As Above, So Below: Astronomical Medicine [Revolutionary Minds Think Tank]


I erroneously titled the post that contained Michelle Borkin's final answer "Collaboration and Hemodynamics"
and this definitely reflected an oversight on my part. In addition to discussing hemodynamics Michelle also touched on the Astronomical Medicine project, a venture that definitely deserves some attention as it is a great example of interdisciplinary collaboration. What exactly is the mandate of the project and around which circumstances or scientific problems might astronomers and medical imaging specialists collaborate? Data Visualization. At this moment in time that answer isn't particularly surprising but what is amazing is the specific overlap of expertise—for all intensive purposes astronomers study images with the same legibility as those produced by medical imaging. Borkin describes these disciplines as being tied together by a "mutual need for sophisticated multidimensional data visualization" and the Astronomical Medicine project page encapsulates the connection as follows:

While astronomy and medical imaging seem very different, both fields search through large amounts of image data looking for meaningful patterns. For example, a physician may inspect a patient's MRI scans looking for signs of disease, while an astronomer will analyze radio telescope image data to find evidence of a new star being born. The two sciences have separately developed many techniques to analyze, visualize, and catalog complex multi-dimensional imaging data, but seldom have experts from the two areas worked together.

This is exactly the kind of confluence at the heart of the Revolutionary Minds project! You can learn more about this fascinating project via a selection of images, links and background information on the Astronomical Medicine page—the project is part of the Harvard Initiative in Innovative Computing, which might also warrant some investigation. For those interested, there is a short documentary on this interdisciplinary venture called The Astronomical Medicine Project: Mapping New Frontiers in Astronomy and Medicine available for download (70MB .mov file).

Image: The star-forming region IC 348 in 13CO as displayed by 3D Slicer.


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