Software Allows Students to Control the Universe

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The mysteries of the universe are now a bit clearer for students thanks to the recent availability of a program that provides the most realistic view of the universe to date. The Astromicon: Celestial Construction Tool Kit by Cybernet Systems Corp. is a software program that allows students to build and manipulate 3-D replicas of the universe in order to apply the science principles they learn in the area of astronomy. The Astromicon is now available for purchase through Cybernet (www.cybernet.com).

Building a replica of the solar system, however, is only half of the learning experience. The Astromicon's immersive 3-D modeling environment exists for the purpose of better understanding the principles that rule the universe though manipulation of it. By manipulating the virtual universe, students can answer questions such as "How many eclipses are possible in a year?" and "What happens when an asteroid impact alters the Earth's tilt by five degrees?" The realistic nature of the program is enhanced by features such as arbitrary textures and orbits for planets, unlimited shadowing from a single light source (the sun), Keplerian physics, and cameras that can be placed in space that allow users to watch events via two subviews.

But the most important feature is the program's ability to network peer-to-peer or client-to-server using its patented Open Skies Networking Technology. This technology is based on years of research by the U.S. military — the main researcher in multi-player simulations such as Navy flight-training simulations. With the Open Skies Networking Technology, the number of users in the Astromicon at one time is unlimited. This means that students can collaborate with virtually anyone, anywhere.

Despite its sophisticated functions, the Astromicon is meant to supplement, not replace, classroom instruction. Its purpose is to enable students to apply the textbook knowledge they learn in class into a working model where they can see the knowledge in action firsthand. In this sense, the Astromicon is truly a rare application: Students will enjoy its realistic, gamelike environment, while teachers will appreciate the unique learning opportunities it offers. For more information on the product and its technology, visit www.openskies.net/astromicon.

A.D.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.

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