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Book Review: Introduction to Scientific Visualization

Diomidis Spinellis
Athens University of Economics and Business

Helen Wright
Introduction to scientific visualization
Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., Secaucus, NJ, 2006
147 pp.

With reference books and textbooks often exceeding the half thousand page mark, Helen Wright’s delightfully short volume on scientific visualization reminds us that that brevity is a virtue. The book covers considerable ground, but always remains accessible and relevant.

To present rich data sets in a typically two dimensional medium we need all the help we can get. Space, color, and animation are our basic tools. Wright, after an overview of the field, presents the basics of color, provides an orderly taxonomy of visualization techniques, and finishes with two chapters dealing with the representation of scalars and vectors. Wright doesn’t skimp on supplementary material: the book also contains a bibliography, references, solutions to exercises, a list of useful web sites, common abbreviations, a glossary, and a comprehensive index.

One would expect a book on visualization to be choke-full with dazzling graphics from real-world applications. Sadly, this is not the case here. However, all visualization techniques are lucidly described with clear (often made-up) examples and corresponding charts and color plates. Other strong points of the book are the sections detailing how data is often misrepresented, the avoidance of mathematical formulas, which often confuse students without offering additional insights, and the most comprehensible description of color modeling this reviewer has ever encountered. Sometimes the author strays off into discussions of academic or marginal interest (a chapter on visualization models and software falls in this category), but in general the book remains practical and down-to-earth. If you are looking for a short and accessible introduction or reference on visualization techniques, you can’t go wrong with Wright’s offering.