Evidence of Evolution Traced Interactively in Becoming Human.(LIFE - SCIENCE &Amp; TECHNOLOGY)(WEBWISE)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

Evidence of Evolution Traced Interactively in Becoming Human.(LIFE - SCIENCE &Amp; TECHNOLOGY)(WEBWISE)


Byline: Joseph Szadkowski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The scientific theory of evolution explores humans' appearance on the planet through the fossilized remains of ancestors that trace development back 4 million years.

An organization looking to present the latest evidence on the study of human origins and paleoanthropology has created a cyber-stop to serve its goal of making these topics easy to understand and more accessible to the general public. Acting as a multimedia oasis of knowledge, the site not only enlightens, but also recently won a Webby Award - the Oscar of the Internet world - for its dazzling use of innovative design.

Becoming Human

Site address: www.becominghuman.org

Creator: Arizona State University's Institute of Human Origins (www.asu.edu/clas/iho/) is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to the recovery and analysis of the fossil evidence for human evolution. It worked with design studio Terra Incognita to produce the pages.

Creator quotable: "The decision to create becominghuman.org was driven by the insatiable thirst humans have to understand their origins. The major goal of the Web site was to provide insight into the origins of humankind using imaginative and scientifically accurate presentations combined with a user-friendly and captivating Web experience. The site was designed to bridge the gap between scientific research in human origins and the general lack of public understanding of the subject," says Donald Johanson, director of the Institute of Human Origins.

Word from the Webwise: Pull out the primordial walking stick and get ready for an intellectual stroll down the hominid skeleton highway as a host of specialists explain the reason humans look and act as they do. Through the use of technology once reserved for stand-alone CD-ROM simulations, the Institute of Human Origins gives an audio, visual and text-based presentation that works marvelously within the high-bandwidth world of the Internet.

An opening screen in shades of brown that begins the journey is enlivened by a tidy array of activities, photographs and breaking news items presented within an interactive window.

The payoff to the site can be found in "Becoming Human: The Documentary," which is hosted by Mr. Johanson - best known for discovering the 3.18 million-year-old remains of Australopithecus afarenis (nicknamed Lucy) that shed significant light on the split between humans and the African ape.

Broken into four major segments - Evidence, Anatomy, Lineages and Culture - the online documentary traces the hominid from Africa to the spread of its current version, Homo sapiens, and its complex culture around the world.

Each roughly 10-minute segment looks a bit like a fancy slide show with crisp images, simple effects, a musical score and a narrative peppered with words from science luminaries such as paleocologist Kaye Reed, paleoanthroplogist Nina Jablonski and paleontologist Alan Walker. …

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