Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Visualizing the Evolutionary Tree of Life

Over on the EOL blog is a summary of a meeting Visualizing the Evolutionary Tree of Life. This sounds like it was a fun meeting, but part of me is suffering from déjà vu. Our community has tossed this subject around for a while now. I recall Tamara Munzner wowing us with the H3 hyperbolic browser at a meeting at UC Davis in 2000 (part of the original NSF TOL workshops, archived herel) -- the image of Joel Cracraft excitedly running up to the display screen to find various birds is forever etched into my brain. TreeJuxtaposer has been around for a while, to not much effect.

We seem to continue to fail to make much progress on this topic, despite meetings such as the EOL one, great reviews of the topic, fancy 3D visualisation, and Mike Sanderson's way kewl wall of monitors.

Maybe progress was made at the EOL meeting, but I don't get the sense that we're any further forward. It would be interesting to work out why we've struggled to satisfactorily solve this problem.