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iPad App Explores 4.5 Billion Years of Geological Evolution


By: Howard Hughes Medical Institute

EarthViewer shows continental arrangements as they shift through time—including Pangea from 215 million years ago.
Feb. 1, 2013 - Have you ever wanted to go back in time to see what the Earth looked like 400 million years ago? You can with the EarthViewer, a free, interactive app designed for the iPad, that lets users explore the Earth's history with the touch of a finger by scrolling through 4.5 billion years of geological evolution.

The app, developed by HHMI's BioInteractive team, tracks the planet's continental shifts, compares changes in climate as far back as the planet's origin, and explores the Earth's biodiversity over the last 540 million years. It combines visual analysis with hard data, and helps students make connections between geological and biological change.

"We're very interested in how the app can be used in formal education. Scientific concepts can be more fully appreciated when students are given a chance to explore the Earth in such a visual way."
- Dennis Liu

Download the HHMI EarthViewer app from the App Store.

"We're very interested in how the app can be used in formal education. Scientific concepts can be more fully appreciated when students are given a chance to explore the Earth in such a visual way," said Dennis Liu, Ph.D., Director of Educational Resources at HHMI.

Liu said that interactive computer-based simulations are being developed and used with growing frequency in many science-education disciplines. His team previewed the app with teachers and professors during its development phase, and received a very positive response.

"The college and high school educators, as well as the geology researchers who've seen the beta version of EarthViewer, can't wait to get their hands on it," he said.

Features of the EarthViewer app include:

• Continental reconstructions dating back 4.5 billion years
• In-depth features on major geological and biological events in Earth history
• Climate and carbon dioxide data for the last 100 years
• Location tracking of modern cities back over 500 million years
• The ability to manipulate the globe and zoom to any location, eon, era, or period.

The app's timeline allows users to visit Earth at any point during its development. They can also explore the five mass extinctions that happened on Earth, and view the planet's corresponding drops in biodiversity. For example, they can travel to the Paleozoic era, the period when land plants first appeared – and dial-up the levels of oxygen, temperature, and solar radiation that existed during that time. Then they can swing over to the Mesozoic era to compare their data to the levels found on Earth during the period of dinosaur extinction.

"EarthViewer is our first true iPad app and we're very excited about it," said Liu. "I think it's awesomely fun to play with, but luckily you don't have to just take my word for it."

For additional information, visit www.biointeractive.org/earthviewer.


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