The Viz Guy
by Lynda Lester
San Francisco, city of fog, hills, and the Golden Gate bridge, hosted the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) 8-12 December 1997. SCD brought the NCAR research exhibit and Visualization Theater to the conference, forging links with the international geosciences community.
"AGU is an event focused on science as opposed to technology," said Don Middleton, head of SCD's Visualization Group. "There's a horde of atmospheric researchers, climate modelers, weather modelers, oceanographers, and solar physicists who attend, and so there's a high level of interest in the science we do at NCAR.
"We have a vested interest in keeping in touch with this community so they can understand the capabilities we can provide, both in visualization and supercomputing.
"The Viz Theater now has 3D projection capabilities, so people can see the value of using visual computing to facilitate and enhance the research process. As scientists, they can get tremendous insights into their data; they can better understand what their models are doing."
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"Another thing we do at AGU is make NCAR visible and demonstrate the quality of our scientific research," Don said.
"For instance, we show a visualization of a wind storm. There was a case a few years back when a DCA aircraft ran into clear-air turbulence and lost an engine and 19 feet of wing span. NCAR did a high-resolution vortex simulation and discovered a new form of turbulence.
"NCAR has done other interesting work in turbulence visualization. And it turns out that even though NCAR is looking at oceans and solar turbulence, there are researchers who study convection in the earth's mantle, and what we do is related to their field. So we get cross-pollination.
"AGU also lets us share our technical achievements with sister organizations. We stimulate them to apply our applications to their own programs. So there's outreach in a bunch of different ways."
The American Geophysical Union is an international scientific society with 35,000 members in 115 countries. Its purpose is to advance progress in the earth, atmospheric, oceanic, hydrologic, and space and planetary sciences.