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The Master of Evolution Animation Returns

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Earlier this year I posted about the fantastic work of Tyler Rhodes, a student in the animation program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Tyler had completed a unique experiment with a classroom of young children from Patrick Henry School of Science and Art:

“Much like the whispered game “telephone” where one person whispers a message down the line until it’s very different by the end due to small “mutations” along the way, I would create a game of telephone using visual imagery.”

Tyler began the game by sketching a nondescript salamander-like creature:

He then had various groups of students make copies of this sketch, knowing that the copies would contain subtle differences. The natural variation in the ‘progeny’ created from the first salamander sketch was used to determine the survival of the fittest. Tyler would ‘kill off’ 98% of the organisms and start the process again, this time working from the sketches that ‘survived’. In subsequent iterations he would throw out curveballs like desertification or a volcanic explosion (subsequent to the sketching), which would help the group decide which animals were best suited to survive. They would then take these environmental changes into account when sketching their next creatures.

Rhodes' first animation from this experiment won accolades far and wide, and he's recently released another version - complete with new creatures and a very different ending. This was his ambition from the start - to use the diversity in the diagrams produced by the children to highlight just how easily the course of evolution can be changed. In other words, the fact that this second animation ends in a completely different way is a rather humbling message to the human race - our presence is rather random!

Rhodes is hard at work continuing on with various new iterations of the project, he is currently dealing with a gaggle of creatures over 1000 strong! He is also interested in collaborating with other science artists on this endeavor, so don't hesitate to get in touch with him.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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