Near the end of the relatively brief (45 min.) Hubble 3D Imax movie, I sat transfixed with my 3D glasses as I watched a fly-through sequence composed of Hubble images extending at greater resolution into the furthest visualized part of space known as the Ultra Deep Field (a narrated version of this original Hubble sequence is represented in the embedded video without the full 3D or Imax effect).
Its principal value is to visualize data in a manner that both young and old can appreciate: intuitively grasping a meaningful sense of the speed, distance, and time involved in racing many times the speed of light through the visible universe to witness its awesome vastness and complexity.
As I left the theater, I realized there was something else of great value that the Hubble image sequence demonstrates: the value of creating and using physical models to help us form mental representations (mental models) of information that may otherwise be too novel and complex to grasp.
Watson and Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA by building the right kind of physical model from which to test their thinking (mental model) and use this model-based reasoning to validate their hypotheses and make a breakthrough discovery about the nature of life.
As designers of systems to support users, customers, and/or learners, we must tap into the power of prototypes as physical complements of our mental models to create a conversation between what we want to do and what can be done.
Whether we are astrophysicists, research scientists, designers of systems, or pursuing empirical understanding of the nature of anything, we cannot ignore the tremendous power that this kind of model-based reasoning can impart.
I welcome your comments on these topics in reply,