EGU Members: have your say on the direction of the Union

EGU Members: have your say on the direction of the Union

The EGU is a member-led organisation with around 20,000 members from all over the world. To promote the Earth, planetary and space sciences, the EGU conducts many activities ranging from publishing open access journals and hosting geoscientific meetings to organising education and outreach initiatives.

EGU / Keri McNamara

As EGU’s representatives and staff members, we work hard throughout the year to ensure the Union is serving its members, and we need your input to continue to do so. That’s why we’ve designed a short EGU member survey to give you the chance to voice what you value about the EGU and what you would like the Union to accomplish in the future.

If you are an EGU member, we ask that you take 5-10 minutes to give feedback on the EGU and its activities. The deadline to complete this survey is 15 November 2019. We are grateful for the nearly 2,000 members who have already responded with their views.

How to provide your input

You can find our survey online through this link:

EGU/Foto Pfluegl

The survey first aims to get a better picture of who you are. We’d like to know who comprises the EGU membership, which scientific disciplines and career stages are represented, and where our members are based.

The second part of the survey aims to learn more about what EGU initiatives you are already aware of, what resources you value the most, and what activities you think should be improved or expanded.

Through this survey we also want to know more about why you’re an EGU member, how a Union membership supports your professional career, and what’s the one thing EGU can do to most benefit you—and the geosciences.

This survey is the biggest and best opportunity for you and the greater EGU community to help steer the Union’s course, and the results will help ensure that we remain responsive to what you want. Thank you in advance for helping shape EGU’s future! Please share this survey widely within your own professional network.


Geosciences Column: Taking a Breath of the Wild – are geoscientists more effective than non-geoscientists in determining whether video game world landscapes are realistic?

Geosciences Column: Taking a Breath of the Wild – are geoscientists more effective than non-geoscientists in determining whether video game world landscapes are realistic?

For years, geoscientists have been both fascinated and perplexed by the beautiful (yet often inaccurate) landscapes present in several video games. But are people with a geoscientific education better at telling ‘fake’ natural features from real ones? Rolf Hut, an assistant professor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and his colleagues sought to answer this question in a new study published in EGU’s open access journal Geoscience Communication

“Oh wow, that is a gorgeous volcano… which could never exist in the real world.” As a hydrologist I’m not an expert on volcanoes compared to some other EGU members I know. Yet, while walking through the fictional world of Hyrule in Nintendo’s latest installment of The Legend of Zelda game series: Breath of the Wild my emotions tend to constantly switch between excitement at the beauty of the landscape and puzzlement at the geoscientific… wrongness of it.

“That mountain could never generate enough runoff to feed a waterfall this big.”

“Ice capped mountains in the background of a sweltering dessert looks amazing. But it only takes me five minutes to get up that mountain, so there could never be snow there…” 

I know: it is just a game. First and foremost game designers had to make this game interesting to play and it wouldn’t have been much fun if you had to walk up a mountain for three days, (Edmund Hillary style) only to find a single piece of in-game equipment . So they condensed the game world. They made decisions that might hurt the sensitivities of geoscientists, but which ultimately made the game more enjoyable (and beautiful) for the majority of those people  whose wallets Nintendo is targeting. 

This whole process got me wondering: if I hadn’t been trained as a geoscientist, would I have had the same “this cannot exist in the real world” feelings that I now have? Would non-geoscientists interpret this fake world as something that potentially could exist? Given how many people play video games, versus how many are trained as geoscientists, this is an important research question. If people do ‘learn’ from games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, they might get a wrong impression of how the (geoscientific) world works.

Curiosity sparked, we set out to test this. And I say ‘we’ because this type of research requires the expertise of a statistician: Casper Albers, an expert of games for geoscience: Chris Skinner, an expert on science communication: Sam Illingworth, and finally someone who has spent more hours in the fictional world of Hyrule (where the The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is set) than is in any way reasonable: me. 

We picked screenshots from across Hyrule with geoscientifically interesting features such as volcanoes, glaciers, etc. Through a reverse image search (on Google) we then looked for real world photos with matching features. We wanted to ask both geoscientists and those without a geoscientific education to rate those pictures on “how likely they think that the features in the picture can exist in the real world?”. We wanted people to focus on the geo-features, and yet we assumed that normal photos would likely be instantly recognisable compared to the rendered images from the game world; so in order to account for this we applied an artistic ‘van Gogh’ filter to all images.

Two images used in the survey. Panels (a) and (b) are original and (c) and (d) are processed through the “van Gogh” filter. The left two images are from the video game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the right two images are from the real world. The bottom two figures were presented in the survey with the question “Knowing that this picture has gone through a “van Gogh”-filter, how likely do you think it is that the features depicted in the artistic renderings could exist in the real world?”. A 10-point scale was used, where 1 = completely unlikely to 10 = completely likely. (Credit: Rolf Hut et al. 2019)

We distributed our survey among geoscientists and non-geoscientists through social media channels and at the EGU General Assembly 2018. We found two very interesting results. Firstly, it (luckily) transpires that geoscientists are better than non-geoscientists at recognising what is a ‘fake’ landscape from a game; the difference between geoscientists and non-geoscientists is statistically significant. However, the effect is very small and both groups are fairly good in recognising which landscapes are and which aren’t from the game. 

What this research therefore highlights is that everyone, including myself, can continue to explore the beautiful countryside of Hyrule, without fearing that we will pick up erroneous knowledge about geoscience. 

Of course we have to be careful with interpreting our results: it is only a first study into this new field of science and we encourage anyone to build on our work by studying different games, different screenshots and people across more dimensions than only geoscientists versus non-geoscientist. Our paper is available for free via the open access EGU journal Geoscience Communication, and any questions can be directed to the corresponding author: me. Although please allow some time before I answer: chances are I am not continuously looking at my inbox because I’m spending my time wandering through the beautiful, but recognisably fake, plains, mountains and volcanoes of Hyrule.

By dr. ir. Rolf Hut, researcher at Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands

[This article is cross-posted on Rolf Hut’s personal site]