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3D Scientific Visualization with Blender


Brian R. Kent's Blender book focuses exclusively on science

This is the first book written on using Blender for scientific visualization. It is a practical and interesting introduction to Blender for understanding key parts of 3D rendering and animation that pertain to the sciences via step-by-step guided tutorials. 3D Scientific Visualization with Blender takes you through an understanding of 3D graphics and modelling for different visualization scenarios in the physical sciences. Check out the companion website to the book (hard copy and e-book) that includes videos and PDF tutorials.

I work as a scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory on a variety of projects in astrophysics that include scientific visualization of data from radio telescopes as well as astrophysical simulations. Visit my YouTube channel to learn more.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Interface and Windowing Setup
  • Meshes, Models, and Textures
  • Lighting
  • Animation
  • Point of View: Camera Control
  • Python Scripting
  • Projects and 3D Examples
  • Blender Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Bibliography
  • Index


  1. It's wonderful to see a Blender book not devoted to 'characters', but instead to using Blender for 'real' things. I would have been very interested in looking at this... so it's a bit silly that neither the IOPScience or Amazon pages show you any preview of the content! Not really the best way to sell something.

  2. I've bought a copy of the book and I'm afraid it only gets two stars out of ten from me. It's aimed, I think at Physicists rather than Blenderheads. As a result, it's not that useful to the readership of Blender Nation. However, it aso doesn't read right for a physicist. It pads out the examples chapter with a discussion of the mathemtics behind the numerical data being rendered to no good effect.

    Chapter 1 (6 pages): What is visualization? What is Blender?

    The majority of the book is an introduction to the (very) basics of Blender, using the Blender Internal renderer and making grat use of Halo. There are better on-line, free tutorials for all of this.

    Chapter 2 (10 pages): UI
    Chapter 3 (9 pages): Modelling & textures. UV unwrapping
    Chapter 4 (3 pages): Lighting
    Chapter 5 (7 pages): Animation & compositing. Solid body keyframing. No armatures (none needed)
    Chapter 6 (6 pages): Camera control. Ttracking objects. Following paths.

    Chapter 7 (5 pages): Python scripting

    This where it starts to get interesting and it (just) earns its first star. The chapter illustrates how to read in (simple) data and to modify meshes based on that data or to animate objects according to the data.

    Despite the NumPy (numerical python) module having been randomly mentioned (but not used) in Chapter 2, all the data import in Chapte 7 is done with the CSV module.

    Chapter 8 (31 pages): Projects

    This is where it earns its second star. The examples are:

    8.1 3D scatter plot: One vertex per data point, Halo material, animated camera for fly-by.
    8.2 N-body simulation: One vertex per particle, Halo material, animated vertices and camera, use of shape keys.
    8.3 Magnetic fields: A mathematical discourse on classical electrodynamics and using rotational symmetry to help reduce the complexity of the maths. In Blender the rotational symmetry is turned into the use of the Spin tool.
    8.4 Lagrangian equilibrium and zero-velocity curves: Maths, Python, draw a curve and spin it in Blender.
    8.5 Geophysics: planetary surface mapping: Add a plane, subdivide, uv-unwrap, add a displacement map and a diffue image texture.
    8.6 Volumetric rendering and data cubes: rendering CAT scans and radio-telescope data
    8.7 Physics module and rigid body dynamics: balls rolling down a helical tube, modelled within Blender rather than using imported data.

    So, in short there's a little on data import, a little about how to use Blender to render it, and a little on moving the camera, mostly from within Python.

    My background is in Maths and Physics, so the maths didn't put me off. This book was wroitten for physicists looking for quick recipes. It would have worked better as a set of short YouTube tutorials.

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