Thursday, 6 March 2008

Playing, digitally, with real-world physics

Asks another blogger: Is this the end of "stuff"?

While hunting for examples of Second Life in UK universities, I keep coming across discussion and resources surrounding the modelling of physics in SL. This brings back some bad memories...

I was useless at physics in school. My rubbishness was partly out of disinterest, partially due to the dull and anti-motivated way in which the subject was taught, and partially due to hostility to the teacher. Classmates who should have done better also got low grades.

So perhaps something a bit more motivational, and a bit easier to visualise the various things that go on in mechanics would have helped. Something like the game Crayon Physics Deluxe:


And then there's Phun, a "2D Physics sandbox", which is just awesome. There's the bit, 55 seconds into the next video, where a solid is changed into a liquid, with resulting effects; cool! And see the bit where - and learning is often best by building - a piston-motor is built and operated.

And, it's all perfectly safe, spill-free and un-litigious: that'll be an attractive option for schools.


Even better, Phun is a bit of free software that you can download and play with. Go on - you know you want to...

And what did we have that was the "cutting edge" equivalent of this in the 80's? Etch-a-bloody-sketch :-(

Still, at least if I ever have kids, digital technology like this will save me a fortune as I won't need to buy plasticine, toys, building blocks and all that now. Put a flatscreen monitor at the end of the cot, load up Phun or CPD, and let them get on with it. Sorted.


  1. I'm reminded of the Star Trek episode where the highly-advanced, uber-technical civilisation turns out to consist of, effectively, unhappy brains in jars.

  2. Sarah: that wasn't an episode of Star Trek. It was a documentary about the Comhairle.

  3. Angus: brains? in ALL the jars?