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Earth Education Graphics Microsoft Software News

Berkeley HTML5 Timeline Tool Can Show a Day, Or the Lifetime of the Universe 86

An anonymous reader writes "UC Berkeley Professor Walter Alvarez, most widely known for his theory that dinosaurs were killed by an asteroid impact, is developing an open source HTML5 timeline tool for visualizing all 13.7 billion years of the past called ChronoZoom. Originally conceived by one of his former students, Roland Saekow, ChronoZoom can zoom from a single day out to all of the Cosmos, passing Earth, Life, and Human Prehistory along the way. The idea and initial database was put together by students at UC Berkeley while students at Moscow State University in Russia wrote the code with guidance and support from researchers at Microsoft Research. The beta is available as of today, and the source code is available. The hope is that it will revolutionize teaching, study and research of the past."
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Berkeley HTML5 Timeline Tool Can Show a Day, Or the Lifetime of the Universe

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday March 15, 2012 @10:48AM (#39364027)

    12:00 midnight: Let there be light, motherfuckers! How you like this TIME AND SPACE, haters?

    12:31 a.m.: Galaxies and stars forming. Yep, let's get this party STARTED!!

    4:00 a.m.: All work and no play

    8:00 a.m.: Makes God

    1:00 p.m.: A dull boy

    5:00 p.m.: Earth forms. Great, another rock. Boooooorrrring.

    5:20 p.m.: Life on earth. Well, this has potential.

    11:53:12 p.m.: Hah, suck on THAT, dinosaurs!

    11:59:59 p.m.: Humans evolve! Hey, looks like this "life" thing is finally going somewhere.

    11:59:59:59:46 p.m.: Reality television? *That's* where you took it? Really?

    12:00 midnight: Hope you losers read those Mayan calendars I sent.

  • by forkfail ( 228161 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @10:51AM (#39364081)

    ... Facebook sues the University of California for patent infringement.

  • Other timelines (Score:4, Informative)

    by omems ( 1869410 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @10:53AM (#39364103)
    Here's another decent open source timeline I've used. It's not immediately scalable, but with a little db knowledge, I think it could be modified. []
  • Bug report (Score:5, Funny)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @10:55AM (#39364147) Homepage

    There's a glitch in this timeline: it shows dates billions of years before God actually created the universe!

    • LOL. Yes, and I'm confused, too. I thought Jebuz and the dinosours were supposed to coexist in the same time period, around two thousand years after earth and the universe were all created.
    • Yes, I hear that Texas has already requested the 6000 year lite version...
  • I like that the interface is very usable (especially compared to some downright horrific timelines I've used), however there really doesn't seem to be that much information in it, that may be the point or because it's in beta, but I'd like to see a lot more data and "milestones".
    • Mostly useable - zooming out is not easy (is there any way of just zooming out? The only way I found in a quick browse was to scroll to something bigger and click on it). Aside from that, it's pretty nice. Once they add more data to it, I expect it will be really nice. Not totally revolutionary - I've seen interfaces vaguely like this before, in CD-based teaching tools and museums - but definitely nice.
      • Mostly useable - zooming out is not easy (is there any way of just zooming out?

        Well, the scroll wheel on my mouse seems to work. But, it just scales everything so some of the informational elements just zoom out of view. But you can drag those around.

      • by jc42 ( 318812 )

        Mostly useable - zooming out is not easy (is there any way of just zooming out?

        Yeah; I've played with it a bit, and I can't make much sense of the zooming. My last attempt was with Safari on this Macbook Pro. When I use the 2-finger "expand" thing, it does what I expect at first, but after about a second, it rescales everything to undo the zooming. So things move around, but they won't stay at a different size.

        Several attempts to zoom the timeline widget all had some effects, but not what I expected, and I don't understand why what I did had those results.

        Maybe with a bit more

    • by Thiez ( 1281866 )

      Perhaps they could scrape all dates from wikipedia and will the timeline with links to millions of articles.

      • by Thiez ( 1281866 )

        That should be 'fill' the timeline. I seem to be quite skilled at making typos that my spell-checker can't catch lately.

  • When I post this message, it'll be exactly midnight. And when you read it, it'll be exactly midnight.
  • Yeah, but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XanC ( 644172 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @11:01AM (#39364229)

    This is still cooler: []

  • Does anyone else hate the phrase "deep dive"?

    Seems only 50+ year old salesmen use it to try and sound worthwhile.

  • by troon ( 724114 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @11:04AM (#39364265)

    Now all we need is an open editable resource for chronicling all of history, in the same way that OpenStreetMap does for geography.

  • Is there no sense of proportion in academic press release land?

