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Animation Influencing Science

Animation Influencing Science

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, April 1, 2019/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, video, space science, art and design, environment

                                         Whiteboard Animation design (credit: YouTube)

It seems the scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech in Pasadena may have learned a thing or two from the animators at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London. Those clever artists and designers have pioneered the use of whiteboard animation to create engaging stories that explain complex subjects. The RSA's animated "short coerces" range from topics on economics to empathy and are now being viewed the world over.

JPL has applied the same whiteboard animation approach to explain their efforts at developing new power sources for space exploration. The Lab's Mars Curiosity rover uses "radioisotope power" to create energy that drives an electric thermocouple. When a thermocouple of two metals is heated, the difference in the material's conductivity results in one metal becoming hotter than the other. This differential creates a voltage, the force with which electrons flow through the material, and converts the transferred heat into electricity. In the JPL animation, while not as elaborate as the RSA examples, still tells a complex engineering story in a wonderfully clever manner.

Hopefully, the new JPL power supplies and batteries will make even more exciting discoveries as their robots continue  exploring solar system targets. Perhaps, the RSA will also be influenced to create stories about space, medicine, and scientific explorations in some of their future animations.



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