail programs have an RSS subscription feature built in, or you can use Google Reader or one of many others that are available. So, let’s say you have an interest in archeology or diversity issues or music…as you rummage around on the Internet there are many blogs and sites on virtually any topic. Those with RSS feeds can be added to your reader, then you don’t have to go visit the actual site again; updated content is delivered to you instead. (One caveat: as usual with online info, you have to be careful about the accuracy of some sites!) I have built my own arts and crafts “magazine” using this technique by subscribing to the blogs of artists from all over the world... fun stuff!

What are your favorite ways to browse for the truth?


Linda Zajac said...

Thanks for the Google Reader info. I'll check it out. I do use Google alerts though. And I love your colorful signature!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Linda! I just got my new computer up and running with Adobe CS4, so the new sig was a fun little project. I'm thinking about changing it for various occasions... we‘ll see whether that ever happens.

Using a reader is a must, now that practically everyone has a blog(!)