Department of Physics, Wake Forest University

Data Visualization of Dynamical Systems

Gregory B. Cook

Our research in the area of computational general relativity, as with other areas of computational physics, often results in the generation of enormous amounts of data. This data, often the result of hours of supercomputer time, contains an enormous amount of useful information. But, most of the time, it is impossible to simply read the resulting data files and obtain any useful imformation. The best way to glean information from large sets of data is to view it graphically.

There are numerous software packages available for producing high quality plots of scientific data. These are usually large, feature rich packages with a broad range of functionality. But, sometimes, bigger isn't always better. When trying to do cutting edge research involving large data sets, it is often desirable to have small, efficient tools for visualizing your data. With this vision in mind, we have begun to develop a basic visualization tool that is tailored to our research needs.

In developing a visualization tool that meets our research needs, we hope to produce a tool that is useful to a much broader community of researchers and students who need to visualize scientific data sets. Realizing that people will rely on a variety of computers for their visualization needs, we have adopted a design concept that should allow this tool to be easily ported to a variety of current and future systems.

OpenGL Graphics

OpenGL is a widely used graphics library for 2- and 3-dimensional graphics. Hardware acceleration of the graphics operations is available in many systems and a free implementation of the OpenGL API can be obtain in the Mesa 3-D graphics library. By using OpenGL, we achieve fast, efficient graphics with a minimum of programming effort.

C++ Programming

The code is written in C++ and makes use of object oriented programming to separate coding of the windowing system interface from the basic algorithms for drawing graphics and manipulating data.

Windowing Systems

Acknowledgements: Many of the ideas for this graphics program were inspired by the ser (vs) 1-D , time dependent visualization software for SGI machines using IRIS GL graphics, written by Matt Choptuik. Work on the MS-Windows interface has been conducted by Jeremy Kindy as part of the STARS program at Wake Forest University.