Hi there, folks.
Today I’m going to plug a few websites that I really enjoy. Like anyone else, I surf the internet for research, for business, and sometimes for recreation. Even for a guy who spends a lot of time in worlds that don’t exist (either ones I’ve made up, or in ones other people have) I find myself at loose ends and wind up cruising the Web.
First a big shout out to my friends at the Tate Geological Museum at Casper College in (you guessed it) Casper, WY. The Museum is a fantastic place, one you must stop and see if you find yourself in central Wyoming. Even if you don’t, check them out at www.caspercollege.edu/tate. I’ve been spending a week every summer at the Tate since ’97, watching it grow from a dusty, mostly empty exhibit hall into one of the finest museums of its size in the US. If you run into its Education Coordinator, Mr. Russell Hawley, tell him Waterman sent you.
If you like science fiction webcomics, you’ll really like the adventures of Sergeant Schlock and Tagon’s Toughs as written and drawn by Howard Tayler, featured at www.schlockmercenary.com. While I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Tayler yet, he’s given me hundreds of hours of pure enjoyment. It’s also the longest-running webcomic (non-stop daily since June 2000!) It also has the distinction of having inspired author John Ringo’s Troy Rising series.
Randall Munroe has been writing xkcd for almost as long, appearing thrice weekly at www.xkcd.com. My wife actually turned me on to the sometimes sublime, sometimes zany and always enlightening webcomic by purchasing me a copy of What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, for my birthday a few years ago. What If? is a collection of humorous but incisive and well-researched essays based on the answers to questions his website’s readers write in to him. Mr. Munroe began his professional career as a computer programmer for NASA, but went on to write for, draw and research his webcomic full time, to our gain and NASA’s loss.
I don’t know anything about the people behind www.projectrho.com, other than many of them have technical expertise far and away beyond my own. If you are interested in hard-as-diamond science fiction and some of the technical stuff behind the classic stories from Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Niven and others more recent, Project Rho will prove an invaluable and entertaining resource. I certainly wish I’d found it a lot sooner than I had. Don’t worry; I went back and checked my math. Naturally I got everything right, but it would have gone a lot faster if I’d had the essays and formulae at Project Rho . . .
Last plug; Wolfram Alpha. This is less a website and more a powerful search and calculation engine, located at www.wolframalpha.com. It does mathematical calculations, data analysis, conversions and all that jazz; but also answers ‘natural language’ queries like ‘What was the GDP of Bolivia from 1970 through 2000?’ or ‘What was the oil production of Saudi Arabia in 1986?’ I haven’t been able to stump it yet. It’ll even answer the query, ‘What is the airspeed velocity of a laden swallow?’ Go ahead, check it out . . .
Everything I have talked about here is free to anyone who has a connection to the internet. Enjoy!