EarthViewer is an iPad app that puts our planet’s deep history at your fingertips. You can scroll through billions of years in a few seconds, watching how
continents shift and how changes in solar luminosity, atmospheric composition, and climate interact. A simple swipe across the screen rotates this virtual Earth, letting you explore at will. The app also comes with profiles of the
creatures that inhabited the ancient Earth and allows you to zoom in on where
their fossils were found.
Developed by the Educational Resources Group at the Howard Hughes
Medical Institute, it is intended primarily as a teaching tool in high school. But
it is pretty addictive for inquisitive adults, too—even those who have always
had trouble telling the Paleocene from the Pliocene.
Visit the website at www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/earthviewer.
This educational game enables budding deep-sea explorers to guide a remotely
operated vehicle (ROV) as it studies a virtual hydrothermal vent. Giant tube-worms sway gently as an eel swishes past; a nosy octopus even comes over for
a look. As the ROV moves through its 3D environment, the pilot can take temperature readings, snap pictures, and grab samples with the craft’s robot arm to
complete a series of research missions.
Educators at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography developed the interac-
tive game to inspire middle school pupils. It offers the same freedom afforded by
commercial “open world” games, allowing users to explore at their own pace.
Its appeal is not limited to schoolchildren, notes Daniel Rohrlick, one of the
developers: “Even ROV pilots enjoy the game.”
Visit the website at siogames.ucsd.edu/deep.html.
Environment Pilot (DEEP)
“Most people don’t expect a whole ecosystem right on the leaf surface,” says Eve Syrkin Wurtele, a plant biologist at Iowa State University. Meta!Blast: The Leaf, the game that Wurtele and her team
created, lets high school students pilot a miniature bioship across
this strange landscape, which features nematodes and a lumbering tardigrade. They can dive into individual cells and zoom around a
chloroplast, activating photosynthesis with their ship’s search lamp.
Pilots can also scan each organelle they encounter to bring up more information about it from the ship’s BioLog—a neat way to put plant biology at the
heart of an interactive gaming environment.
This is a second recognition for Meta!Blast, which won an Honorable Mention
in the 2011 visualization challenge for a version limited to the inside of a plant cell.
Visit the website at www.metablast.org/scivis2013.
Mark Nielsen and Satoshi Amagai, Howard Hughes Medical Institute,
Chevy Chase, Maryland; Michael Clark, EarthBuzz Software Pte Ltd.,
Singapore; Blake Porch; Dennis Liu, Howard Hughes Medical
Institute, Chevy Chase, Maryland
Daniel Rohrlick, Eric Simms, Cheryl Peach, and Debi Kilb, Scripps
Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, California; Charina Cain,
Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San
Meta!Blast: The Leaf
Eve Syrkin Wurtele, William Schneller, Paul Klippel, Greg Hanes,
Andrew Navratil, and Diane Bassham, Iowa State University, Ames