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A visualization of the human brain using VisTrails.

Photo of a bank of computer monitors showing a visualization of the human brain.

A visualization of the human brain using VisTrails. In recent decades, researchers have used computers to build complex visualizations based on large data sets to gain a better perspective on their research. When a computer combines a map with the data from thousands of sensors measuring ocean currents and temperatures around the globe, for example, a collection of numbers can become a stunning visualization that helps us understand shifting climate patterns. Likewise, a computer-generated visualization can help a surgeon better understand what is happening inside a patient's heart before ever picking up a scalpel.

Credit: Juliana Freire, University of Utah

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Related story: A New Vision for Scientific Visualizations