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Art Influencing Science

Art Influencing Science

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, October 13, 2016/Categories: video, space science, art and design, environment

                                         Whiteboard Animation design (credit: YouTube)

It appears the scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech may have learned a trick or two from the designers at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London. Those clever artists have pioneered the use of "whiteboard animation" to tell engaging stories on complex and diverse subjects. Their animated "short cources" on topics ranging from economics to empathy are 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 Mars Curiosity rover, and other robotic explorers, use "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. The JPL animation, while not as elaborate as those created by the RSA, still explains 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 to explore the solar system and beyond. Perhaps the RSA will be influenced to tell stories about complex space science in some of their new animations.



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