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D. A Big Bag of Scientific Tricks

Narrator: This is Science Today. To look at the details of a molecule or a planet, scientists use visual models. 3-D computer models are quite popular, but these days you can make a solid model you can hold in your hand, which is especially useful for figuring out how things like enzymes and viruses hook up with each other. Mike Bailey is a scientific visualization expert at the University of California, San Diego.

Bailey: The solid model is not better than computer graphics in all cases. Scientific visualization really is a big bag of tricks, and when you've got data to gain insight to you start reaching into your bag, and sometimes a 2-D x/y plot is the best thing and sometimes a solid model is and sometimes 3-D graphics is, or some combination.

Narrator: The advantage of 3-D is that you can change it quickly to reflect new information. You can also add color and texture. Nonetheless, handling a physical model somehow gives scientists new insights that other methods don't.

Bailey: And if we can figure that out, then we'd like to try and somehow get that back into the graphics displays to improve the quality of the graphics displays.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar