Can’t say my browser has ever made me feel insignificant, but ChronoZoom, a HTML5-driven, mixed media website that attempts to visualise the universe’s existence does a damn good job. Beware its initial superficiality — all it takes is a couple of clicks to find yourself lost in the history of, well, everything.
ChronoZoom is the result of work done by Microsoft Research Connections and the universities of Moscow State and California. It started in 2009 as a student project by Roland Saekow, but with a bit of help from Microsoft, quickly grew into the chunky multimedia experience we see today.
When you load the site, you’re presented with two boxes — “Cosmos” and “Earth & Solar System”. You’ll think “Oh, it’s about planets and stuff”. That’s until you click on the latter rectangle. Suddenly, there’s “Life”, “Major Impacts on Earth” and “Atmosphere and Climate”, among other options. And you can keep clicking… and clicking… and clicking, diving deeper into humanity and everything our species has accomplished (or destroyed).
It might not be as comprehensive as Wikipedia, but for the big stuff, it’s more than solid. There’s still a lot that needs to be done and, to that end, the developers have asked for help and suggestions on how to approach some of the project’s engineering challenges. For example:
- How do you organise huge amounts (terabytes and more..) of data that are several different types of content—audio, video, txt, pdfs, images—logically and so they’re easily consumable?
- How do you not sacrifice precision but show billions of years ago to a day on one scale?
- How do you make a 3rd party authoring tool that serves as a peer review- editorial board approval process with annotations etc. to populate the timeline- as a new type of peer review journal?
If you think you can help, I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.