Examples from the yt Project
What I cannot create, I do not understand.
— RICHARD FEYNMAN
Simulations are, in a sense, re-creating parts of the universe. No matter how you slice it, virtually re-creating galaxies or brain dynamics is a tall order. The yt Project[—] is a visualization and analysis platform to help researchers in areas ranging from cosmology to neuroscience to explore simulation-based data and models (http://yt-project.org). Matt Turk, an associate research scientist at Columbia Astrophysics, is the original author of the project, which he began as a graduate student. “We found that researchers feel this is a good place to collaborate without direct competition,” Turk says. Sam Skillman, a postdoctoral student at Stanford, started working on the yt Project as a means to ask more simple and direct questions of the data he was using. He has since become involved in the development of the platform for working on large data sets in volume rendering. yt is a framework and analysis of data that was originally focused on astrophysical data, but is beginning to branch out into other domains in nuclear engineering and seismology and is just starting to include a neuroscience project called “Neurodome.”
Turk says, “At some level there is a crossover in concepts between astrophysics and neuroscience in some of the ways you approach data, including segmentation and feature identification.” One of the very early visualizations of astrophysical data was isosurfaces; that is a very common way of representing neuroscience data, as well. Skillman says another similarity is that both disciplines are entering the era of giant surveys. He elaborates, “You’ve got new technologies that can probe the brain in different ways that generate disjointed but associated datasets. Both fields are really trying to grapple with taking data from many different places and then trying to put it together.” For example, a yt Project called AGORA (Assembling Galaxies of Resolved Anatomy) is focused on investigating galaxy formation with high-resolution numerical simulations. It then compares the results across different platforms as well as with observations of the real thing (see Figure 7-7).
Figure 7-7. Project AGORA (Assembling Galaxies of Resolved Anatomy)