Darwin. Mutation. Evolution. Poetry. Which word doesn't fit?
At Darwinian Poetry (www.codeasart.com/poetry/darwin.html), they all do. The goal of this new site is to create interesting poems by subjecting 1,000 randomly generated groups of words to a form of natural selection, killing off the ''bad'' ones and breeding the ''good'' ones with each other. Visitors are presented with two poems (admittedly, ''abysmal pieces of nonsensical garbage'') and must select between them. Eventually, some poems get dumped, and the better ones intermingle.
''I think it will take about 10 million votes to get something interesting,'' said the site's creator, David Rea of Greenwich, Conn. So far, nearly 55,000 votes have been cast and more than 5,200 poems killed.
Mr. Rea has tinkered quite a bit with the site's genetic algorithm. For example, he set a standard poem length of 25 words because voters were overwhelmingly choosing short poems over long in ''a bid for coherency,'' he said. Currently he is thinking of ways to protect ''distinct genes within a poenome'' (that is, good phrases) from being broken up during crossbreeding.
The Top 10 list of the most popular poems suggests a bit of Dada crossbred with William Blake. This was a recent leader:
of short beautiful
of snow sing learned flying when the
the thought and distance horses
I perhaps love.
On the site's bulletin boards there have been dismissive postings from ''literary types who feel threatened,'' Mr. Rea said. But in the end, the site may be less a debate about what makes a poem than a discourse on Darwin's theory.
Mr. Rea said his experience so far ''has made clear how little people understand evolution.''
Color My Web
What is the Web's favorite color? Right now, it's a sort of middling mauve.
The Web site favcol.com displays this evolving color as its background. It is gleaned from submissions (more than 2,200 so far) from visitors who send in photos of their favorite color by e-mail or camera phone. ''Everyone's colors are mixed together to get the favorite,'' said the project's founder, Matt Webb, an aptly named Web designer in London.
Colored bars representing the spectrum are displayed across the top of the page. The higher the bar, the more popular the hue. If you want to take part, send in bright close-ups, or you will dim your chosen color rather than emphasize it.
The site automatically displays the most recent photo submitted. This promise of exposure has inevitably led to a binge of baby photos, followed by the requisite ''filthy pictures,'' Mr. Webb said. As a result, pink may impede the seemingly inexorable shift toward consensus beige.
''People were also sending in photos of advertisements and messages for a while,'' he added. ''It's clear that what some people are getting out of the site has nothing to do with color.''
Accents Are Positive
''Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.''
This paragraph contains nearly every sound in English (''oy'' is an exception, which may upset New Yorkers). At the Speech Accent Archive (classweb.gmu.edu/accent) you can hear it spoken by more than 260 native and nonnative speakers of English and compare their accents, from Milwaukee to Zulu. The archive demonstrates the systematic nature of accents, according to Steven Weinberger, founder of the archive and an associate professor in the English department at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Most of the speech samples are collected by Professor Weinberger's research assistants, but submissions are welcome. The archive is used primarily by linguists, speech recognition engineers, English-language instructors and actors, Professor Weinberger said by phone from Jerusalem, where he had just recorded a ''very rare'' native Yiddish speaker's declamation on Stella and Bob. (Actors are the intended audience of the International Dialects of English Archive, a similar site run by the University of Kansas's theater and film department at www.ku.edu/idea/index2.html.)
Anyone who has tried to place someone's accent or made a social judgment based on an accent will find it interesting. Each speaker answered seven questions related to factors like place of birth, gender, and the English-learning method, and this data accompanies each sample. The most crucial predictor of an accent turns out to be the age at which someone learns English.
On the Radar
For a quick measurement of the distance between two places, try How Far Is It (www.indo.com/distance). Plug in your hometown and see how many miles it is (as the crow flies) to Jakarta or Athens. A federal government database (householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov) knows whether the stuff under your sink or in your garage is harmful to your health. More than 1,000 available idiomatic Web addresses are listed at www.marcfest.com/idiomaticdomains. Why not goalongfortheride.com?