Teaching Physics in Second Life

Holt, Tim Tim.Holt at oregonstate.edu
Thu May 18 12:44:33 PDT 2006


Physics in a multiplayer game can be extremely difficult to do, unless
it's all pretty passive without any players interacting with it.
There's basically no good way to handle lag issues and how they impact
(haha) physics object collisions with playes, player actions, etc.
That's why in Half-Life 2/Source based games you have two classes of
physics objects for multiplayer games - full on expensive (but laggy)
physics objects and then multiplayer physics objects that are a bit more
"lite".

An example might be if I let an object roll down a hill in SL.  Someone
tries to step in front of it while someone else tries to shoot it with a
watermelon gun at the same time.  The results will probably be somewhat
unpredictable if examined even somewhat closely. 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: educators-bounces at lists.secondlife.com 
> [mailto:educators-bounces at lists.secondlife.com] On Behalf Of Tim Allen
> Sent: Thursday, May 18, 2006 12:35 PM
> To: Educators interested in using Second Life as a teaching platform.
> Subject: RE: Teaching Physics in Second Life
> 
> Is this something the forthcoming Havok 2/3/4 integration 
> will help with?
> Have you guys heard much about it? Integrating a new Havok 
> engine is the #1 vote-getter on the proposal system.
> 
> Regards,
> 
> -Flip/Tim 
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Smith, Daniel C. [mailto:Daniel.Smith at jhuapl.edu]
> Sent: Thursday, May 18, 2006 3:11 PM
> To: Educators interested in using Second Life as a teaching platform.
> Subject: Teaching Physics in Second Life
> 
> I agree with you that the lack of control over mass is an 
> obstacle to using SL for teaching physics. It is one of many. 
> The Havok physics engine in SL is definitely lacking in terms 
> of the type of realism one needs for actually demonstrating 
> real physics concepts. Mass and energy are handled very 
> strangely by the Havok engine. I have found that setting 
> objects to non-physical, writing my own physics code in LSL, 
> and using llSetPos and the like to update positions is a 
> reasonable work-around, but it does make the animation a bit 
> jerky. Plus, you can't get too complex or you create lag in 
> the sim. On the other hand, by writing your own physics you 
> can ignore the "in-world" physics you don't want and do 
> simulations of stuff like electricity, magnetism, springs, 
> gravitation of "heavenly bodies," etc. Most of those example 
> would be impossible to implement using Havok in its current form.
> 
> Despite the current limitations, I feel we need to be 
> developing this stuff now rather than waiting for Havok to 
> get better (and I know that there are several people besides 
> me who are doing just this). I can only see these types of 
> physics teaching tools becoming more useful and usable as 
> hardware gets faster and the SL software gets more 
> feature-rich. Also, more clever coders than I can certainly 
> do better with the current features. 
> 
> One could argue that waiting until the Havok features are 
> better and less frustrating will keep us from scaring away 
> potential adopters of SL as a physics classroom, but I think 
> that most science instructors prefer to push the envelope 
> when it comes to technology like this and are willing to 
> subject themselves and their students to a little frustration 
> at first (not all students appreciate this, of course). 
> Sometimes it is a bright but frustrated student that comes up 
> with a better way.
> 
> So let's keep pushing for better physics pheatures (pardon 
> the joke), but don't let the current limitations stop us from 
> creating interesting physics demonstrations and lessons in SL 
> right now. So far, I don't think it has stopped anyone, so I 
> realize I am probably preaching to the choir (can I get an 
> 'Amen'!?). I am just excited and a bit impatient to see the 
> potential that SL has for science instruction be realized. 
> Sorry for the rant. I'll stop now.
> 
> Cheers,
> Dan
> 
> ____________________________________________________
> Daniel C. Smith             daniel.smith at jhuapl.edu
> Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
> 11100 Johns Hopkins Road    Laurel, MD 20723-6099
> Washington: 240-228-1741    Baltimore: 443-778-1741
> 
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: educators-bounces at lists.secondlife.com
> [mailto:educators-bounces at lists.secondlife.com
> <mailto:educators-bounces at lists.secondlife.com> ] On Behalf 
> Of Baba Kofi Weusijana
> Sent: Thursday, May 18, 2006 1:36 PM
> To: Educators interested in using Second Life as a teaching platform.
> Subject: Re: Metaverse Roadmap Summit skepticism on Slashdot
> 
> One obstacle to teaching physics in SL is that everything has 
> the same mass (that of styrofoam). You can get the mass of an 
> object, but you can't change it. I would appreciate it if 
> everyone would use SL's feature voting system and vote for 
> the ability to change the mass of objects. Just log into the 
> secondlife.com website and then go to:
> http://www.secondlife.com/vote/index.php?get_id=1365
> <http://www.secondlife.com/vote/index.php?get_id=1365> 
> 
> Thanks,
> Baba Kofi A. Weusijana
> Research Associate - NSF LIFE Center, College of Education 
> University of Washington http://faculty.washington.edu/babaw/
> <http://faculty.washington.edu/babaw/> 
> 
> On 5/11/06, Tim Allen <Tim at crompco.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> > Great comment, Dan!
> >
> > I founded and was head of tech for a company which made distance 
> > learning software for a few years, before selling out 
> (literally) to 
> > my current company. The only thing holding us back from 
> using Second 
> > Life at the time was the high hardware requirements. It would have 
