Addressing Biological Complexity Using Computer Visualization
Organismal analysis is on the verge of a revolution. Never in history has equipment and computing power been sufficient to allow most organismal biologists to move rapidly and quantitatively from one level of organization to another. We are entering an era of Integration that is simply unprecedented.
State-of-the-art instrumentation and computing power for organismal reconstruction now permit organismal biologists to leap from a generation of primarily simple, qualitative description, single-species focus, single-system concentration, and qualitative, behavioral description in 2D space to a new era of rapid, quantitative evaluation, multiple-species comparisons, multiple-systems integration, and rapid, quantitative, dynamic behavioral analysis in 3D space facilitating dynamic modeling. The ability to rapidly and quantitatively model systems, organisms, their behavior, and their environment will fundamentally change the level of evidence we require to test hypotheses, since speculation can be quantitatively bounded. Previously untestable hypotheses can be approached.
Because morphometric data can be collected rapidly and accurately, projects that would be reasoned away and never attempted will be required and completed. Research guided by intuition can be steered by quantitative sensitivity analysis, saving time, resources, and organisms. Most importantly, for the first time, state-of the-art instrumentation for organismal reconstruction will greatly facilitate integration among levels of organization from cells to organs, from organs to organisms, and from organisms to their interactions with the environment.
Robert J. Full
University of California, Berkeley
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