Chris Johnson is a master of representing 3D scientific information related to air currents, heat, and the physics of light. In other words, he creates highly-accurate virtual explosions like the one you see above breaking out of a container. At the AAAS conference today, he gave a presentation about the latest cool images and videos created where he works: the Scientific Computing and Imaging Group at the University of Utah. The group creates fire and explosion simulations for chemists, amazing 3D medical images of the human body, and recently made rather haunting depictions of the ways genetically-engineered mice develop differently from normal ones. Here are a few more of the images he discussed.
What's cool about this image of a flame is that it can be looked at from many different perspectives — not just rotated around CAD-style in 3D, but also transformed to depict which areas of the flame are hottest, for example. Here the flame is in its most realistic mode, showing what a methane fire would look like to the naked eye. Chemists use an image like this to figure out how a chemical fire might behave in a variety of conditions.
Here's a 3D picture of a human skull, which shows off all the different ways that Johnson's lab can render a solid, 3D object, showing features of different densities like bone, soft tissue, and neurons. It's only very recently that images like this could be explored interactively in real time with massive parallel processing power and (of course) technologies borrowed from video games.
And here's an image of the skeleton of a mouse fetus, which researchers can explore in 3D from every angle to see how genetic changes they've induced may (or may not) have changed the way the mouse is developing in the womb.