How Stuff Works®
Ana Vicente Ferreira
I discovered HowStuffWorks® a few
weeks ago while searching the Internet for information on anesthetic gases.
This site was founded
by North Carolina State
University Professor Marshall Brain, and it is a valuable research resource
amidst the overwhelming amounts of information the net provides us with.
information on the site is divided into eleven categories: Computer Stuff,
Auto Stuff, Science Stuff, Electronics Stuff, Home Stuff, Health Stuff,
Entertainment Stuff, Money Stuff, Travel Stuff, People Stuff, and Shop for
Stuff. These categories are easy to access both through the tabs that always
show at the top of the page and through the links at the bottom of the index
page, where they appear split into subcategories.
On the site you can find
answers to the most varied questions from How do energy drinks work?
to How do bedbugs work?, and even If a child is born on an
airplane, what's his place of birth? It also has the added advantage
that, when you perform a search, the site provides you not only with results
from the articles in its database, but through an association with Google,
also results from other sites on the Web. Several search fields are spread
throughout the page layout. This saves you the trouble of having to scroll
up and down, or even go back to the index page, when you need to search for
another item. The only downside to the search system is if you perform a
search with multiple words you will get as a result all the pages found that
contain any of these words. There is no option for a Boolean search, and the
usual trick of putting the phrase you want to find in between quotation
marks doesn't seem to help either.
The article pages are
organized in quite a useful way, providing a clickable table of contents
that makes it easier to skip all the information you don't need.
Additionally, the table of contents offers access to a printable version
that includes both text and images, to comments made by readers on that
specific article, and to links to related content. The articles themselves
are very complete with several definitions being given in sidebars to
clarify the text, as well as links within the text to other items available
on the site. At the end of some articles you have a section called "Lots
More Information" with links to other useful pages and with information on
either the author of the article or the sources from which it has been
compiled, allowing you to verify the accuracy of what you just read.
On the index page, aside from
the already mentioned category links and search fields, there are also
highlights of articles that change daily. I have used this feature as a
writing prompt by reading the five articles of the day and trying to
incorporate at least one of the facts they refer to into a story. I've also
used both the "Fact of The Day" and the "Quote of Day" for the same effect,
though today's quote ("Travel, at its best, is a process of continually
conquering disbelief." - Michael Palin) seems a lot more creativity inducing
than today's fact (The diameter of the sun is 400 times greater than the
In short, this site can be
extremely useful in getting your details right. Knowing exactly what you're
looking for will certainly help you get a quick information fix, but I've
found that simply exploring HowStuffWorks with no specific purpose in mind
can also be quite rewarding. You should definitely give it a try.