Non-Interactive Multimedia

 

1st Place: Urban Absorption in New Bedford, MA (1888-2010)

Justin Hollander, Assistant Professor, Urban and Environmental Policy, School of Arts and Sciences
Rui Guo, Graduate Student, Urban and Environmental Policy, School of Arts and Sciences

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Abstract

As part of Dr. Hollander’s ongoing research into the ways that cities manage population decline, the attached illustration is an effort to better visualize and communicate the way that one neighborhood in New Bedford, Massachusetts has physically changed during a period of major population loss. The file is a moving gif, intended to be used on a research project website in the coming months.

By digitizing Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps over the last one-hundred years Dr. Hollander and his research assistant, Gui Rui has made major progress in understanding a pattern of decline seemingly imperceptible to the naked eye. By layering figure-ground drawings of several New Bedford neighborhoods we can see where the city shrunk. How the physical form of the city accommodated a loss of 30,105 persons in 89 years, what the disappearance of tens of thousands of housing units looks like.

Cities shrink for many reasons, but in the case of New Bedford, job losses are the biggest factor. As employment fell, first with the Great Depression, then due to the devastation caused by the 1938 Hurricane, people left. With fewer jobs, there are fewer people, but oddly houses tend to linger. In fact, housing is quite durable, it hardly disappears when a city begins to depopulate. But somehow, despite their study construction, tens of thousands of New Bedford’s houses have slowly disappeared and vacant land appears in its place. The attached illustration helps to frame key research questions that Dr. Hollander’s work is probing: But what becomes of the land when buildings are gone, how is the city remade in the wake of depopulation? How do designers and planners make sense of the uncertainty surrounding such change?

 

2nd Place: XROMM Pony

Bronwen A. Childs, Graduate Student, Comparative Medical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

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Abstract

My video submission is designed to showcase the research I am doing in the field of equine kinematics (motion studies). Horses are incredible athletes superbly designed for speed and agility with their long legs designed with the heavy muscle mass kept close to the body and long tendons and ligaments transferring the forces that control the lighter lower limb. The delicate balance of speed and stability rests on the proper functioning and efficient biomechanics of the network of joints. When the functional apparatus fails the result is often a catastrophic breakdown injury, a fatal misstep for most sport horses. The most commonly injured joint is the metacarpophalangeal joint or “fetlock” and the goal of my research is to create a precise and accurate reconstruction of the three-dimensional (3D) motion of the fetlock in order to bolster the body of knowledge upon which therapies and supportive bandaging can be developed. I am using a technique called X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology or “XROMM” to create the 3D model. The technique involves capturing the live motion with x-ray video from two orthogonal angles and then using that motion to animate 3D bone models derived from a computed tomography (CT) scan of the same limb. In order to facilitate matching the bones with the motion defined by the x-ray video, radio-opaque (dark in x-rays) markers were fixed to the surface of the bones that make up the joint of interest. The video sequences are digitized by tracking the markers in each frame and then bone models from a CT scan (with the same markers labeled) are paired with the marker locations in the moving x-ray and animated to follow that motion. The 3D bone models provide morphologically accurate reconstructions of the joint and the motion is measured with a precision of 0.09mm, making XROMM the most precise method currently available for motion analysis. XROMM has been employed in other species including humans, dogs, and fish, but this study marks the first use of XROMM in the horse.

 

3rd Place: Heapviz: A Programmer’s Tool for Data Structure Visualization

Visit entry’s web site
Edward Aftandilian, Graduate Student, Computer Science, School of Arts and Sciences
Sean Kelley, Undergraduate Student, School of Arts and Sciences
Connor Gramazio, Undergraduate Student, School of Arts and Sciences
Nathan Ricci, Graduate Student, Computer Science Dept, School of Arts and Sciences
Sara Su, Visiting Assistant Professor, Computer Science , School of Arts and Sciences
Samuel Guyer, Assistant Professor, Computer Science, School of Arts and Sciences

