Monday, June 18, 2012

Digital Universe Atlas - Revolution in education

A visit to Hayden Planetarium for school class, family or individuals certainly is an Wow! Ah! Oh! experience. It is certainly educational and so must be a contemplated walk on the Cosmic Hallway.

Digital Universe Atlas is perhaps less emotionally enthralling but on the long term it has much more educational punch as the guide written by Brian Abbott challenges the user to see by himself what has been discovered and provides easy to understand yet expert teaching about the meaning of what you see.

Brian Abbott American Museum of Natural History
Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2010

The combination of a well-written tutorial and guide book with interactive work with computer keyboard and mouse seems to me a true revolution in education. For in order to understand you must make a personal effort that calls for motivation. A computer classroom where teacher uses the Digital Universe Atlas and the guide and each student must work with partiview viewer probably produces students with real understanding of modern space sciences and the universe we live in.

A mere presentation of DU Atlas using a projector or a magic visit to Hayden or some other Planetarium will not require the same learning curve from the student and is helpful but less effective.

Computerized planetarium simulators such as Stellarium, offer the familiar view of night sky and help enormously in learning constellations and names of bright stars and many other things. The Celestia planetarium takes off from Earth bound positions and allows space travel and wonderful views of the universe.

But they do not have nearly the muscle of Digital Universe Atlas which has scientific and highly accurate data and allows a unique 3D view of space.

For an Earth bound human being conceptualizing the space is not at all easy. What is up and what is down, where is the centre and what is at the edge? Books have been written and will be written trying to convey the modern Space-Time world view to readers with text and images and charts and maps.

But in my opinion, no book can compete with the combination of a book and a digitized model of the Universe. The Atlas comes with its own dashboard that looks challenging but has been designed for spatial navigation. Together with numerous controls and slides this spacecraft really lifts us off and allows a rare opportunity to grasp something about the tsunami of data modern space sciences have revealed and are producing with logarithmically increasing speed.

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