A Nanoscale Forest Seen Through a Big Lens

From the discovery of living cells with an early microscope by Anton van Leeuwenhoek in 1674 to the first observation of extremely distant galaxies with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, optical instruments were central to many breakthroughs throughout the history of science. Today, much of the data that scientists investigate is collected and analyzed digitally. Just as Leeuwenhoek invented his own microscope to look at water samples four centuries ago, scientists nowadays are constructing new types of "digital lenses" - large, high-resolution computer displays that allow them to observe complex digital datasets too small or too large to see otherwise. My research focuses on designing visualizations of nanoscale materials to portray these tiny structures in large, high-resolution display environments. Such nanostructures are too small to be seen in a microscope, yet too complex to be visualized on traditional computer screens. This image shows a 320-degrees panoramic visualization of a nanoscale glass fissure comprising 5 million atoms. The red and blue balls represent oxygen and silicon atoms, respectively. The green clouds represent electron charge densities. With big digital lenses like this, scientists can immerse themselves in their data and observe complex phenomena that would otherwise remain largely unseen.

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