Thursday, 16 August 2012

New TimePoint added: first humans (195 kya)

Following some feedback, we have added a new TimePoint to the default Organic Evolution TimeLine. Modern humans arose somewhere in the region of 100,000 to 300,000 years ago. (Marking age uncertainty is on the development wishlist!)

As previously indicated, we are currently basing much of the default TimeLine on the New Scientist Evolution and Becoming Human timelines, which place this particular event at 195,000 years ago. It seemed like a gap in the current TimeLine and a useful TimePoint to have.

More information regarding our default TimeLine will follow shortly.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

E-mail working again!

E-mail forwarding seems to be happy again. Comments and suggestions can once again be directed to webmaster[at]

E-mail issues

It appears that the service provider that should be forwarding on our email addresses is not currently forwarding them on. We are investigating the matter and will hopefully get it sorted out soon (or change the contact email addresses). In the meantime, if you have any comments, suggestions or queries please contact Richard Edwards: r.edwards[at] or Joel Parker: joel.parker[at]

Friday, 10 August 2012

MapTime Terminology

A Glossary of key terms is now available. This will be expanded in time to include the key TimePoints, TimeLines and Keywords from the website. If any confusing terms are missing, or any of the terms listed still do not make sense, please let us know.

D ~ G ~ K ~ M ~ S ~ T


Deep Time. Deep Time refers to the vastness of the geologic timescale. The formation of Earth occurred some 4.54 billion years ago. This is a timescale that is hard for the human mind to visualise - hence the MapTime approach of using Google Maps!

Destination. The end point for your TimeRoute where the final TimePoint will be placed. Typically, the present day (represented in the default TimeLine by the creation of MapTime).


Google Earth. The original MapTime paper made use of Google Earth in place of Google Maps. Google Earth has a few more options for controlling the TimeRoute and we are currently looking into ways to export TimeRoutes from MapTime to open up in Google Earth.

Google Maps. Google Maps is a free, widely known service which lends itself perfectly to the MapTime concept and is free for non-profit use within the scope of the project.


Keyword. Each TimePoint is tagged with a number of keywords. These are predominantly to aid searching for custom TimeLine assembly.


MapTime. The MapTime project for visualising Deep Time using Google Maps, available at

MapTime Blog. A blog of all things MapTime available at blogspot.

MapTime Paper. The original paper: Parker, J. D. (2011) Using Google Earth to Teach the Magnitude of Deep Time. Journal of College Science Teaching 40(5): 23-27.

MapTimeline. (Obselete term.) See TimeRoute.


Starting Point. This refers to the first (oldest) TimePoint on the TimeLine. MapTime is designed to visualises a TimeLine as a journey that ends at the current location representing the present day.


TimeLine. A TimeLine is a collection of TimePoints, usually grouped by a particular theme. The Default TimeLine is Organic Evolution TimeLine based on the MapTime paper.

TimePoint. A TimePoint is an event on a TimeLine that will be mapped onto the appropriate place along the route. The youngest TimePoint is first placed at the destination of the route, the youngest is placed at the starting point and then the remaining points are spaced out according to scale along the route plotted by Google Maps.

TimeRoute. Once a TimeLine has been plotted on Google Maps, it is known as a TimeRoute.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Funding update

Unfortunately, the small grant application we had in with the HEA has been unsuccessful. We are exploring other options but would appreciate being alerted to any opportunities that we might not be aware of. (We are just trying to find a few thousand pounds to pay our excellent developer so that she can dedicate some time to the project, plus organise some workshops etc. once it's fully up and running.)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Why use The New Scientist evolution of life timeline?

As previously mentioned, the majority of the current Time Points for the default Timeline on the MapTime website have been taken from The New Scientist evolution of life website. Why?

When we first set out to establish the default Timeline for the website, we were trying to get a good balance of three desired attributes:
  1. contain the real "key" events in organic evolution.
  2. have supporting literature where possible.
  3. have as much overlap as possible with the original MapTime paper.
The initial plan was to pick an Evolution textbook with a nice timeline and use that. Evolution by Barton et al., for example, has nice timeline inside the front cover. The problem with this was that we could not find any credits or sources for the illustration. (It was also missing a few of the events from the original paper.) Looking at other books on our shelves lead to similar problems. We are not Deep Time experts and are not aiming to endorse certain dates or theories over others - we just want to provide a useful tool for the community. In the end, we settled on The New Scientist evolution of life website because it not only covered many of the events from the MapTime paper but it also contains links out to articles - including, in many cases, the original literature. If you visit the site, you will notice that we haven't included all of the Time Points. There are rather a lot! If your favourite one is missing, let us know. For the more recent events that are not covered by this Timeline we have, for the moment, relied on Wikipedia and Google to "crowd source" the date. We don't intend to stick exclusively with this Timeline forever, although we will keep the Time Points in the website. The planned developments for MapTime include the opportunity to add your own Time Point and Timelines. We would still like to maintain a scientifically accurate, and educationally useful, default timeline, though. We therefore welcome feedback and suggestions - not just in terms of the key events but also corrections to the accepted dates. We do ask for peer-reviewed citations for any requested additions/corrections, though.