Back in the bad old days, when we had to walk barefoot to work uphill both ways in the snow, science could be hard to access. If you lived in a city, you might have been lucky enough to have science museums and planetariums to visit, and a large library that carried a good selection of the latest books and journals. Smaller towns weren't so lucky. To get cutting-edge science news, you had to subscribe to expensive journals, buy expensive books that were out-of-date within a couple of years, and hope like hell that your teevee stations would eventually air something informative.
It's a little different now. All you need for a world o' science is a computer and an internet connection.
Here's just a smattering of some of the awesome science available free on the Web:
USGS Evening Public Lecture Series
Don't live in Menlo Park, CA, but still want to attend some of the most awesome public lectures available? Look no further! The United States Geological Survey posts its lectures to the toobz, and it's awesome stuff. They bring science to the public in amazing ways. It's like having the National Geographic research teams pop into your living room for an evening of Q & A.
Ideas worth spreading indeed! If you're starving for more lectures after watching the USGS series, TED has some gorgeous talks on evolution by some amazing speakers. You can hear Steven Pinker talk of the blank slate, or Louise Leakey delve into human origins, or David Gallo rhapsodize on the deep oceans, or... just go! You'll be in great company - Dawkins and Dennet have talks up, too!
NASA's JPL Solar System Simulator
Ever wanted to know what the view was like from other worlds? On this site, you can choose what planet or spacecraft you want to watch from, the angle of view, and a whole host of other factors. Voila! You're own personal solar system vista.
Encyclopedia of Life
This ain't the encyclopedia set you grew up with. Not many homes could afford a set comprising of 1.8 million pages - one for each of the known species on Earth. And these pages contain up-to-the-minute information, tons of color pics, and additional resources - all for free.
Need a scientific paper? Can't afford to pay out the nose? At the Public Library of Science, science is indeed free! All papers are published under an open access license, and delivers high-quality, cutting-edge science right into the public's hands. This is what science should be - free and ours for the asking.
There's a World Wide Web of science out there, complete with interactive features, animations, and all sorts of other brilliant ways to bring science straight to you. Go forth, explore, and enjoy!