Encyclopedia of life goes live.

Author:Scheer, Roddy
Position:THIS WEEK - Free online encyclopedia - Brief article
 
FREE EXCERPT

The dream of famed biologist E.O. Wilson--to put together and freely share a comprehensive database of every species of plant and wildlife known to man--has finally come true (at least in part). With Wilson as their inspiration, a diverse group of partners have come together on the nonprofit project, dubbed the Encyclopedia of Life. As of last week's launch, some 30,000 plant and wildlife species have been catalogued, with hundreds of thousands more to be added in the coming months. According to organizers, the project--designed to be used by everyone from scientists to average readers--has the potential "to greatly enhance our understanding of the world's diminishing biodiversity." It could, they said, have an impact on human knowledge comparable to that which followed the invention of the microscope in the 17th century.

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The immense amount of information in the free online encyclopedia is being culled from a variety of sources, including several existing specialized databases (such as AmphibiaWeb and FishBase). "The thing that makes...

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