    • by KermodeBear ( 738243 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @11:32AM (#39364703) Homepage

      This is exactly what I was thinking. It's just a timeline. You may be able to have lots of data, but that isn't going to revolutionize anything. Not even time lines. Doing X, but with HTML5!!!, doesn't make it revolutionary. It's just X with HTML5.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "possibly revolutionary impact" =/= "The hope is that it will revolutionize teaching, study and research of the past," which is what they actually wrote.

      This isn't going to change the world and bring democracy and peace in our time. But it may - they hope - change the "teaching, study, and research of the past." That's what they're hoping it will revolutionize, not "everything in the world!" And I can see where a tool that allows you to easily and quickly lay out contemporaneous timelines - say from some

      • by fche ( 36607 )

        "possibly revolutionary impact" =/= "The hope is that it will revolutionize teaching, study and research of the past," which is what they actually wrote.

        Both phrases appear in TFA.

  • The anonymous astroturfer was incorrect... there is no source code on the page that was linked...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Go to "View -> Source" in your browser. There.

    • by Whalou ( 721698 )
      You need to click the Source Code tab on Codeplex, not the Downloads tab.
  • Facebook files lawsuit against UC system for use a timelines!
  • timelines (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Speare ( 84249 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @11:30AM (#39364671) Homepage Journal

    I love exploring timelines. Nearly thirty years ago, I wanted to implement a general timeline visualization tool like this. I've dabbled now and then but not gotten serious about it. Finding Best Tag Sets for Timeline Browsing []

    That said, I think a key feature will be to offer timelines on different continua. Fiction is one reason: A timeline of Frank Herbert's Dune universe or Tolkien's LotR Middle Earth should not be matched to our objective understanding of Earth's history. Another reason is an exemplar of a generic time sequence. There is a whole chapter in Tom Clancy's Sum of All Fears (I think) which describes, nanosecond by nanosecond, the stages of a thermonuclear explosion. Being able to relate such generic sequences is useful, even if they aren't pinned to a specific historical mark on the greater timeline of years.

  • It would be nice if we could add our own personal Genealogy, or even have the ability to share our Genealogy with everyone.
  • Its an interesting idea, but right now there isn't a lot of information. I'm sure it will be better once its complete and out of beta, but it isn't extremely useful right now. Also, the interface still needs some work. Zooming isn't working extremely well. The best way I could find was to scroll to another, larger, object and click it.
  • I guess I don't see the brilliance of a interactive timeline with LoD changes as you zoom.

    I've seen a few of these projects in the past and to be honest it runs fairly slow and the fonts were fuzy on this machine at least. My guess would be that the reason this is news is because that Redmond's marketing team is behind it. I really can't understand for a moment why this took 25 people to make.

    "That’s when Microsoft Research committed resources to support 25 researchers – including eight curr

    • Have you seen the retarded education apps demo'd in iPad and iPhone advertisements? Shit that I would sure never use, shit that makes me embarassed for THEM. Maybe since WIn8 apps are HTML5 + JS, MS just wants to get some thing to demo as well in upcoming adverts?
    • by Alioth ( 221270 )

      MS being involved also I suppose explains why Microsoft Corporation features so prominently in the timeline of Recent US History (and no other company features at all)

  • I was involved in a similar project, but we couldn't get the funding to do it properly. This is where we got to some two years ago (hence use of Flash), before management drove us to the ground: []

    Content is in croatian, but you'll get the idea.

  • My first thought was: UC Berkeley outsourced the development to Russians? Really?

  • We need to adapt this for use as a progress bar that runs backwards. []

  • by Imbrondir ( 2367812 ) on Thursday March 15, 2012 @05:09PM (#39370195)
    Great. Another page taking forever to load :)
  • This project shows off a front-end, but what we need to think about is the back-end.

    Step 1) We need a standardized format and data structure for referring to events on this scale - IMO the best way is to extend unix timestamps to 64 bits, which would encompass many times the full age of the universe. Most of human history would be negative numbers, but oh well.

    Step 2) Write software that can accurately translate between this and conventional time expressions - anything from calendrical expressions to ra
    • Your ideas about front-end and back-end are interesting. Nevertheless, you are making stuff way too complicated. Especially 2) is over-design. I would preconise a Lakatos-style approach, i.e. bottom-up, letting things grow slowly as needs are expressed. Trial and error tend to work rather well.
  • Interactive illustrations of the scale of objects in the known universe have always been amongst my favorite Internet distractions (sadly this [] is the only one I can locate at the moment). I hope I find this timeline interactive to be as interesting.
  • Funny team-up: UC Berkeley and a Microsoft incubator ( or "accelerator" ). Nevertheless - if I could be sure to have the full source code of this project on an on-going basis, I could be tempted to re-use this in customer projects. Timelines are interesting GUI elements.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.