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Can online translators really do the job?

© iStockphoto.com/Andrew Wood

That's what Alex Tullo was wondering, so he let Babelfish and Google take a swing at a press release, in Portuguese, from the Brazilian chemical company Braskem. He posted the results on C&EN's Central Science, along with the company's own English translation. The results? Not good news for either service. "Babelfish and Google both make a mess of the first paragraph," Tullo writes. "Braskem’s translation wins hands down."

A motherlode of health care resources

Twelve chapters in this online text from the Alliance for Health Reform cover topics from Medicare and long-term care to public health and private insurance. Each chapter has tips for reporters, lists of experts with phone numbers, and relevant statistics such as this one on the going rate for individual health insurance: "The average annual premium for individually-purchased single coverage in 2009 was $1,350 for those under age 18 vs. $5,755 for those age 60 to 64."

Tools for searching biomedical reports

© iStockphoto.com/Alex Slobodkin

Zhiyong Lu reviews 28 online search tools for PubMed, the database that now contains more than 20 million citations and can overwhelm users with too many results. "Over one-third of PubMed queries result in 100 or more citations," the author says. The article has a companion web form that allows users to find tools with special features, such as relevance ranking of results.

Tips for improving web searches

Don't just type a bunch of search terms into Google and leave it at that. Use special operators like "site:" to zero in on exactly what you need, says this guide from 10,000 words. "Using a few carefully crafted phrases and punctuation marks can mean the difference between 10,000,000 hits that are hit-or-miss and 100 hits that are tailored to your actual need." With links to guides for Google and Bing.

A cure for the content farm plague?

Google isn't saying that its latest new feature is aimed at operations like Demand Media and Associated Content, but it certainly could be. The search giant has begun giving users a way to permanently block certain sites from appearing in their search results. It requires a Google account and is already available for the Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome browsers, with more planned.

Another good source for Japan-related news

Science magazine's Science Insider page contains news stories about the triple calamities as well as a section that answers reader questions, such as "Why Are Spent Rods So Deadly?" and "Are Underground Tsunami Shelters a Good Idea?"

Asking the right questions about risk

David Ropeik built a career in television news reporting on various threats, toxicological and otherwise. "Then I left TV news and joined the Harvard School of Public Health, and discovered a lot of details about risk that would have made me a better reporter had I known about them back when I was reporting." He used what he learned to prepare this risk primer in CJR's The Observatory.