NASA planet-builder game teaches valuable lessons, crushes dreams

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16 Responses to “NASA planet-builder game teaches valuable lessons, crushes dreams”

  1. MrAverage says:

    i like speculative fiction and i’d like to try it, but like way too many things it will not happen on my limping linux computer. it’s the download this time: stuck at 46%. Other times the problem is that it will not read that file type, will only single frame videos, or something will just not run on linux and no extra software will make it happen.

    too bad because i wanted to see the effect of different star types on a given planet.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “based on what we know about what it takes to produce life as we know it”

    Amazingly, based on what we know about what it takes to produce life as we know it (Earth only), only near-Earth settings will produce life in the “simulator”.

    How about something that actually simulates molecular structures and allows us to actually postulate life in all the ways it is possible?

    Because that won’t run in flash on a webpage…

    -RTM

  3. Flying_Monkey says:

    Colman and Ugly Canuck are both partly right. The thing is that Maggie got it completely right in the original entry.

    A scientific approach requires us to say ‘we just don’t know’ sometimes. And I am afraid that ‘we just don’t know’ the range of forms of life that there might be in the universe or under what conditions all of these forms of life might develop and exist.

    The NASA demonstration is fun piece of simulation of the facts that we have, but we have to remember that the facts that we have approximate to a reasonably detailed knowledge of a vanishingly small portion of the universe, and an extremely sketchy knowledge of the rest.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      Agreed: I well remember how surprising the results from the Voyager space probes were when they began to come back from the 1970s and 1980s.

      Very very little of what we have discovered with those probes was in any way predicted.

      That left me with a very healthy respect for how deep our ignorance of the universe is.

      But still, of late it seems that every single day there’s new discoveries from astronomy. See:

      http://www.universetoday.com/

      …for the latest.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Is anyone having trouble with getting it to work? I can’t actually adjust the different settings for the planet – just hover over them and read the tooltips.

  5. Colman says:

    We don’t even know the details of how life started on Earth and now we’re experts on how life might start elsewhere?

    This isn’t science, it’s speculative fiction.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      “We don’t even know the details of how life started on Earth and now we’re experts on how life might start elsewhere?”

      Who else is it going to be?

      On this particular topic, it’s either us or nobody, I’m afraid.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      By what process of thought does a scientist formulate her hypothesis?

      Is it not a process of speculation, albeit very closely based upon what is already known, from previous observations and testing?

      In that sense, speculation is essential to the advancement of science. Disciplined speculation that is: disciplined by the facts.

    • Brainspore says:

      We don’t even know the details of how life started on Earth and now we’re experts on how life might start elsewhere?

      Thus the qualifier “life as we know it.”

  6. DoctressJulia says:

    Yep, this is much like Sim Earth. I LOVED that game on the Mac… it was hardest trying to evolve sentient plants. :)

  7. Baldhead says:

    We know that Adam and Eve fought dinosaurs for supremacy.

    kidding aside, the premise reminds me of Sim Earth, which was very very hard.

    • dagfooyo says:

      Oh maan, I remember Sim Earth. Nearly impossible game, but fun as hell. Much more difficult to support life in that game than the NASA one here.

      I was actually pretty surprised how easy it was to get a planet to be marked as habitable in this one – just slide all the sliders toward the middle and use the right sun. If only real planets had sliders like these we could adjust. Mars? Boom. Terraformed.

      • Trent Hawkins says:

        Oh man, I remember that game. Addictive as hell and then when you’re done you can bombard the planet with asteroids.

  8. holtt says:

    Pretty cool. One thing it does show you is how NOT to start life (as we know it) on another planet. Too far away from the sun -> too cold. Too close -> too hot. Too small -> can’t hold water.

  9. js7a says:

    Current estimates are that habitable planets are on average 65 light years apart, per Claudio Maccone, the Technical Director of the International Astronomy Association http://www.maccone.com

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