Scientists to explore life’s mysteries through encyclopedic ‘macroscope’

Encyclopoedia of Life / Smithsonian Institution

25 Feb 2008
anolis_speciespage 1The first 30,000 pages of a massive online Encyclopedia of Life were unveiled today (Feb. 27) at the prestigious Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference in Monterey, California.
Intended as a tool for scientists and policymakers and a fascinating resource for anyone interested in the living world, the EOL is being developed by a unique collaboration between scientists and the general public.
By making it easy to compare and contrast information about life on Earth, the resulting compendium has the potential to provide new insights into many of life’s secrets.
In essence, EOL will be a microscope in reverse, or “macroscope,” helping users to discern large-scale patterns. By aggregating for analysis information on Earth’s estimated 1.8 million known species, scientists say the EOL could, for example, help map vectors of human disease, reveal mysteries behind longevity, suggest substitute plant pollinators for a swelling list of places where honeybees no longer provide that service, and foster strategies to slow the spread of invasive species.
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