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November 1999

Visualizations and vision

Science visualizations . . .

The latest in big-screen science arrived at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on Tuesday, 12 October. Don Middleton, head of SCD's Visualization Laboratory, joined forces with Fritz Hasler (pictured at right), of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, to bring model output and satellite images to life on a 12-by-36-foot screen. Dual projectors were driven by an SGI Onyx2 InfiniteReality supercomputer. The show was sponsored in part by the UCAR members universities' meeting and UCAR/NCAR's 40th anniversary celebration. In keeping with that theme, it zipped through over four decades of weather and climate visualizations--from the first satellite view of earth to new output from NCAR's climate system model to simulations of ocean circulation and clear air turbulence. The show was an unqualified hit: The NIST auditorium was packed with over 600 people, and at least 200 more had to be turned away. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

. . . and a vision of science

When Vannevar Bush wrote of science as an "endless frontier" at mid-century, John Firor had already staked his career claim. John reflected on his last 50 years as a scientist, leader, and writer in the second Walter Orr Roberts Distinguished Lecture, part of UCAR/NCAR's 40th anniversary celebration. He spoke to a standing-room-only crowd on Tuesday evening, 19 October, at the Boulder Public Library. John discussed his days in graduate school at the high-powered University of Chicago, his years at the High Altitude Observatory, and his time in the late 1960s and early 1970s as NCAR's second director, working closely with Walt Roberts. He also pondered what new conceptions of science might replace Bush's "endless frontier" in a world where science is no longer assumed to be a value-free, completely objective enterprise. John's talk was flanked by two valued friends of NCAR: he was introduced by former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth and followed by comments from Janet Roberts. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)


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