Yesterday, at the Conference on World Affairs, I went to a panel about science and the movies. I'll have more on that later, but I wanted to share this short video recommended by Sidney Perkowitz as an excellent example of how the video medium can be used to allow people to explore and understand their world.
The video is Perpetual Oceans, and it's made by NASA. It shows ocean currents, twisting and turning and undulating around the globe between June of 2005 and December of 2007. There's no narration, just music. The idea is to put into images things that have previously only been words—here is the Gulf Stream, there's the Kuroshio Current. Watching this, you get a better idea of oceans as a system, and it's easy to see how—in the days before steam or gasoline powered engines—where you traveled to and from across the oceans was partly determined by how the ocean moved through that area. It's also important to understanding climate science.
Here's the technical detail from NASA:
This visualization was produced using model output from the joint MIT/JPL project: Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, Phase II or ECCO2. ECCO2 uses the MIT general circulation model (MITgcm) to synthesize satellite and in-situ data of the global ocean and sea-ice at resolutions that begin to resolve ocean eddies and other narrow current systems, which transport heat and carbon in the oceans. ECCO2 provides ocean flows at all depths, but only surface flows are used in this visualization.
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Jennifer Raff — a bioanthropologist and geneticist who researches and teaches at U Kansas and U Texas — provides some excellent advice and context on how to read a scientific paper, from figuring out which papers and journals are worthy of your attention to understanding the paper in its wider context in the relevant field.
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