Advanced Visualization and the Dance of the Spheres

This animation of star clusters colliding, shredding, and coalescing into galaxies is reminiscent of so many more familiar phenomena—clouds and dust motes in the sky, biofilms burbling on the surface tension of creek water, bubbles in a boiling pot of pasta. Despite the cataclysmic energies depicted, it’s a reminder of powerful unities at play in the cosmos. It’s the work of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois, a multi-discplinary data-crunching atelier that produces brilliant scenes for IMAX films and rigorous modelings of scientific data. The lab’s job is to make these two purposes one and the same. PopSci’s Clay Dillow has the story:

Those productions aren’t born simply of creativity but of complex computational science, and at that intersection the AVL has found a comfortable role. Tapping the supercomputing power at its disposal at the University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications (the mythical birthplace of HAL 9000), the AVL can make sense of massive data sets that others cannot, making it among the best in the world at turning complex data into science-driven cinematic art.

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