How do you make education interesting and, more importantly, beautiful? When it comes to the work of NASA, attracting enthusiasts isn’t difficult with the usual visuals of bright stars and colorful planets on hand. Look no further than the recent awe over Mars rover Curiosity’s high-res pictures to see proof of humanity’s fascination with space.
But not all of NASA’s data is packaged into a neat little photos. In fact, some of the organization’s most important findings about space come back in the form of numbers, beamed in by one of the many satellites orbiting our planet. And this information is brought to life by the Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS) — a team of scientists and animators that turns numerical data into a dynamic graphic or video.
The SVS is not only an active and creative tool for NASA outreach — it has even gone viral. Earlier this year, the SVS team received information from a project team called Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, or ECCO, which uses mathematical tools to better understand how the ocean’s circulation patterns change over time. The result was Perpetual Ocean, a detailed and moving video interpreting a year’s worth of the ocean’s current patterns in minutes.
“I think scientists have an amazing internal world — they think about these things and how they work,” says Dr. Horace Mitchell, director of SVS. “But, they don’t do the kind of visuals that can be found in a feature film. That’s why we’ve found a niche that works.”
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