Researchers pushing the furthest boundaries of science and technology can spend a lot of time contemplating the intangible. The AlloSphere, a three-story-high globe that facilitates interactive 3-D visualizations of data, is designed to help. Located at the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the facility enables scientists to dive into data in unprecedented ways. Inside the sphere, they can get their hands on the atoms making up the crystal structure of new solar-cell materials or enter a brain and hear its activity.
Standing on a bridge suspended across the sphere’s center, a visitor contemplates a visualization of the quantum wave function of a hydrogen atom’s electron. When viewed through 3-D glasses, the model appears to hang in the air.