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We are trying to integrate the state and national science standards into the 3rd-6th grade curriculum. I am preparing to do a presentation on using the digital camera to teach science. I was wondering if you had any ideas on how you use the digital camera as a scientist.
Question Date: 1998-09-16
Answer 1:

In regard to the question re: the use of a digital camera..
I have used them in numerous ways. Here are a few suggestions.

1. The camera can be used to create a digital record of environmental conditions, such as a field plot, when conditions such as succession are being studied, or to record what an aquarium looks like before adding biologics to it, etc.
2. Place an object of known length, such as a surfboard, in the ocean, get up on a bluff and photograph, and use the surfboard as a reference to measure wavelength of water waves.
3. Take digital pictures of laboratory apparatus or equipment set-ups to enhance the explanation of a particular experiment.
4. Create digital databases of local flora.
5. Use the camera's close-up abilities, as in the case of Connectix' Color Quick Cam to place images of small subjects onto a larger monitor.
6. Take a digital picture of a person throwing a ball, that can be later used to determine the angle at which the ball was released.. useful for projectile motion studies.

I hope this helps some!

Answer 2:

I can't speak for research scientists on how a digital camera is used, although I use one almost daily for some facet of teaching.

I have a very large archive of cloud types, which the kids and I view on the day I took them if useful.... seeing fog covering their town while everything beyond the river is clear was an interesting lesson, for example. We have posted plant photos on the website below (about the dunes) and hope to get professional input to expand the scientific value of that kind of web-based exhibit.

the other url their leads to a very large archive of "back country" photos that Ray Ford either scanned or has taken with digital camera.

Walt Bunning has a "virtual field trip" of the Parkfield earthquake study center, and also uses his camera (as do I) to photograph lab apparatus setups or specimens, then either quickprint a color transparency, or send it to a TV monitor or projector for students to view and use.

I tookperspective photos of a soda machine which kids viewed as they tried to design how the insides must work to recognize money, select soda, deliver soda, keep it cold, and make change. Just today, I took a photo of the inside of the machine when the delivery man was there.....
but I think I prefer the Black Box approach for the kid's work. I'll be posting scans of some of their designs along with lesson info and objectives of the work sometime this month on our school website (above url)

We always take photos of our river field trips, geological features, plants, kids....
I use a 16mb flash card that captures 108 hi-res pictures on a Kodak DC50, then I can pop it in the powerbook, copy them to the drive, erase the card and take more pictures in about 2 minutes. This feature allows taking the 14-30 pictures needed for later creating Quicktime VR's, which again, can have some excellent uses for outdoor studies, as well as viewing objects from 360.

Our school web page is finally moving..... a dunes plants exhibit
is posted.... Go to "What's New" on the school homepage:
Check out the new look for Environmental Connections
and Virtual Traveler (yep, kids will be taking field trips too)
http://traveler.virtual-traveler.org (under construction this summer)

Answer 3:

Digital cameras can be extremely useful in the sciences because of the ability for the images to be stored in a computer and enhanced by the many digital image processing programs available. These programs range from very basic draw and paint programs that can read a digital image and allow for simple editing to more advanced programs designed specifically for photographic production. Perhaps you could call the UCSB Instructional Development office (893-4335) where they have facilities for working with digital pictures.

What are some of the less intuitive uses of digital cameras. You might think about instruments other than just hand held cameras or video recorders. In earth and space sciences, remote sensing has become a very important tool for understanding the surface of the Earth or other planets.
If you have access to the world-wide-web, try exploring some sites that use this sort of data. You might try NASA's home page at http://www.nasa.gov or the USGS Earthshots program at http://edcwww.cr.usgs.gov/earthshots/slow/tableofcontents which has good satellite images and a link to the EROS data center which contains the remote sensing image archives for the USGS. The team can explore how the satellites that view our planet and other planets are really just digital cameras in space. Another interesting use of digital cameras is in the medical sciences where digital imaging is used to look inside the body with instruments such as MRIs. I don't know as much about this aspect of digital images but you might check out agencies such as the National Institutes of Health.

Digital imaging is a very fun tool because it is powerful and versatile. You can use it to compare images in a very quantitative way that is very effective for scientific endeavors or you can use it to alter images for fun pictures or for more questionable purposes. Think how tabloids use digital images to make it look like an alien landed on the Washington Monument or to support some less savory story. Have a great time exploring this topic because it's all around us whether we notice or not.

Answer 4:

I am responding to your question regarding how digital cameras are used in the field of science. Digital cameras are used quite a lot, especially by researchers who need to be able to view and manipulate their images with a computer. Normally, to do this you would need to scan in slides, negatives and/or photos. This requires expensive equipment and often results in a loss of quality, like making a photocopy of a photo rather than a new print. I work with single-cell organisms and must take pictures of them through a microscope. I use these photos to measure very small distances within the cell (a millionth of a meter) or, if I've labelled a part of the cell with fluorescent or radioactive material, to measure the relative brightness of the label. Because these things are very hard to measure, I need as high quality a picture as I can get. Digital images are very high quality, and don't need to be scanned in.

Digital cameras are also very convenient if you are distributing photos via e-mail or the web. I am an oceanographer, and so spend long periods of time on a ship in the middle of the ocean. If I want to send photos of my work back to my adviser or to other scientists to look at, a digital camera allows me to send the photos via satellite computer, without having to lug a scanner and developing equipment on board. Finally, if I am preparing slides or overheads to present my research at a conference, it is very easy to directly incorporate digital photos into a slide-making program such as
PowerPoint or Illustrator.

Hope this helps!

Answer 5:

There are a couple of interesting points to make - the first is how we perceive an image. A digital camera incorporates an image in a discrete number of spots, called pixels, that the eye then merges into a continuous image. A newpaper photograph is similar - lots of dots. An interesting question is how big can the dots get relative to the size of the image before the eye can no longer smooth things out. For example, using an enlarging copier, or a magnifying glass, enlarge the details of a digital image or a newspaper. Very quickly, small details will become unrecognizable. This is a good place to introduce pattern recognition, along with a number of the simple patterns that are designed to fool the eye. Our visual information process is very pattern oriented and we have a tendency to see what we have seen before in any new image, even if it
isn't there

Answer 6:

Here are a few ways I can think of in which we use digital cameras as physicists and astronomers:
1. to take pictures from a microscope or telescope. We can then transfer them to a computer to enhance and analyze them.
2. to measure the spectrum of light coming out of a monochrometer. A monochrometer is an instrument, like a prism, that separates out the different wavelengths (ie colors) of light.
3. to take pictures of our experimental apparatus.
4. to take pictures of our friends.

Answer 7:

As a neurobiology technicain, I used a digital video camera and specialized software to tell which areas of the pituitary were making specific hormones. I captured images of stained tissue sections, then set the appropriate contrast levels and used the software to calculate the stained area.

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