For the uninitiated, ray-tracing means quality 3-dimensional graphics. Here, the boundary between work and fun starts to blur a little
We started to exploit this in the Camborne School of Mines Geothermal Energy Project, as a better way of displayed modelled rock and fluid structures. We used the excellent public domain package called Rayshade, where you assembled complex shapes out of varieties of cylinders, blocks, discs and wavy surfaces. It took a bit of maths and a "3D head" to keep it all together, but the results were always exciting.
Nowadays there would be all manner of WYSIWYG tools to help you build shapes. With RayShade, we edited text files. It seems antiquated now but it got what we wanted. It had the great advantage that we could easily write converters to take the hundreds of objects from the rock-models and produce RayShade equivalent (try doing that with a WYSIWYG tool).
Here is a classic style of image, built using actual sub-surface measurements (not models) from two different experiments (coded red and blue) about 2km below ground. Each blob shows the detection of a small sound-event, indicative of rock stress and movement. The vertical-ish tubes show three boreholes plus some horizontal-ish cross-hole sound measurements. Overall, these images help the experts to deduce behaviour of the rock under fluid conditions.
We also visualised some actual or imagined geothermal instrumentation, with the super-normal advantage of being able to show cutaways, or hide confidential parts.
Here are a few of the more creative results