But the best proof that one is working on something worthwhile is when someone else comes up with the same idea quite independently (cf Wallace on Ternate!). So it is gratifying to see two examples of people doing the kind of analyses and developing the same kind of visualisation tools that we envisaged:
- The (En)tangled Word Bank is the work of computer scientist Greg McInerny and London-based visual artist Stefanie Posavec (see Science Blog Post) and is certainly pretty, although whether it can be used by scholars to unravel Darwin's thinking is unclear.
- Ben Fry's The Preservation of Favoured Traces looks more useful and provides a more intuitive view of changes, but sadly appears to lack a zoom tool, so that one can only gain a "God's eye" view of the whole text, without been able to look closely at individual sections.
And now a request please! Can either or both projects now incorporate the two forerunners of the Origin: Darwin's 1842 Pencil Sketch and his 1844 essay (both transcribed here), so we can see quite how much of the Origin was written over ten years before Darwin started on his "big book" Natural Selection (which should also be included). It always amazes me how much of the structure of Darwin's argument was laid out in those two manuscripts from the 1840s, but it would be nice to see visually how many of the words are in common too.