WEB SMARTS

http://plasma.nationalgeographic.com/mapmachine

WHAT: One of the most exhaustive and comprehensive map sites on the Web.

BEST POINTS: While the Internet is loaded with travel and point- to-point maps, this is the only site that lets you zero in on any region in the world and see a variety of maps with startling clarity and detail.

In addition to the usual kinds of maps (political and physical), you can also locate earthquake fault lines in cities and threats to the environment. Zoom in on cities and see how to navigate everything from European highways to the most remote parts of Africa. Other maps show habitat types, satellite imagery, and vegetation distribution. The site excels in its array of options. Maps can be customized, printed, and even e-mailed.

National Geographic's site also lets you browse such oddities as the last frontier forests and what the CIA fact book has to say about any country in the world.

What YOU NEED TO KNOW: Maps may take a long time to load, even with high-speed Internet connections. To find what you are looking for, you may have to click on a series of links and search persistently.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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