Study Smart With These Sites

Times Staff Writer

In 2001 and 2003, I compiled back-to-school lists of useful websites. Given how fast things change on the Internet, now seems a good time to update the list.

Although the Web evolves at a blistering pace, several of those sites from four years ago are still active. It’s an encouraging sign that the initial purpose of the Internet -- sharing information, as opposed to selling stuff -- has not been totally abandoned.

Some of these enduring sites have greatly expanded. Project Gutenberg, which in 2001 held 4,000 books, now has more than 16,000. And the amazing little Verbix site that automatically conjugated verbs in 50 languages is now up to 142, including several that are extinct.

But another change is a sign of the times: Several of these sites, in addition to their wonderful free content, are also chock-full of ads for paid services.


Others have no ads but practically beg for contributions to help keep them alive. And some remain purely works of love, created and maintained usually by one person, sometimes for more than a decade.

“Back to school” often means buying tech equipment, some of which is dauntingly expensive. But as long as you have a way to access the Internet, you can use these sites in the true spirit of the Internet, whether they were established by a corporation, a nonprofit group or a lone, lovable geek.

Just remember to visit the bricks-and-mortar library, at least occasionally. It’s a nice way to meet guys or girls.

Start Here

Advertisement -- The most valuable online research tool is a great search engine, and Google is the best. -- Yahoo has a relatively new Web search engine in addition to its well-known directories, and it’s a fine alternative to Google. -- Ask questions in plain language. -- The University of Michigan’s Internet Public Library provides links in a large number of academic fields.

Advertisement -- Guide to the inner workings of the mundane (pencil, soap) and complex (Internet, brain).

Anatomy -- Full text and pictures of the classic, Gray’s “Anatomy of the Human Body.” -- A more modern, detailed look at our inner selves from the University of Iowa.


Archeology -- Arizona State University’s ample list of links to museums, sites and resources worldwide. -- Provides links by region.

Art History

Advertisement -- The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s timeline of art history, from the Mal’ta culture of Asia in 21,000 BC to the present. -- Extensive links to art periods, artists and museums compiled by a professor at Sweet Briar College. -- Guide to online images of works by hundreds of prominent artists.


Advertisement -- Free monthly sky maps available from a commercial map seller. -- Educational site divided into elementary, intermediate and high school sections.

Biology -- University of Arizona site, geared mostly to high schoolers.

Advertisement -- Links to topics in modern biology, maintained by Minnesota State University-Moorhead.

Census -- Official U.S. population information, by ZIP Code, from the U.S. Census Bureau.


Advertisement -- Of the many periodic tables of elements on the Web, this one’s particularly well designed; it started out as an 8th-grader’s science project in 1996. -- A directory of chemistry links that’s been on the Web since 1993, from England’s University of Sheffield.

Conversions -- Converts distance, area, weight, speed, temperature and other measurements to or from metric. It even does apples to oranges -- click on the “Fruit” link.

Advertisement -- Another very extensive conversion site. -- Converts more than 180 currencies.

Geography -- Amid a jumble of ads on the commercial search site, a solid selection of country maps.

Advertisement -- Comprehensive map site for advanced users, maintained by the mapping software company ESRI Inc. of Redlands.

Languages -- Nice selection of free translation engines. -- Conjugates verbs in 142 languages, including some that are extinct.


Literature -- Spectacular collection of 16,000 public-domain books, including all of Shakespeare, “Moby-Dick,” “Aesop’s Fables” and numerous religious texts. -- Mostly a commercial site, but also has hundreds of free study guides to classic literature and drama. -- World literature links from UC Santa Barbara.

Advertisement -- Literary sites organized by era and genre by a professor at Rutgers University.

Math -- Several types of practice problems and the chance to e-mail an expert for help. -- Algebra practice problems.

Advertisement -- Remember flashcards? Here’s an online version. -- Thousands of different types of online calculators for when you need to figure a date on the Aztec calendar or just add two plus two.

Music -- Links to information on music eras and genres, composers and performers, from Indiana University.

Advertisement -- Interactive lessons in music theory from Murray State University in Kentucky.

Philosophy -- The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has more than 1,000 names and concepts, most of which are linked to essays. -- Links organized according to philosophers and topics.


Physics -- American Physical Society site provides links and news. -- Interactive University of Colorado at Boulder site demonstrates physics principles behind microwave ovens, X-rays and so on.

Political Science

Advertisement -- Library of Congress site has updates on pending legislation and the daily Congressional Record. -- Links to government websites worldwide.

Psychology -- Princeton University links to topic areas, history.

Advertisement -- Links to publications and resources.

Reference -- Enter a word and get back dictionary definitions from several sources. -- Brief entries from the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Advertisement -- Almanac of statistics and information on politics, business, sports, weather and entertainment.

World Facts -- The CIA’s public compendium of information on countries worldwide, including population, government, geography, agriculture, health systems, languages and broadcast stations.



David Colker can be reached by e-mail at Previous columns can be found at latimes .com/technopolis.