Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What are we visualizing?

This article in Sea Technology  Magazine entitled "Visualizing large environmental data sets in a Global 4D viewer" showing a Makai Voyager screenshot that shows simultaneous visulizations of a hurricane model over the U.S. Atlantic seaboard and an ocean current flow model in the Pacific.  The picture  (http://sea-technology.com/images/features/2012/0512/hartman__Fig1.jpg) which is not permitted to be copied elsewhere is basically a composite snapshot and they this to say:
Having an accurate understanding of physical environmental conditions is essential to all ocean-related industries. Numerical models, informed by sensor data, have been developed for many of these industries to describe and predict the behavior of physical systems. Recently, there has been an exponential increase in the size, quality and complexity of environmental data from surveys, sensors and numerical models. 
Models often produce gigabytes or terabytes of data containing multiple variables of interest that can change in both space and time. However, the tools to process and visualize these large environmental data sets have not kept pace with the increase in data generation. Scientists, engineers and executives are facing the fundamental problem of how to efficiently manage and interpret the vast amount of oceanographic, geologic and atmospheric data being collected and modeled. Scientific and oceanographic activities are often limited to using subsets of environmental and sensor data, which increases the possibility of missing critical information. Furthermore, most data are still being presented as sequences of flat 2D images, which is an inefficient and time-consuming method of analyzing data that is inherently 3D and 4D (3D plus time). 
Well-known, highly interactive software systems that are used to view large amounts of terrain and image data, such as Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth and the leading GIS software, are not capable of displaying large scientific data sets, such as volumetric (3D) data that changes in time (4D). They are primarily restricted to displaying imagery, terrain and static 3D objects. On the other hand, many existing scientific programs were not designed to easily incorporate georeferenced data such as lidar point clouds, large image files, elevation and bathymetry, and GIS data. These shortcomings in existing data fusion and visualization motivated Makai Ocean Engineering to create a tool called Makai Voyager that could combine and view all relevant scientific data in an interactive global 4D view. The software has applicability in oceanography, marine sciences, offshore oil and geophysical exploration, underwater mining and construction, coastal and environmental engineering, ROV planning and simulation, resource assessment for offshore renewable energy and defense tactical displays. 
So the article is just an advertisement for the software.  As they indicated that 4D is 3D plus time the results, which they did not show, must be composite simultaneous video displays. What I am wondering about  is what I am gathering is that they are obviously combining measurements from sensors with models.  If so, isn't that mixing oranges with apples?  We are living in a bewildered world as we are already , what does mixed up more model imaginations with realities would accomplish?  Aren't we living in a make-believe world when they tell us what exactly the temperature will be 100 years from now but still can't get the temperature tomorrow right?  The wonder world of technology can do a lot of good things, but what they can NOT substitute is the simple reality!

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