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Published: 2021-01-12

SEK nine million for research into popular science visualisation of the atmosphere

NEWS The Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Memorial Fund has granted SEK 9.4 million for a project that will contribute to young people's education and generate interest in science and technology by visualising and making authentic data sets accessible to a wide audience. Madelen Bodin, director of the Curiosum Science Centre at Umeå University, is leading the project.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

"It feels great to have this chance to make exciting research visible to a wide audience! We want to understand how visualisation affects people's interest in and learning about science and technology, especially with regard to young people, and how a science centre could stimulate more young people to choose to study those subjects," says Madelen Bodin, senior lecturer at the Department of Science and Mathematics Education at Umeå University and director of the Curiosum Science Centre.

There are many processes going on in the atmosphere and this is an amazing source of scientific stories. Meteors are captured by the Earth's gravity and drawn into the atmosphere; particles from the sun interact with the Earth's magnetic field and create the Northern Lights; the Earth’s atmosphere creates the greenhouse effect so our planet is warm and habitable, but this greenhouse effect also creates problems if the distribution of gases in the atmosphere changes.

Madelen Bodin's project uses data from a space research facility currently being built in the Cap of the North (Nordkalotten) in three different locations in Norway, Sweden and Finland: EISCAT_3D. Special aerial structures are being built to collect radar signals from events in the atmosphere.

"EISCAT_3D will serve as a window that will allow us to see what is happening in the atmosphere and all the data we collect will enable us to understand more about how the Earth and the sun interact. With visualisation tools, these huge amounts of data will become accessible and the atmosphere can also be studied from different perspectives to find answers to questions," says Madelen Bodin.

One way to explore and investigate the atmosphere is by making trips in the authentic data sets in the dome theatre that has just been built at the Curiosum Science Centre in Umeå. The dome has a 360-degree screen that encloses the visitor and provides a unique experience. A guided tour can guide the visitor through various stories in the atmosphere like in a planetarium. There, different issues can be explored and different phenomena and processes investigated.

Another way is to let visitors examine data sets themselves on the basis of their own interests and abilities, thereby stimulating their desire to find out and understand more.

The project will involve Madelen Bodin observing visitors and investigating visitor reactions, what emotions are stimulated, what knowledge becomes accessible and what perceptions the visitors have about science.

"We will use the results to improve ways of making authentic data sets accessible to a wide audience in order to find more ways to make science and technology visible and generate interest in these subjects, for example, here at Curiosum.”

For more information, please contact:

Madelen Bodin
Associate professor