First Place Refereed Poster Award

Using Dynamical Properties to Measure the Masses of Galaxy Clusters

Daniel Gifford, Christopher Miller, Craig Harrison, Nicholas Kern

We calculate the masses of galaxy clusters in the Millennium simulation based on a direct measurement of their Newtonian gravitational potential. By using as few as 100 tracers (particles or sub-halos) within the cluster velocity-radius phase-space, we can accurately (zero bias) and precisely (to within 10-15%) measure their gravitational potential masses. The potential mass is unbiased only after accounting for the ellipticity of the halos. Using semi-analytic catalogs, we show how observational techniques can add small biases and increase the statistical uncertainties of measured cluster potential masses (e.g., in fiber or slit-mask multi-object spectroscopy). This study would not be possible without access to an HPC system such as Flux.)

Second Place Refereed Poster Award

A Natural User Interface for 3D Environments

Eric Maslowski, Theodore Hall, Rachael Miller

The input systems that we use today, such as joysticks and computer mice, do not provide a natural mode of interaction with complex information. This problem is amplified when we use these two-dimensional input systems to navigate within a three-dimensional space, as in the University of Michigan 3D Lab’s Michigan Immersive Digital Experience Nexus (MIDEN), an immersive virtual reality space. In an effort to improve interactivity in the MIDEN, the Microsoft Kinect has been applied as a way of representing the physical body in a virtual space. By analyzing the data received from the Kinect, we have created a real-time, digital model of the body. This body represents an avatar that corresponds to the user’s location in space, allowing them to interact with virtual objects. Because the MIDEN offers the user perspective and depth perception, interaction feels more natural than maneuvering an avatar on a screen; the user can reach out and directly “touch” objects. As a supplement to physical interaction, a gesture-based user interface provides the user greater control in simulations (e.g. navigation, selection). By using the hands rather than other, more restrictive input systems, the experience becomes more immersive and the user can focus on their data analysis and understanding.

People’s Choice Award Winner

Social History of the Muslim World in the Digital Age

Maxim Romanov

Over centuries Muslim historians wrote hundreds of chronicles and biographical dictionaries, which became both a blessing and a curse for the scholars of the pre-modern Muslim world. They are the blessing because they a gold mine of informations on social, political, religious and cultural history of the Muslim world. Yet, their very advantage — the practically limitless abundance of historical data — is also the greatest impediment in the scholarly attempts to study them. This abundance of data combined with a number of technical difficulties in working with Arabic script is the main reason why only very few studies were produced since the 70s when scholars first voiced their awareness of the the value of these sources. Several studies in the 70s and 80 used analog databases to for the analysis of extracted data; a very few studies that appeared in the 90s used relational databases for that purpose. However, both approaches proved inefficient and, by and large, the number of quantitative studies of these sources came to naught.
Now, when most of these sources are available in a fully-searchable text format, a different approach can be taken for the analysis of these medieval books. In my dissertation research, I analyze a number biographical dictionaries and chronicles using Python text-mining scripts, methods from corpus linguistics, statistical exploratory analysis and GIS visualizations. My poster will show my advances in terms of both method and content on the data from the largest of my sources: Ta’rikh al-islam, a 52-volume “History of Islam” written by a Damascene scholar al-Dhahabi in the 14th century CE, which covers seven hundred years of Islamic history and includes approximately 30,000 biographies.
Analyzing how many times different cities are mentioned in biographies of different periods, I am exploring how the Muslim world grew and developed over almost seven centuries from ~650 to 1300 CE. A series of geographical maps, which my poster will feature, is the most effective way to display these complex developments and show how the prominence of different regions of the Islamic empire changed over time.
Although approximately 3 million words of this specific source hardly constitute “big data” in the scientific terms, for the historians, who do not habitually rely on text-mining methods in their research, this text is “scary big data”.


View abstracts from all submitted posters here.