Conveying, exchanging information between databases, programs and humans in any combination and direction is important. This paper concerns the cases where there is at least one human partner as the receiver. More specifically, the delivery of graphic information about the structure of matter, including molecules to humans is addressed.
I review and systematize, to my knowledge uniquely, various methods for the display and perception of the 3-D structure of molecules in flat media, and summarize their advantages and disadvantages. Some examples include: rotation, depth cueing, stereopairs, polarized light or color distinction, time-gated displays, holograms, etc.
I propose the method of “crossed” or “reverse” stereopair to become the standard for the display of the 3-D structure of matter, specifically, molecules, molecular assemblies, annotations and geometry-localized property descriptors, using flat media.
This method is most practical, and has the most favorable ratio of advantages over disadvantages. A major advantage is that the method appplies not only to paper and the computer CRT screen but, with no more serious training or requirement for equipment, to projection by an ordinary slide projector or overhead projector onto an ordinary screen, for an auditorium-full of viewers.
The proposed method appplies not only to real objects, such as molecules, but is equally useful for conveying the true three-dimensionality of data, mathematical functions and curves, relationships, etc. Statistical graphics would especially benefit from the 3-D displays.
It must be noted however, that all methods leading to true perception of three-dimensionality are only feasible for persons who have vision in both eyes.