Monday, October 08, 2007

Science and Engineering Information Visualization Challenge 2007

One of the most innovative and exhilarating fields of late has been information visualization. In a world where information wants to be (and to some, has become) free, the issue then arises: How do we receive it? The art science of information visualization provides a succinct, and stunning, answer.

Leave it up to Science magazine to survey this burgeoning field and plot the best areas. In a recent issue, editors announced the winners of their annual “Visualization Challenge,” a competition divided into three categories: Photography, Information Graphics, Interactive Media and Noninteractive Media (each link goes to winners of the categories).

If we’ve learned anything from Revenge of the Nerds, it’s that the editorial board and readership of Science magazine don’t mess around. The results of the Challenge merely confirm this.

Click here for interactive slideshow of winners

List of judges

Pictures and winners below

Previous winners: 2006, 2005, 2004

What Lies Behind Our Nose?
Kai-hung Fung

Human anatomy it may be, but the airways that riddle the space behind our noses take on an alien aspect in this unearthly rendering created by Kai-hung Fung, a radiologist at the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Hong Kong.

A computed tomography (CT) scan from a 33-year-old Chinese woman being examined for thyroid disease provided the raw data for Fung's rendering. He stacked together 182 thin CT "slices" to create a 3D image looking upward at the sinuses from underneath the head.

–All descriptions from Science Magazine

Irish Moss, Chondrus Crispus

The slimy, glistening mass of seaweed washed up on a sandy beach seems light-years distant from this feathery, dendritic image of Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) created by Andrea Ottesen, a botanist and molecular ecologist at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"If you pull Chondrus out of the ocean, it's folded on itself--really curled up," she says. It wasn't until after she had "pressed every one of those little ends down with sea stones" and left it to dry for 2 days that the seaweed's beautiful, simple shape was revealed.

Tiny Metal Pathways
Adam Siegel

It's not often you see a wire intentionally tied into a knot, especially when that wire is a state-of-the-art microstructure only 200 micrometers wide. However, Adam Siegel and colleagues at Harvard University tangled up their invention to prove a point: Flexibility is key to integrating microelectrical circuits into fabrics, according to Siegel.

Rather than extruding the wire, Siegel and colleagues poured molten indium/tin solder into a microfluidic channel in clear silicon and allowed it to cool. Depending on the solder composition, he says, the wire can be solid or flexible, and any breaks can be healed by simply reheating it.

Modeling The Flight Of A Bat
David J. Willis and Mykhaylo Kostandov

Interested in the tiny mammals' flight dynamics, Brown University engineer Kenneth Breuer used lasers and a sophisticated multicamera motion-tracking system to record how their wings and the air around them distorted as the animals flapped against the wind.

Based on the experiments, aeronautical engineer David Willis, who has a joint appointment at Brown and MIT, Brown computer scientist Mykhaylo Kostandov, and their colleagues created a computer model of bat flight--visually conveyed in this poster.

How Does a Muscle Work?
Mark McGowan and David Goodsell

Graphic designer Mark McGowan, scientific illustrator David Goodsell, and their Exploratorium colleagues use the example of gripping a baseball to explain how muscles work.

Zooming in on a chunk of hand muscle with a magnification power of 200,000, the exactly scaled poster shows how club-headed molecules of myosin use energy from ATP to repeatedly grab long filaments of actin and drag them toward each other "like a ship's crew pulling a rope hand over hand." Repeated trillions of times in all the muscle fibers of the hand, the result is a baseball that doesn't fall to the floor.

Physics Education Technology Project (PhET)
Website Link

Nobel laureate Carl Wieman was looking for a way to explain his research into Bose-Einstein condensates--strange assemblies of supercold atoms that lose their individuality and form "superatoms"--to both physicists and schoolchildren. He began creating computer simulations, but he swiftly realized their wider potential for teaching physics of all types and initiated the Physics Education Technology (PhET) project at his then-home of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and began churning out simulations.

My favorites:

Most fun:
Wave on a String

Balloons and Static (Java Required)

Most intriguing:
Quantum Tunneling (Java Required)

Breast Cancer Virtual Anatomy
Cathryn Tune and Samantha Belmont
Website Link

A visit to the doctor's office can be a scary, confusing experience, particularly when the subject under discussion is chemotherapy's failure to eradicate breast cancer. Cathryn Tune, Samantha Belmont, and their team at CCG Metamedia, a medical education company based in New York City,
created this interactive tool to help doctors explain to their patients the anatomy and progression of their cancers in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. The interface allows doctors to select tumor size and level of metastasis and displays the part of the patient's anatomy that cancer is attacking while suggesting treatment options.

Very intense.

Nicotine: The Physiologic Mechanism of Tobacco Dependence
Donna DeSmet and Jason Guerrero*

All Noninteractive Media Animations are available here

With every drag a smoker takes, trillions of nicotine molecules rush from the lungs to the bloodstream and into the brain, where they bind to 4 2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and stimulate the release of pleasure-inducing dopamine. But as nicotine is eliminated, dopamine levels fall, and smokers begin to crave another dose.

Over time, the brain becomes dependent on the drug, and the result is an addiction that claims 4 million lives a year from emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease, and other smoking-related diseases.

That is the message of this video, created by art director Donna DeSmet, animator Jason Guerrero, and their team at New York City-based Hurd Studios, a scientific visualization company specializing in "cutting-edge science with educational aspects," according to president Jane Hurd.

Möbius Transformations Revealed

Any real number can be plotted on a line that runs from negative to positive infinity,
but throw in an imaginary component and the line becomes a plane, where complex numbers are plotted on both the real and the imaginary axes.

Möbius transformations are mathematical functions that send each point on such a plane to a corresponding point somewhere else on the plane, either by rotation, translation, inversion, or dilation. It may sound confusing, but after watching this simple and elegant explanation of Möbius transformations created by Douglas N. Arnold and Jonathan Rogness of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, everything becomes clear.

Towers in the Tempest
Gregory W. Shirah and Lori K. Perkins

The center of a hurricane's eye may be calm, but its walls are anything but. As NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite orbited above the Caribbean in 1998, it captured radar images of vast clouds dubbed "hot towers," stretching up nearly 18 kilometers into the sky, in the eye wall of Hurricane Bonnie as the hurricane moved northwest along the northern edge of the Bahamas.

In "Towers in the Tempest," Gregory W. Shirah, Lori K. Perkins, and their colleagues at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, use satellite imagery and supercomputer simulations to reveal these hot towers as the hurricane's "express elevators," intensifying the storm as they launch swirling air from the storm's base up all the way to the edge of the stratosphere at 18,000 meters.

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