"Virtual Worlds May be the Future Setting of Scientific Collaboration" -

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"Virtual Worlds May be the Future Setting of Scientific Collaboration" - Empty "Virtual Worlds May be the Future Setting of Scientific Collaboration" -

Post  ankh_f_n_khonsu on Thu Aug 20, 2009 9:56 am

See Physorg.com for the complete article:

Virtual Worlds May Be the Future Setting of Scientific Collaboration

(PhysOrg.com) -- Normally, virtual worlds are the setting of many online games and entertainment applications, but now they’re becoming a place for scientific collaboration and outreach, as well. A team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology, Princeton, Drexel University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have formed the first professional scientific organization based entirely in virtual worlds. Called the Meta Institute for Computational Astrophysics (MICA), the organization conducts professional seminars and popular lectures, among other events, for its growing membership.

As MICA’s founders explain in a recent published paper, MICA is currently based in Second Life where participants use avatars to explore and interact with their surroundings, and will expand to other virtual worlds when appropriate. As of this past March, MICA had about 40 professional members and 100 members of the general public interested in learning about science, specifically astronomy. MICA is also establishing collaborative partnerships with the IT industry, including Microsoft and IBM, and plans to further develop industrial partnerships.

“Virtual worlds are already a very fruitful arena for research in social sciences and humanities, including sociology, economics, psychology, etc.,” lead author George Djorgovski told PhysOrg.com. “They are already a superb educational and outreach platform, and should be used much more. We are trying to find out what else we can do with these technologies in the natural sciences, such as physics and astronomy.”

In addition to getting people together in a free and convenient way, virtual worlds can offer new possibilities for scientific visualization or “visual analytics.” As data sets become larger and more complex, visualization can help researchers better understand different phenomena. Virtual worlds not only offer visualization, but also enable researchers to become immersed in data and simulations, which may help scientists think differently about data and patterns. Multi-dimensional data visualization can provide further advantages for certain types of data. The researchers found that they can encode data in spaces with up to 12 dimensions, although they run into the challenge of getting the human mind to easily grasp the encoded content.

“The slow adoption of these virtual reality technologies by the academic (or any other professional) community is probably largely due to a widely held misperception that this is ‘just games,’” Djorgovski said. “This is incorrect; while these technologies got developed largely by the gaming industry, and there is certainly a lot of gaming going on, virtual worlds are something bigger: a general platform for all kinds of activities, ranging from entertainment to purely professional. Just like the Web itself.”

Second Life also has a vibrant occult/magickal community... Has anyone been involved from this angle?

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