TED2009

JoAnn Kuchera-Morin: Stunning data visualization in the AlloSphere

Filmed:

JoAnn Kuchera-Morin demos the AlloSphere, a new way to see, hear and interpret scientific data. Dive into the brain, feel electron spin, hear the music of the elements ... and detect previously unseen patterns that could lead to new discoveries.

- Composer
Composer JoAnn Kuchera-Morin is the director of the Center for Research in Electronic Art Technology (CREATE) at UC Santa Barbara. Full bio

The AlloSphere: it's a three-story metal sphere
00:18
in an echo-free chamber.
00:21
Think of the AlloSphere as a large,
00:23
dynamically varying digital microscope
00:25
that's connected to a supercomputer.
00:28
20 researchers can stand on a bridge
00:30
suspended inside of the sphere, and be
00:33
completely immersed in their data.
00:35
Imagine if a team of physicists
00:37
could stand inside of an atom
00:39
and watch and hear electrons spin.
00:42
Imagine if a group of sculptors
00:44
could be inside of a lattice of atoms
00:48
and sculpt with their material.
00:51
Imagine if a team of surgeons could fly
00:53
into the brain, as though it was a world,
00:55
and see tissues as landscapes,
00:58
and hear blood density levels as music.
01:00
This is some of the research that you're going to see
01:03
that we're undertaking at the AlloSphere.
01:05
But first a little bit about this group
01:07
of artists, scientists, and engineers
01:09
that are working together.
01:11
I'm a composer, orchestrally-trained,
01:13
and the inventor of the AlloSphere.
01:15
With my visual artist colleagues, we map
01:17
complex mathematical algorithms that unfold in time and space,
01:19
visually and sonically.
01:22
Our scientist colleagues are finding new patterns
01:24
in the information.
01:26
And our engineering colleagues are making
01:28
one of the largest dynamically varying computers in the world
01:30
for this kind of data exploration.
01:34
I'm going to fly you into five research projects
01:36
in the AlloSphere that are going to take you from
01:39
biological macroscopic data
01:41
all the way down to electron spin.
01:43
This first project is called the AlloBrain.
01:46
And it's our attempt to quantify beauty
01:49
by finding which regions of the brain
01:51
are interactive while witnessing something beautiful.
01:53
You're flying through the cortex of my colleague's brain.
01:57
Our narrative here is real fMRI data
02:00
that's mapped visually and sonically.
02:03
The brain now a world that we can fly through and interact with.
02:05
You see 12 intelligent computer agents,
02:09
the little rectangles that are flying in the brain with you.
02:12
They're mining blood density levels.
02:15
And they're reporting them back to you sonically.
02:17
Higher density levels mean
02:20
more activity in that point of the brain.
02:22
They're actually singing these densities to you
02:24
with higher pitches mapped to higher densities.
02:27
We're now going to move from real biological data
02:30
to biogenerative algorithms that create artificial nature
02:33
in our next artistic and scientific installation.
02:37
In this artistic and scientific installation, biogenerative algorithms
02:41
are helping us to understand
02:45
self-generation and growth:
02:47
very important for simulation in the nanoscaled sciences.
02:49
For artists, we're making new worlds
02:53
that we can uncover and explore.
02:55
These generative algorithms grow over time,
02:57
and they interact and communicate as a swarm of insects.
03:00
Our researchers are interacting with this data
03:03
by injecting bacterial code,
03:05
which are computer programs,
03:07
that allow these creatures to grow over time.
03:09
We're going to move now from the biological
03:13
and the macroscopic world,
03:15
down into the atomic world,
03:17
as we fly into a lattice of atoms.
03:19
This is real AFM -- Atomic Force Microscope -- data
03:22
from my colleagues in the Solid State Lighting and Energy Center.
03:25
They've discovered a new bond,
03:28
a new material for transparent solar cells.
03:30
We're flying through 2,000 lattice of atoms --
03:33
oxygen, hydrogen and zinc.
03:36
You view the bond in the triangle.
03:38
It's four blue zinc atoms
03:41
bonding with one white hydrogen atom.
03:43
You see the electron flow with the streamlines
03:46
we as artists have generated for the scientists.
03:48
This is allowing them to find the bonding nodes in any lattice of atoms.
03:51
We think it makes a beautiful structural art.
03:54
The sound that you're hearing are the actual
03:57
emission spectrums of these atoms.
03:59
We've mapped them into the audio domain,
04:01
so they're singing to you.
04:03
Oxygen, hydrogen and zinc have their own signature.
04:05
We're going to actually move even further down
04:08
as we go from this lattice of atoms
04:11
to one single hydrogen atom.
04:14
We're working with our physicist colleagues
04:17
that have given us the mathematical calculations
04:19
of the n-dimensional Schrödinger equation in time.
04:22
What you're seeing here right now is a superposition of an electron
04:26
in the lower three orbitals of a hydrogen atom.
04:29
You're actually hearing and seeing the electron flow with the lines.
04:32
The white dots are the probability wave
04:36
that will show you where the electron is
04:38
in any given point of time and space
04:40
in this particular three-orbital configuration.
04:42
In a minute we're going to move to a two-orbital configuration,
04:46
and you're going to notice a pulsing.
04:50
And you're going to hear an undulation between the sound.
04:52
This is actually a light emitter.
04:55
As the sound starts to pulse and contract,
04:57
our physicists can tell when a photon is going to be emitted.
05:00
They're starting to find new mathematical structures
05:03
in these calculations.
05:07
And they're understanding more about quantum mathematics.
05:09
We're going to move even further down,
05:12
and go to one single electron spin.
05:15
This will be the final project that I show you.
05:19
Our colleagues in the Center for Quantum Computation
05:22
and Spintronics are actually measuring with their lasers
05:24
decoherence in a single electron spin.
05:28
We've taken this information and we've
05:31
made a mathematical model out of it.
05:33
You're actually seeing and hearing
05:35
quantum information flow.
05:37
This is very important for the next step in simulating
05:39
quantum computers and information technology.
05:42
So these brief examples that I've shown you
05:45
give you an idea of the kind of work that we're doing
05:49
at the University of California, Santa Barbara,
05:52
to bring together, arts, science
05:54
and engineering
05:57
into a new age of math, science and art.
06:00
We hope that all of you will come to see the AlloSphere.
06:03
Inspire us to think of new ways that we can use
06:06
this unique instrument that we've created at Santa Barbara.
06:10
Thank you very much.
06:14
(Applause)
06:16

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About the Speaker:

JoAnn Kuchera-Morin - Composer
Composer JoAnn Kuchera-Morin is the director of the Center for Research in Electronic Art Technology (CREATE) at UC Santa Barbara.

Why you should listen

Composer JoAnn Kuchera-Morin works on  the Allosphere, one of the largest scientific and artistic instruments in the world. Based at UCSB, the Allosphere and its 3D immersive theater maps complex data in time and space. Kuchera-Morin founded the Center for Research in Electronic Art Technology (CREATE) and has been the director since its birth in 1986. In 2000 she began work on a Digital Media Center within the California NanoSystems Institute at Santa Barbara. Her fascinations include gestural interfaces for performance and the expression of complex data in nontraditional forms.

Hew own music explores the boundaries of electric/acoustic instrumentation, welcoming digital players into the ensemble in works such as Concerto For Clarinet and Clarinets, a composition for solo clarinet and computer-generated tape.