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By Eric Goodwin

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

"Guns, Germs, and Steel" regularly tops the reading lists of high school students across the country. The award-winning book, by noted scholar and college professor Jared Diamond, examines some of the forces that have shaped human history over the course of 10,000 years.

As schools doors open for a new academic year, students might be in need of a refresher on some of the topics discussed in the book. Luckily, PBS still hosts the Web site it created for the 2005 televised version of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" that is the perfect study guide. You can visit it online at http://www.pbs.org/gunsgermssteel/index.html.

The site includes overviews of the key variables central to Diamond’s arguments. For example, you can review how rice cultivation may have influenced the development of a centralized Chinese state and how smallpox and other Eurasian germs aided in the conquest of the New World.

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The site’s "The World" section features an interactive map of the Earth’s continents. Clicking on a location, you can learn about its climate, vegetation and more.

Unfortunately, the site doesn’t include any video clips from the TV special, but does feature an extended question-and-answer session with Diamond.

While it’s no substitute for reading the book, PBS’s "Guns, Germs, and Steel" site will jog the memory of those that have.

Eric Goodwin writes Hotlink for McClatchy-Tribune News Service. You can send e-mail to egoodwinmctinfoservices.com.

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