In rambling around the web recently, I came across the new work of an old favorite author whose thoughts I've always found interesting. As a student years ago, the Connections column by James Burke was probably the sole reason I maintained my subscription to Scientific American. It was always the first thing I flipped to in a new issue, and often the last. In it, he traced the influence of people, events, and scientific thought through time to uncover interesting relationships. A continuation of his work on the famous BBC series with the same name, the column may not have been as scientifically rigorous as the articles that accompanied it, but its sheer scope and untethered historical insight made it simply addictive.
It seems that James has an up and coming project known as Knowledge Web that aims to enable his tangential style of discovery in an online learning context. As he explains in a related interview, the web-based tool would allow the user to visualize and explore a network of interdisciplinary connections that Burke and other researchers have compiled over time. Think of it as Friendster with renaissance thinkers, monarchs, and modern scientific heavyweights for profiles.