An excerpt from UCLA Today’s news item ‘Team’s re-creation of ancient Karnak brings history of pharaohs to life’ reads, “The result of two years of painstaking research by a team of more than 24 scholars and technicians, Digital Karnak explores how scores of existing ruins may have originally looked and demonstrates how they came to be altered over time as generations of pharaohs put their stamp on the site that served as the religious center for Thebes, the Ancient Egyptian capital during the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.”
This is just one of the numerous examples of the use computer simulation, 3-d modelling and animation has in the scientific research today. These tools have afforded the scientists, from Egyptologists to space researchers, to transcend the barrier of space and time, albeit virtually, and aided the research tremendously. Based on the data already at hand, simulations and animations build a hypothetical image (be it a structure or a flight path) of what could have been or what could be. Having an image or action sequence running in front of one’s eyes is vastly helpful in the areas of research where the scientists haven’t had a chance to be in the place, time or situation they are studying.
Of course animation took its time to reach the sophisticated, 3-d, virtual reality stage that it is in today. The early humans “animated” simple day-to-day scenes by painting a sequence of actions on a vessel which one simply turned to see the “animation”. I’m sure you still remember the ‘flip-books’ when you were in school, pages of which had to be rapidly flipped in order to see a Cricketer play a shot or a soccer player score a goal. That was animation in its good ol’ 2-d form. Even today 2-d animation is useful for simulating the history of World War II or the spread of various religions across the globe. Of course if you are trying to simulate the threat of all the space-junk that orbits around the Earth to a space craft, you need much advanced, 3-d, virtual reality sort of animations.
However, simulations and animations are used mostly for entertainment purpose in our society. Most of it is aimed towards the computer and video games that have zero intellectual-stimulation and high violence-stimulation quotient for the brain. Very few but sensible people use these wonderful tools for edutainment. Someone like Matthew Sweetapple and his Rockford’s Rock Opera tries to educate the children about sustainability and our responsibility towards this planet. Others like the What the bleep?!? team give the viewers some food for thought about whether we really know what we think we know.