29 October 2006

The Tree of Life as a spreadsheet

consider a spreadsheet of
just a single cell
of type 'TREE'
whose value
is the particular real Tree
we're all living in/on

now split that cell
across two rows
with the new lower cell
life before humankind

and the new upper cell
human history

(subdivide further
as desired)

or instead
split the Tree
across two columns
with left representing (say)
Earth's western hemisphere
right the east

so when we merge these splits
into a four-cell spreadsheet
humanity's western-hemisphere history
(cell A1)
is empty before c20,000BC

or we can multiply the columns
without limit
effectively zooming in
on narrower and narrower
ranges of places

or, ultimately
assign one (or more) column(s)
to every creature
that's ever lived
with one cell each
of type 'PLACE'
and optional additional
variable cells

but since most lifespans
are one-billionth the height
of the full Tree
this wastes a
of empty cells

so normally we filter out
a few individuals' columns

most often generalising
timeless placeless interactions
between abstract persons
noting only significant
relative changes