"Humpback whales blow bubbles around schools of fish to concentrate them for easier capture. It's called a bubble net, says David Wiley, research coordinator for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and it's visible as a ring of bubbles at the surface. Now, with underwater digital tracking tags and custom visualization software, whale researchers can see what the whales are doing underwater when they're bubble-netting. Humpbacks are the only whales known to blow bubble nets -- a circle of bubbles that traps schools of fish for easy capture. Although this hunting technique has been documented in humpbacks for decades, just how whales make the nets wasn't well-understood until now, says David Wiley, a biologist with NOAA. Wiley and colleagues attached digital tags to Humpbacks' backs to find out what they do underwater when they're bubble-netting."
Found on the NYTimes Dot Earth blog, this little video uses
"...software tools from the gaming world to illustrate what a low-end estimate of the volume of oil gushing from the Gulf of Mexico seabed looks like if displayed as stacked barrels."
(25,000 barrels is now the low estimate of how much oil is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico from the ruined Deepwater Horizon wellhead every day.)
I was intrigued, but the lack of scale bugs me. 25,000 barrels obviously makes a big pile, but just how big is big?
You can download a little application that will allow you, via Google Earth, to overlay the Deepwater Horizon oil spill onto the city of your choice. If that seems like too much work, you can just see some of the results. How does the spill compare to Tokyo? San Francisco? Washington, DC? Duluth?
Courtesy Da Vinci
When attempting to communicate the world of science, visualization often works better than words. Illustrations are a quick and effective means for communicating science, engineering and technology to an often scientifically challenged population.
The National Science Foundation and the journal, Science, created the International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge to encourage the continued growth toward this journalistic goal.
Judges appointed by the National Science Foundation and the journal Science will select winners in each of five categories: photographs, illustrations, informational graphics, interactive media and non-interactive media. NSF.gov
This link will take you to the 2004-2009 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge winners. I am also embedding a You Tube video of past competitions below.
Every space probe ever launched, all on one map of the Solar System.
This animation shows you how viruses trick healthy cells to join the dark side.
What you see in the video actually happens much, much faster in real life — in a fraction of a fraction of a second. So this is a very slow motion version of cellular activity. NPR.org
This clip is a compilation of videos showing the evolution of a project called “Breaking Waves,” funded by the Department of Defense. It uses numerical flow analysis to tackle the challenge. (see more of the best visualization videos at Wired.com)
Evolutionary trees like the one Charles Darwin scribbled to illustrate his epiphany are still used today to help biologists understand and communicate the diversity of life. Like Darwin and his contemporaries, today’s evolutionary biologists are part of an ongoing effort to figure out how Earth's many species are related. As new tools help biologists to analyze evolutionary relationships, the tree of life changes and grows ever more complex.
How will biologists today and in the future to organize all of this information? No one knows for sure - but a number of computer scientists and software designers are taking a crack at it! In collaboration with biologists designers are creating programs that will allow researchers to share and search through enormous amounts of taxonomical information. Some programs, like UC Davis's paloverde, take cues from familiar web tools like WIkipedia and Google Earth, allowing users to search the tree of life from various perspectives and distances.
Beyond making research more accessible to scientists and the public, software tools like this will help scientists around the world work together in new ways - developing new medicines to treat constantly evolving diseases, new products and processes that take into account changing ecosystems, and to understand biodiversity on a local and global scale.
The potential of these tools is as big as the imagination of the designers and engineers behind them - what kind of tool would you create to help organize the tree of life?