A Virtual Rock Physics Laboratory Through Visualized and Interactive Experiments

Friday, 19 December 2014: 11:35 AM
Tiziana Vanorio1, Carlo Di Bonito2 and Anthony C Clark1, (1)Stanford University, Geophysics Department, Stanford, CA, United States, (2)3DB Visualization, Menlo Park, CA, United States
As new scientific challenges demand more comprehensive and multidisciplinary investigations, laboratory experiments are not expected to become simpler and/or faster. Experimental investigation is an indispensable element of scientific inquiry and must play a central role in the way current and future generations of scientist make decisions. To turn the complexity of laboratory work (and that of rocks!) into dexterity, engagement, and expanded learning opportunities, we are building an interactive, virtual laboratory reproducing in form and function the Stanford Rock Physics Laboratory, at Stanford University. The objective is to combine lectures on laboratory techniques and an online repository of visualized experiments consisting of interactive, 3-D renderings of equipment used to measure properties central to the study of rock physics (e.g., how to saturate rocks, how to measure porosity, permeability, and elastic wave velocity). We use a game creation system together with 3-D computer graphics, and a narrative voice to guide the user through the different phases of the experimental protocol. The main advantage gained in employing computer graphics over video footage is that students can virtually open the instrument, single out its components, and assemble it. Most importantly, it helps describe the processes occurring within the rock. These latter cannot be tracked while simply recording the physical experiment, but computer animation can efficiently illustrate what happens inside rock samples (e.g., describing acoustic waves, and/or fluid flow through a porous rock under pressure within an opaque core-holder – Figure 1). The repository of visualized experiments will complement lectures on laboratory techniques and constitute an on-line course offered through the EdX platform at Stanford. This will provide a virtual laboratory for anyone, anywhere to facilitate teaching/learning of introductory laboratory classes in Geophysics and expand the number of courses that can be offered for curricula in Earth Sciences. The primary goal is to open up a research laboratory such as the one available at Stanford to promising students worldwide who are currently left out of such educational resources.