> > been a great addition to our distance learning content management 
> > system (think Blackboard, but much easier to use). One of my former 
> > partners is continuing to develop the tools we started - Digital 
> > Schooling. He sponsored the first Second Life Community 
> Convention and 
> > I'm trying to get him to start using SL for his clients, and get on
> this list!
> >
> > Speaking of which, if anyone doesn't know, the second annual Second 
> > Life Community Convention will be held this year from 
> August 18th-20th 
> > at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. There will be special 
> > sessions for education in SL. Feel free to contact me for more
> details!
> >
> > Regards,
> >
> > -Tim/FlipperPA
> >
> >  ________________________________
> >  From: Smith, Daniel C. [mailto:Daniel.Smith at jhuapl.edu
> <mailto:Daniel.Smith at jhuapl.edu> ]
> > Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2006 11:14 AM
> > To: educators at lists.lindenlab.com
> > Subject: Metaverse Roadmap Summit skepticism on Slashdot
> >
> >
> >
> > Hi all,
> >
> > As way of an introduction, my name is Dan Smith (SL name 
> Alfie Eponym) 
> > and I have been a lurker on this list for a couple months. I am a 
> > research scientist of the computational physics type at 
> Johns Hopkins 
> > University Applied Physics Laboratory. Besides the space physics 
> > research that is currently my bread and butter I have great 
> interest 
> > in physics and astronomy education research. I recently submitted a 
> > proposal to NSF to study the effectiveness of a virtual classroom 
> > setting in SL for teaching physics and astronomy, and I 
> will probably 
> > be submitting more of the same to NASA (and resubmitting to 
> NSF). Wish
> me luck.
> >
> > Anyway, I noticed that Slashdot had a blurb about the Metaverse 
> > Roadmap Summit coverage on C|Net (see 
> > http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/05/09/1458230
> <http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/05/09/1458230>  and
> > 
> http://news.com.com/Mapping+a+path+for+the+3D+Web/2100-1025_3-6069459
> <http://news.com.com/Mapping+a+path+for+the+3D+Web/2100-1025_3
> -6069459>
> .
> > html?tag=sas.email) so I was curious to read the discussion 
> among the 
> > Slashdot community. I was suprised to see a lot of 
> skepticism and even 
> > down right pessimism about the usefulness of a 3D Web or 
> > Stephensonesque Metaverse. So I posted a comment of my own 
> (though I 
> > was a bit late to the discussion). Anyway, I have included 
> the comment 
> > I posted there and I would appreciate any feedback you folks could 
> > give me. I suspect I will be writing a lot of stuff like 
> this as I try 
> > to convince NSF, NASA and whoever else will listen to fund science 
> > eduacation research projects involving virtual worlds like SL.
> >
> > Cheers,
> > Dan
> >
> > Dan's comments as posted on Slashdot:
> >
> > A 3D virtual environment that is as accessible as the current Web 
> > could be a boon to distance learning via online courses, especially 
> > for subjects like science, engineering, architecture, etc. Virtual 
> > world apps like Second Life or OpenCroquet will allow 
> instructors to 
> > produce virtual, interactive, 3D demonstrations, models and other 
> > teaching aids that can be used collaboratively by students that are 
> > physically distant from each other and the instructor.
> >
> > While a real-world laboratory class experience is certainly 
> > preferable, simulations in virtual lab settings for education and 
> > training are safer and may be more accessible to students 
> who are in 
> > remote locations or to students who are disabled in some way that 
> > makes a real lab course difficult or impossible for them to attend.
> >
> > Having taught physics and astronomy classes, I have often 
> wished for a 
> > 3D chalkboard on which to draw diagrams to describe, for instance, 
> > electron motion in a magnetic field, or the difference 
> between lunar 
> > phases and eclipses, or 3+ body gravitational interactions. In a 3D 
> > virtual classroom, I could do that. That technology is here and I 
> > would like to see it become integrated with the Web so that 
> it is easy
> and cheap to access and use.
> >
> > I'll grant that we have a ways to go before we have very good 
> > input/output devices for interacting with a Stephenson-like 
> Metaverse, 
> > but for now my monitor and mouse will do. The I/O tech will 
> catch up 
> > eventually. VR "goggles" are morphing into VR "glasses" or 
> better yet 
> > augmented reality glasses. And Nintendo may be on to something with 
> > the Wii controller! We'll have to wait and see.
> >
> > Concerning the skepticism of a 3D Web that I have seen 
> posted in this 
> > discussion so far, I don't think the 2D Web will disappear 
> as it gives 
> > way to a 3D Metaverse, but I do think there is room and use 
> for both.
> > I imagine that they will be tightly integrated and 
> eventaully thought 
> > of as one entity. The Web is already a virtual world of 
> sorts and we 
> > teleport around that world whenever we click a link. I imagine a 3D 
> > Web will work similarly while much of the content will 
> continue to be 
> > displayed as 2D words on a page. However, more and more useful (and
> > useless) content will show up as 3D objects of one sort or another.
> >
> > Just my two cents.
> >
> > ________________________________________________
> > Daniel C. Smith                         daniel.smith at jhuapl.edu
> > Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
> > 11100 Johns Hopkins Road    Laurel, MD 20723-6099
> > Washington: 240-228-1741          Baltimore: 443-778-1741
> >
> >
> >
> >
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> 
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