Cell biologist Janet Iwasa studied alongside Hollywood animators to bring film industry tools to the study of biology, reports The New York Times. "The ability to animate really gives biologists a chance to think about things in a whole new way," says Iwasa, a molecular animator at Harvard Medical School. Her colleague Tomas Kirchhausen says that animation helps him to determine whether what he thinks is going on makes sense.
"Scientists have always done pictures to explain their ideas, but now we're discovering the molecular world and able to express and show what it's like down there," adds Drew Berry, at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia.
However, some say animation can be taken too far and that "it can become hard to distinguish between what is data and what is fantasy," as Peter Walter at the University of California, San Francisco, points out.