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Abstract

Understanding the data structures in a computer program is crucial to understanding how the program works, or why it doesn’t work. Inspecting the code that implements the data structures, however, is an arduous task and often fails to yield insights into the organization of a program’s data. Inspecting the actual memory contents of the program solves these problems, but presents a significant challenge of its own: finding an effective way to present the enormous number of objects it contains (over 100,000 for typical programs). In this video we present Heapviz, a tool for visualizing and exploring snapshots of a program’s memory. Unlike existing tools, Heapviz presents a global view of the program state as a graph, together with powerful interactive capabilities for navigating it. Our tool employs several key techniques that help manage the scale of the data. First, we reduce the size and complexity of the graph by aggregating similar nodes within a data structure. Second, we introduce a dominator-based layout scheme that emphasizes hierarchical containment and ownership relations. Finally, the interactive interface allows the user to expand and contract regions of the heap to modulate data structure detail, inspect individual objects and their values, and search for objects based on type or connectivity. Case studies show that Heapviz provides programmers with a powerful and intuitive tool for exploring program behavior.

 

Special Jury Prize: Arrow of Time

Eric J. Chaisson, Research Professor of Physics, Astronomy, and Education, School of Arts and Sciences

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Abstract

My scientific research focuses on the interdisciplinary subject of cosmic evolution, the scientific exploration of the origin and evolution of all complex systems in the universe, from big bang to humankind. This is:

  • the intellectual theme of Tufts’ Wright Center, which I direct: http://www.tufts.edu/as/wright_center/
  • the subject of a popular undergraduate science survey course at Tufts, cross-listed as Chem6/Bio6/Phys6, which I co-teach: http://www.tufts.edu/as/wright_center/cosmic_evolution/docs/splash.html
  • the specific agenda that informs my interdisciplinary research for which I am the P.I. on several federally and privately sponsored research projects: http://www.tufts.edu/as/wright_center/eric/ericrsrch.html

One readable summary of my scientific research, which demonstrates a close coupling of that research to the film submitted for this competition and which was recently published as the lead chapter in a new NASA volume designed to cut across disciplinary boundaries, can be found here: http://www.tufts.edu/as/wright_center/eric/reprints/nasa_cosmos_and_culture.pdf

The specific visualization entry submitted for this competition can be found at: http://www.tufts.edu/as/wright_center/cosmic_evolution/docs/fr_1/fr_1_intro_movies.html. At this URL, my submission is only the first film displayed—the “Arrow of Time”. This is a 12-minute film that captures, completely via broadcast-quality animation, the entire scenario of cosmic evolution. It renders time linearly, from big bang to humankind.

All the animations for this movie were created in the Science Visualization Laboratory (SVL) of the Wright Center at Tufts. Silicon Graphics Indigo, Extreme, and Octane workstations were operated in parallel, each with 32-bit microprocessors using Alas, Waveform, and Maya modeling software. The movie was originally made in 2007, when it was initially copyrighted, but has been, and will continue to be, revised to incorporate the latest scientific findings. It has been used by many scientific colleagues around the world, not only in their classrooms but also at society meetings and conferences to help place their research into a broader context. It is also on permanent display at many science museums globally.

The “Arrow of Time” movie is also accompanied by a small DVD booklet that explains further the nature of my scientific research, both in written words and frames grabbed from the video. That minibook is also posted to the right of the film at the above URL, if you wish to read it.

The film was originally rendered in European PAL format, largely because the Wright Center is baseline funded by la Fondation Wright de Geneve, which also funded the SVL. At the URL provided above, you view it knocked down to NTSC format and then additionally compressed; this enables quicker viewing on-line but loses some of the resolution.

Other Entries

Dynamic Arrays of sensing beads in microfluidics channels.

