The New York Times had a great article highlighting how scientists and animators at Harvard are using data to visualize biological processes in new ways. Here's a few tidbits about the importance of visualizing these complex systems with moving images:
“The ability to animate really gives biologists a chance to think about things in a whole new way,” said Janet Iwasa, a cell biologist who now works as a molecular animator at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Iwasa says she started working with visualizations when she saw her first animated molecule five years ago. “Just listening to scientists describe how the molecule moved in words wasn’t enough for me,” she said. “What brought it to life was really seeing it in motion.”
“All that we had before — microscopy, X-ray crystallography — were all snapshots,” said Tomas Kirchhausen, a professor in cell biology at Harvard Medical School and a frequent collaborator with Dr. Iwasa. “For me, the animations are a way to glue all this information together in some logical way. By doing animation I can see what makes sense, what doesn’t make sense. They force us to confront whether what we are doing is realistic or not.”
Once again, video's unique ability to show and express ideas bears itself out in these intricate and complex systems models. Read more in Where Cinema and Biology Meet.