The Fruit That Hit Newton's Head Is Down With the Fruit of Darwin's Head

DiscoblogBy Jennifer WelshSep 22, 2010 11:23 PM


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Apple may not allow porn on its product line, but it has no problem with another source of controversy: evolution. A new, free iPad/iPhone application called Timetree, distributed by Arizona and Penn State Universities, allows users to map how long ago two living creatures separated on the tree of life, a subject that can get a bit sticky with creationists, says The Register:

Now, Apple has taken a stance which will upset a lot of Americans: it has allowed an app which specifies quite clearly that evolution is real and that humans and monkeys share a common ancestor some 30 million years in the past.

Querying the Timetree application accesses a vast database of data, the National Center for Biotechnology Information's comprehensive taxonomy browser, which contains information on more than 160,000 organisms. Timetree even provides you with the publications relating to these connections, which can sometimes disagree with each other but, which The Register

has discovered, all happily ignore creationism:

As far as our user tests have been able to determine, Timetree does not reveal one disagreement regarding evolution which is now becoming prominent in US politics: namely the issue of whether or not evolution actually happens or has happened. Religious hardliners on the American right are known for espousing the view that actually it doesn't and didn't, and that the various species were all created by God during one week just a few thousand years ago.

And while the information contained in the Timetree database may not provide credence to the creationists' stance, the ability to see current clashes in the field is an important part of investigating the science of evolution, Sudhir Kumar, who helped develop the project, told the Penn State press office


"One of the most important things about this knowledge base," Kumar said, "is that it makes it possible for anyone to see the current agreements and disagreements in the field -- immediately."

The same functionality is available though the Timetree website

, and more information can be found in the free e-book, The Time Tree of Life

,the downloadable poster

(both available at the Timetree website) and in the paper

documenting how Timetree works. But you don't need all that documentation. If it's in the app store, it must be right! Related content: Discoblog: An iPhone App, a Refractometer, an Objectively Perfect Cup of Coffee

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The Loom: Google Earth for The Tree of Life

Image: Penn State Department of Public Information

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