The SSEC Visualization Project

The Visualization Project at the Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison focuses on making advanced visualization techniques useful to scientists in their daily work. We accomplish this goal by making two scientific visualization systems, named Vis5D and VisAD, freely available over the Internet, and by using these systems as testbeds for exploring and evaluating new techniques.

Check out this short fiction about artificial intelligence, [Message Contains No Recognizable Symbols].

Here's the candid story of Bill's career at SSEC, which includes the story of the SSEC Visualization Project.

VisFiles Columns in the SIGGRAPH Newsletter

Here's a Visualization Viewpoints column about the Top Five Problems that Motovated My Work.

And here's my first letter and my second letter (fifth of eight letters) to the NY Times about manned space travel.


VisAD is a Java component library for interactive and collaborative visualization and analysis of numerical data. It combines a flexible data model and distributed objects (via Java RMI) to support sharing of data, visualizations and user interfaces between different data sources, different computers and different scientific disciplines.

Click here to see a screen shot of a collaborative application written using VisAD.


The Vis5D system is very widely used by scientists to visualize the output of their numerical simulations of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans. To see images generated by Vis5D, click on: Vis5D is being used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to visualize air quality models. Click here to read about our cooperation with the EPA.

We used Vis5D for experiments with the BLANCA high-speed Network as part of the Gigabit Testbed Project.


Cave5D is a virtual reality version of Vis5D for the CAVE and ImmersaDesk. It was written by the SSEC Visualization Project for The SIGGRAPH 94 Daily Weather Forecast in the VROOM (virtual reality room) at Siggraph '94, and Exploring Coupled Atmosphere-Ocean Models Using Vis5D and VisAD at Supercomputing '95 in the GII Testbed. This demonstration connected a CAVE in San Diego to an SP-2 data server at Argonne National Labs via the high-speed I-WAY network. Click here to see a Cave5D view of sea surface temperatures and upper air winds from the global coupled ocean-atmosphere model.

Cave5D is currently being devloped and distributed by Sheri Mickelson and John Taylor of Argonne National Laboratory. It is freely available here. Cave5D can be applied to any Vis5D data set (i.e., any .v5d file).

Serving and Viewing Vis5D Files Via the Web

Scientists are using the World Wide Web to exchange the output of their models as Vis5D files. Links to Vis5D files are embedded in Web pages, just as links to GIF files are embedded in Web pages, and Web browsers invoke Vis5D to view them, just as browsers invoke xv to view GIF files.

Sites regularly serving model output as Vis5D files via the Web include:

In order to view these model runs, you must install Vis5D and set up your Web browser (e.g., Netscape or Mosaic) to invoke Vis5D as an external viewer. Click here to find out how to do it, or to find out how to serve your own model runs via the Web.


You may also be interested in Mesa, which was originally developed by Brian Paul while with the SSEC Visualization Project. Mesa is a 3-D graphics library with an API which is very similar to that of OpenGL.* To the extent that Mesa utilizes the OpenGL command syntax or state machine, it is being used with authorization from Silicon Graphics, Inc. However, the author makes no claim that Mesa is in any way a compatible replacement for OpenGL or associated with Silicon Graphics, Inc. Those who want a licensed implementaion of OpenGL should contact a licensed vendor. This software is distributed under the terms of the GNU Library General Public License, see the LICENSE file for details.

* OpenGL(R) is a registered trademark of Silicon Graphics, Inc.


Here are a few publications of the SSEC Visualization Project:

Video Publications

And here are a few video publications of the SSEC Visualization Project:

You can obtain copies of most of these videos from the Siggraph Video Review.

More Information

For more information about the SSEC Visualization Project please contact Bill Hibbard.

Here's a comprehensive list of scientific visualization web sites.

I highly recommend Google Scholar for general scientific information, Slashdot for technical information, Flight Stats in case you should be so unfortunate as to need flight information, and Wikipedia as an on-line encyclopedia. See Scholarpedia for a free peer reviewed encyclopedia of computational neuroscience, dynamical systems and computational intelligence. See Open Culture for a wealth of free cultural and educational media. See Investopedia and RealClearMarkets for useful financial information. See RealClearScience for useful science information.

To find general information on the Web I recommend Google, DuckDuckGo, and the WayBack Machine web archive. For current news I like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Economist, The London Times, The Independent (London), The Guardian (London), The Telegraph (London), The Australian, The International Herald Tribune (Paris), Mainichi Daily News (Tokyo), Sumo results (but see this), The Japan Times (Tokyo), The Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo), NHK World (Tokyo), The China Daily (Beijing), The Moscow Times, The Moscow News, The Wisconsin State Journal and this list of on-line newspapers at the Internet Public Library. I like Howard Johnson's art for his imagination, I like Jim Norton's Heavy Table for fun and good Midwestern food, I like Mike Critelli's blog for his good judgement, and I like Bruce Perens' web site for his insight into technology. The Drudge Report is good for breaking stories. Truthout and Robert Reich's thoughts. Cricket news.

Don't miss the NY Times Best of the Millennium. If you need to work with Word files Google Docs is free and easy. You can have lots of fun with Google Maps. Make sure to click on "Satellite" once you zoom into an interesting location. The Edge. Check out the Halloween Documents. And the Darwin Awards. Of course the Las Vegas Casino Death Watch. Google Beta. 2001 A Space Odyssey, explained. Chernobyl Rides, a hoax but nevertheless interesting. Interested in saving the world? Check out The Copenhagen Consensus. Of course I would add raising public consciousness about the need to regulate artificial intelligence.