[Edu-sig] re: Education Arcade

Terry Hancock hancock at anansispaceworks.com
Sun Dec 14 14:07:28 EST 2003

On Sunday 14 December 2003 05:17 am, Arthur wrote:
> >Kirby, this is an example of the problem.  When you teach children
> >using a simulation, you teach them, in addition to everything else,
> >to think within the system that the simulators were using.
> Adults can use simulation effectively because they have the tools to make
> that mapping is some reasonable way.  Kids don't.

Where simulations are interesting and even exciting teaching tools
is in the other extreme -- where the mapping from real to virtual is
uncontroversial, but the consequences of these known interactions
are unclear.  This is generally the case when we are simulating physics.

An orbit-integrator is a prime example: there's no question about
how gravity works, we can demonstrate that pretty trivially from
real-world experiments and observations.  On the other hand, the
consequences of this are extraordinarily complex and unpredictable.

A simulator can run that math at high speed and show you what
you can expect.

Furthermore, the actual experiment is basically impossible.  Even if
you had the multi-million dollar budget to launch a real object into
space, the actual playing out of the orbital mechanics takes years.
A simulation lets you run that fast-forward.

Even electronics and engineering simulations are usually like this: the
individual interactions are easy to model, and there's little Human
bias to consider in applying them.

But I understand your point -- this always irritated me about SimEarth:
it was blantantly obvious what the authors' assumptions were. I felt
they were wrong, and the result is wrong predictions (IMHO, but who
knows what the reality is?).  That's an example where the models are
a relatively poor reflection of the real problem's complexity, and
there's no empirical test to run to find out how right or wrong they are.

Terry Hancock ( hancock at anansispaceworks.com )
Anansi Spaceworks  http://www.anansispaceworks.com

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