Educational games can be fun and addicting, and still teach you something. Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) has presented a new game called Super Planet Crash. The game is interesting because it’s a lot harder than you might think to create a planetary system that will actually last 500 years. Considering that some planetary systems last a whole lot longer than that, you gain an appreciation for the delicate balance that is being maintained by the various gravitational bodies. So far, the longest my solar system has lasted is 312 years. Let’s hope no one is counting on me to create something lasting! I love anything astronomy-related so this project was right up my street! I’ve actually been looking at buying a telescope but I have no idea which model to buy. I’ve learnt about the prices of telescopes (or telescopio astronomico precios as the Spanish would say) and I don’t want to spend over $100. I think I can get a pretty decent telescope in that price range.
The game is actually quite simple. You select a gravitational body from the list and put it in place in the solar system. The body then starts to rotate using all the laws of physics we now know. If it doesn’t manage to crash into anything, you have a lasting solar system. The game awards extra points for things like planets in habitable zones. The reason the game is so addicting is that there are infinite possibilities and only a few of them really will last the full 500 years. Trying out the various combinations helps you understand planetary physics better, but it’s just fun seeing the various bodies rotate around their sun as well.
I’m sure that more than a few adults will play the game given that APOD is frequented by people with a need to know about the solar system. However, I can see kids getting quite addicted to the game and that’s really a good thing. The more we can interest kids in science, the better the outcome for education and our society as a whole. After all, many of the people who excel in science today were motivated by writers, artists, and dreamers of the past. Getting kids interested in science is essential for the future health of our society as a whole and I see games like Super Planet Crash as one way to do it.
Whether you like the game because it’s fun or educational, you’ll have to admit that it’s quite addicting. If you need a quick fix for the midday boredom that seems to overtake us all, check this game out.