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Microsoft Research, along with UC Berkeley, Moscow State University and the Outercurve Foundation, releases the beta version of the ChronoZoom Project today. ChronoZoom is an impressive new timeline tool, containing articles, images, sound, video and other multimedia, aiming to deliver an online visualization of Big History.

Big History is emerging field of study that examines the past based on the findings from multiple disciplines, including biology, astronomy, geology, climatology, archeology, economics, anthropology and environmental studies. In other words, history since the beginning of time through the present day.

Needless to say, a field that encompasses some 13.7 billion years involves a huge amount of data -- difficult to track let alone visualize. ChronoZoom is meant to help aggregate this data -- data about the cosmos, about Earth's history, about the history of life on this planet, and about human history -- and make it all searchable and displayable. The latter takes advantage of the power of HTML5 which, as the Microsoft Research team describes, "to display the scales of history from a single day to the age of the Universe requires the ability to zoom smoothly by a factor of ~1013, and doing this with raster graphics was a remarkable achievement of the team at Live Labs. The immense zoom range also allows us to embed virtually limitless amounts of text and graphical information."

The ChronoZoom tool is open source, and the team is asking for feedback from both the developer and the academic community on the project.

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Audrey Watters


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