Maël Manesse, Postdoctoral Associate, Chemistry, School of Arts and Sciences
Aaron F. Phillips, Graduate Student, Chemistry, School of Arts and Sciences
Manuel A. Palacios, Postdoctoral Associate, Chemistry, School of Arts and Sciences
Chris N. Lafratta, Chemistry, School of Arts and Sciences
David R. Walt, Professor, Chemistry, School of Arts and Sciences

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Abstract

We have developed a platform using light to create dynamic arrays of sensing microbeads in micron-sized fluidic channels. The array can be exposed to different analytes containing signaling molecules and interrogated using fluorescence microscopy. In this movie clip, a near infra-red laser beam is tightly focused inside a microfluidic channel containing different sensing microspheres in suspension. This focused beam has the ability to trap dielectric particles in proximity of the focal point, leading to the creation of optical tweezers that can hold in place or manipulate microsized particles in solution. By using scanning mirrors, the trapping beam can be time-shared between different spots, leading to an array of nine optical traps. In this movie, the sensing beads are encoded by size: each type of bead (1, 2, and 5µm diameter) corresponds to a different biomolecular target. The biomolecules of interest are labeled with fluorescent probes. The array is interrogated by scanning it through an excitation laser beam indicated by the black circle in the video. A bright flash is observed if fluorescently labeled biomolecules of interest have been captured on the bead surface.

 

Exploring Nanoscale Machines: Can We Make a Motor from a Single Molecule?

April D. Jewell, Graduate Student, Chemistry, School of Arts and Sciences
Charles H. Sykes, Associate Professor, Chemistry, School of Arts and Sciences

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Abstract

As technology advances, we are able to manufacture devices that are extremely small. Scientists and engineers are working to determine the size limits for these device components. The scanning tunneling microscope allows one to “see” and even “play with” individual atoms and molecules on the nanometer length scale. The Sykes Group from Tufts University uses this powerful microscope to monitor and control the rotation of individual molecules, each of which is smaller than a billionth of a meter (nanometer). We have found that the molecules rotate faster at higher temperatures – faster than one million revolutions per second at room temperature! The rotation of the molecules can also be controlled by changing the electrical energy available to the system, and we can turn the rotation on and off with electrons much like flipping a light switch. The molecules under investigation rotate randomly in both directions (clockwise and anti-clockwise), which would not be ideal for use in a machine. Imagine if the wheels of your car were spinning randomly in either direction, there would be no way to control where you were going. Our current and future studies are aimed at trying to control the direction of the molecular rotation in an effort to make a nano-scale motor capable to doing useful work. If we are successful, it will be one of the first examples of a man made molecular motor, the world’s first single molecule electric motor – an important advancement in device nanotechnology.

 

Seeing Cow Digestion – 4th Graders’ Animation of a Pooping Cow

Brian Gravel, Ph.D. Candidate, Science Education, School of Arts and Sciences
Chris Rogers, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, School of Arts and Sciences and Director, Center for Engineering Education and Outreach

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Abstract

Visualizing science can mean many things. For elementary-school students, visualizing mechanisms that explain cause and effect is at the core of inquiry. When these processes are invisible to the student (e.g., inside living organisms), visualization becomes even more crucial to how students develop scientific thinking. We present a stop-motion animation created by a group of 4th grade students in their attempts to explore and describe the process of digestion in a cow. These students researched the internal organs of the cow, learned the role of each organ in digestion, and ultimately created this dynamic representation of a complicated process that they cannot see. Embedded in this production were discussions and arguments about the particulars of the process and how to show each step of digestion – they were actively developing their understandings of this unseen process. Ultimately, students designed an animation that helped them visualize their thinking.

Practicing scientists use conventional and idiosyncratic representations to capture and communicate aspects of their work every day. They generate graphs, construct mathematical models, create simulations, and draw diagrams – all forms of visualizing an idea. Students, too, need opportunities to invent and refine representations of their thinking. Constructing representations serves two purposes for students: (1) it facilitates the development of more scientific ways of thinking and reasoning, and (2) the process builds students’ capacity for designing and critiquing representations of their ideas. Unfortunately, in traditional school science, the ways in which students can visualize their ideas are limited. Increasing opportunities to create visualizations that amplify student thinking, like animations, helps to unlock students’ abilities to do science.

This movie was generated using SAM Animation, which is stop-motion software designed specifically for students in classrooms. SAM facilitates students’ making dynamic representations, which in turn become the focal points of negotiations of meaning. Teachers see new dimensions of student reasoning, and students see their ideas in new forms. Tools that facilitate the creation of new visualizations are central to science, and when we give students access to these tools they show us their capability to visualize processes in science…such as why a cow poops.