Sunday, August 06, 2006

Discover Interview: E.O. Wilson (June, 2006)

Discover Interview: E.O. Wilson:

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Let's talk about your idea for an encyclopedia of life.

Wilson: Thanks to the Internet and to advances in digital photography, we have the ability to put online superb images of even the smallest organisms. So we can speed up the mapping of world biodiversity by an order of magnitude easily. What we need is an electronic encyclopedia of life, with one page for each species. On each page is given everything known about that species. This should be the driving force for future biodiversity studies; it's as simple as that.

But it's not happening?

Wilson: The responses I've gotten are so positive, including from molecular biologists, that logic tells me this is about to take off. They want to know what's out there. Once there's an encyclopedia of life that they can browse, they will enjoy an almost infinite treasury of important projects to work on. Suppose there's a snail in Indonesia that produces a powerful fungicide. Well, that might be known by just one elderly guy at Idaho State University who's a specialist on the snails of Indonesia. But when that species is in the encyclopedia, you can type in 'powerful fungicides,' 'snails,' 'tropical Asia' and . . .

And there it is.

Wilson: You got it. That's my dream. "

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