APS News

MIT to Host First Conference on Image and Meaning in Science

Scientists from nearly every discipline will join animators, architects, film makers, graphic artists and others for a conference on image and meaning, to be held June 13-16 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Conference participants will discuss and demonstrate the most advanced forms of visual expression from science, technical and nonscientific visual fields in both plenary sessions and more informal working sessions. Specific topics to be covered include exploring ways in which techniques developed for one discipline can be used in others; the role of science writers in adding information and meaning to an image; the psychology of perception; graphical representation of numerical data; and the border between image enhancement and falsification.

"As human beings, we assimilate the world chiefly through our sense of sight. Both the increasing complexity of science and the invention of new methods of visualization provide a remarkable opportunity to use the new visualization technologies to communicate science," says Felice Frankel, an award-winning science photographer (see APS News, May 1999) who is co-organizing the NSF-funded conference. "But this communication will not be effective unless science communicators and science imagers learn more about one another, and develop more sophisticated ways to interact."

Among the program highlights is a special Thursday evening on science as spectacle, with representations from Digital Domain, Industrial Light and Magic, and Sony Imageworks showcasing their latest technologies on how to present scientific information, followed by a panel discussion on what does and doesn't work when film and television try to explain science. Friday evening will feature appearances by Alan Lightman, Roger Penrose, Susan Sontag and E.O. Wilson, in what is being touted as a "conversation" about how images in science have changed the way we view ourselves.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
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