Monday, February 25, 2013
A quick internet search for electric field will show a large number images. Most of which are similar to the initial appearance of the example on this page. However, the electric field is an intrinsically three dimensional phenomenon. Making the leap from the standard two dimensional representation to a three dimensional understanding is difficult at best. So start with a clear three dimensional representation. With OpenGL ES on Android or iOS, or with WebGL as done here, a much better representation can be presented. This image rotates and zooms in response to many of the standard browser actions such as a mouse or a finger drag. Though the touch interaction has only been tested under Chrome and Firefox on Android. This provides a differing three dimensional view that shifts in direct response to the user or learner action. This allows a very fast comprehension of the three dimensional nature of the field. This is an early proof of concept to show the general class of examples that can be generated, and with the right choices in the software design, it is easy to modify the presented example and incorporate it into existing content.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
I can remember the first program I ever wrote when I was about 11 or 12. It solved a physics problem from one of my father's books: m=m0(1-v²/c²)½. The program produced a lot of numbers for v and m, but this table of numbers did not provide any great insights. So I decided to graph them. Seeing the the curve of m running to infinity rapidly as v gets close to c immediately gave me a deeper understanding of what the equation really means.
A few years later in my first real job – the same thing but on a bigger scale. Doing computational physics at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab. This code produced massive sets of numbers, and once again, simply looking at the numbers was not the best way to digest the data. So we graphed them. Of course we checked the numbers to ensure that the calculations were correct, but the real understanding came from the visualizations. And all of the publications and presentations used the visualizations.
A few more years later and I was visiting the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and I saw a large screen displaying an interactive three dimensional model of a molecule. I can remember having the flash – wow this would be great for teaching. I knew immediately that many of the advanced mathematics and physics concepts I had struggled with would be understood much clearer much faster if quality visualizations were available.
Now, graphics capability which was once the exclusive province of large institutions can be carried in your hand. We have a strong focus on STEM education, we have the Internet as a distribution medium, and we even have a graphics API embedded in most browsers. It is a great time to bring together all of this knowledge and experience with the desire to make a difference and build first class visualizations targeted to instruction.
Monday, February 18, 2013
VizIT Solutions produces high quality visualizations for instruction in mathematics and the sciences.
First rate instruction clearly presents material to the learner, further it engages and invites them to question and explore. Interactive visualizations are one of the most powerful, rapidly evolving, and underutilized methods to achieve this. We need to do better.
Mobile and games technologies have placed powerful graphics capabilities literally in our hands. We will exploit this to generate a new generation of instructional content particularly well suited for intrinsically three dimensional material such as electric and magnetic fields.