Visualization of the Week: Visualizing Big History

ChronoZoom takes timelines to an entirely new level.

The ChronoZoom Project is an impressive new timeline tool that aims to deliver an online visualization of Big History, an emerging field of study that examines the past based on findings from multiple disciplines (including biology, astronomy, geology, climatology, archeology, economics, anthropology and environmental studies). In other words, it’s history since the beginning of time.

A field that encompasses 13.7 billion years involves a huge amount of data, and that data is difficult to track, let alone visualize. ChronoZoom is meant to help aggregate this data — data about the cosmos, Earth’s history, the history of life on this planet as well as human history — and make it all searchable and displayable.

Screenshot from the ChronoZoom timeline tool
Screenshot from the ChronoZoom timeline tool. You can interact with the complete timeline here.

The tool takes advantage of the power of HTML5. In the words of the project team:

“… 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.”

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

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This post is part of an ongoing series exploring visualizations. We’re always looking for leads, so please drop a line if there’s a visualization you think we should know about.

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