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Interactive Exhibit at Supercomputer '97

SAN JOSE, CA -- In a dramatic demonstration that took viewers sailing through the human brain, protein molecules and the microscopic pores in oil-rich rock, scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory today presented a new approach for seeing science in three dimensions.

The 3-D demo, part of the Supercomputer '97 conference being held here, showcased the "stereographic visualization facility" developed and built by BNL's computer researchers.
Not only does the facility make it easer for scientists to get an up-close, 3-D look at digital images of the objects they study, it can also enable collaborating scientists at other sites to see the same images simultaneously.

"For the more than 4,000 scientists who perform research at Brookhaven every year, and for scientists and physicians around the world, the ability to see and manipulate 3-D images represents a way to gain insight into their work," said Arnold Peskin, the team's leader.

The demonstration featured a small-scale version of the theater-size facility now in place at BNL, using a Silicon Graphics workstation with a portable VRex stereo projector instead of the workstation and larger, stationary stereographic projectors in the theater at BNL.

At the theater, the workstation sends two polarized digital images through the projectors onto a specially designed 10-foot screen that retains light polarization. The resulting stereo object can then be viewed by up to 20 people from anywhere in the room through ordinary polarized glasses.

"The resulting images appear to be in the room with the viewer, with a striking degree of realism," said Peskin. "And the sense of immersion provides a viewing experience comparable to that of much more expensive technologies. Even the portable demonstration at Supercomputer '97 conveys some of the `magic' of the Lab's facility."

Scientists have already used the facility to view images of cocaine's movement through the brain, combining dozens of digital "brain slices" made using medical imaging equipment. They have also navigated through the pores in sandstone rock being studied by Mobil Oil for oil reservoir exploration and management. And physicists have used the facility to better envision the showers of particles that will be generated in BNL's next "atom smasher," the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.

Other uses of the facility demonstrated today include planning the radiation therapy for brain tumor patients participating in the Lab's clinical trial of an experimental treatment called boron neutron capture therapy. Multiple brain images made with MRI technology can be combined digitally, giving a 3-D image of the exact location of the tumor so that physicians can calculate the radiation dose needed to treat different parts of the cancer with minimal effect on healthy tissue.
Sample images from each of these applications and several others can be found on the World Wide Web at

Brookhaven National Laboratory carries out basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. BNL is operated by Associated Universities, Inc., a nonprofit research management organization, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.