Thursday, May 24, 2007

Encyclopedia of Life

Posted by goatchurch at 2:33 AM
Recently I got an iPod which now allows me to listen to all kinds of interesting broadcasts from around the world that were previously unaccessed. The aggregator software, the citizen journalism, the interviews with scientists who speak about what they believe in without the need to be filtered through the boring style required of scientific papers -- all of this has appeared in the last couple of years as yet another phenomenon never mentioned in an SF story before it happened. Like most aspects of the internet.

Writers have been too busy about telling us about holographic telephones to dream up the real stuff that matters.

The internet is moving into a different age. The dot-com boom was all about trying to make money out of this new technology. The logic of a business plan happens to give the most extremely blinkered view imaginable. Almost all the ideas were about how to make people shop more. Luckily, after all those millions of dollars were wasted on not writing any useful software (where the heck did it go?), no lasting damage was done. I say luckily, because all of the software patents that those companies took out -- claiming ownership of ideas -- could have been worth more than the paper they were written on, which would means they would have been extracting an idea tax from everything that followed.

In the May 16, 2007 edition of the Scientific American podcast is a segment entitled: "The Encyclopedia of Life; and the End of John Horgan's Pessimism" where there is an interview with the biologist E. O. Wilson who has a lot of very interesting theories.

In this interview he says he feels that for the first time in his life he is making history, because he was present at the launch of the Encyclopedia of Life.

The web-page doesn't have much to show for itself to be honest, so stick to the podcast. The idea is to gather together, organize, and provide totally free access to everything that is known to science about every living species on the planet.

Given that it is believed that the Earth is presently undergoing one of the greatest mass extinctions in its entire history, they're going to have to hurry up.

What could emerge from this encyclopedia is evidence of large scale patterns that no one has yet imagined, or particular species in the entire spectrum that happen to be the pathogen or the cure of vital importance. Maybe the identification of a particular roundworm in the wrong place is the vital clue in a detective story.

Here's a different miserable web-page that might just save your life: Famine foods.

3 Comments:

Blogger dbspin said...

E.O Wilson is an amazing character, his book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, almost single handedly created evolutionary psychology as a movement. Poor man was treated terribly at the time of it's publication, egged at lectures, described as a Nazi and a eugenicist in print, and threatened with violence; all for merely challenging that standard social science model prevalent at the time.

5/29/2007 04:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may be off-topic, but I have to ask, how many of you people in the Mundane Movement have degrees in engineering, mathematics, or the sciences? How many of you regularly write for academic/trade publications? Do you honestly believe that you speak for scientists and engineers as a whole?

5/30/2007 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger Trent said...

anon,

1) Why should we reveal ourselves to someone who posts anonymously?

2) What relevance do your questions have to writing SF? (Hint: none)

3) Your third question is uninformed. Who said we were speaking for scientists or engineers or anyone besides ourselves?

Yes, we have degrees in the sciences.

6/01/2007 01:10:00 PM  

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