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D. A Model Theory

Narrator: This is Science Today. To look at the details of a molecule or the interior of the earth, scientists usually use 3-D graphics on a computer screen. Mike Bailey, a supercomputer expert at the University of California, San Diego, has a new device that makes physical models you can hold in your hand. He says the models help scientists see things in an entirely new way.

Bailey: The scientists have seen features in the solid models that they completely missed through months or years of study on computer graphics screens.

Narrator: The question is why. Bailey has a few theories. One is that you can run your fingers along a model.

Bailey: And as you run your fingers through the valleys and the peaks on different models, you get some better sense of what the geometry is.

Narrator: Another theory is that the focus of your eyes changes.

Bailey: When you look at a graphics screen, no matter what, it's a flat screen and everything focuses at the same distance. Whereas if you look at this, your eyes are constantly shifting back and forth in focus, and we believe that gives you some kind of clues as to the depth.

Narrator: Bailey is designing experiments to test his theories. For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.