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Posts with tag Science

15 Minutes of Fame: Searching for the Higgs boson and a Swift White Hawkstrider

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

We interrupt our two-part interview with actor Kristian Nairn (Hodor in HBO's blockbuster new series, Game of Thrones) for a quick chat with ... a particle physicist at CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Writes in-game buddy Fra (and thanks, Fra -- much love for all the EU players who brave the whole second language thing to send in tips!), "I have a friend which might be material for one of your interviews (which are great!). He is both good as a healer as he is a physicist. He also does some guides and public talks about his studies, and he is comprehensible even for a dumbass as me. :) I'm pretty sure you've a lot of nerds on your interview list, but a physicist working in one of the most famous labs is something ... new? He also does a lot of jokes about the not-so-good physics in game, or when people care of maximizing numbers that do not really change your game performance if you do all the math."

A particle physicist who isn't into theorycrafting? We simply had to know more. Follow us past the break to learn how searching for the Higgs boson is like farming for a Swift White Hawkstrider (and come back next week for more with Game of Thrones' Kristian Nairn).

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Author of World of Warcraft and Philosophy interviewed

World of Warcraft and Philosophy got released a little while back -- it's a book by Luke Cuddy and John Nordlinger that examines WoW-related topics like roleplaying and the Corrupted Blood plague, and ties them into philsophical ideas and thinking. TechFlash has now posted an interview with Nordlinger, and it's a good read as well. Nordlinger says that one reason they chose to talk about World of Warcraft in this way is that it's so incredibly big -- when you have 12 million (give or take a few at this point) people playing a game with a GDP larger than some smaller nations, you're going to touch on all sorts of interesting ethical, moral, and other philosophical ideas. He says the book has been pretty popular, and a few universities are currently considering teaching courses based on the material, not only because it's interesting, but thinking about the game in this way helps improve abstract thinking in general.

And perhaps most interesting, he says that reading the book could help players better make ethical and moral decisions in the game. Just ninja-ing the mount from an Onyxia raid might not mean much to you, but when you look at the bigger picture, and what those actions mean for ethics in general, Nordlinger says the book might help players "make more aware decisions, if not different decisions." Of course, in practice, trying to explain higher philosophy to ninjas might not have the desired effect, but it does seem true that exploring the higher meanings of this game and the intents of the people playing it might put a little more meaning into the pixels as well.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

WoW as training ground for scientific method

We've heard about WoW in the news due to addiction and spousal trouble. When scientists chat about the game, they tend to be interested in the dynamics of virtual worlds. Constance Steinkuehler from the University of Wisconsin is approaching WoW and science in a different light.

Constance noticed a specific dynamic when she watched Lineage players approach raiding with a familiar method. They'd form a hypothesis about a boss, test it, gather evidence, and then reform their hypothesis based on that evidence. For those of you following along at home, that's basically the "Scientific Method."

Steinkuehler tested for the use of Scientific Method in WoW by going to the official forums, and studying 2,000 threads. According to the results, 86% of the threads were focused on analyzing the ruleset of the game. The implication is that those posts use some scientific method to understand WoW's rules. (I wonder if "Nerf Rogues!" was included as meaningful content.)

The purpose of this study seems to be to reverse our youth's growing scientific illiteracy by using video games to exemplify scientific pursuits. Since science is often about the method of obtaining facts, and not just facts themselves, teachers might be able to use games to help students "L2Science." Sounds solid to me, but I'm still not sold on the forums being a fertile ground of meaningful content.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, News items, Forums

Study: Playing WoW makes you a better surgeon

The American Psychological Association has released a study of surgeons (why they chose surgeons to study, who knows) that says surgeons who play World of Warcraft and other video games can make them a better surgeon overall. Not only does controlling a game character give you better motor skills, but playing an involved and complicated game can, not surprisingly, can make you a better analytical thinker and problem solver. Surgeons who played videogames (though they don't mention how much or how often) were faster at advanced surgical procedures and make fewer errors than surgeons who didn't.

So does this mean that playing videogames can replace education entirely? Not so fast, back to schoolers -- apparently playing games also makes things not so complicated seem not so interesting. While leading a pickup group in Karazhan will definitely help your problem solving abilities (though probably not your stress levels), it will make it harder for you to do things like settle down and study a book. As with everything, moderation is the key.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

A look at the geography of WoW from Interesting '08

This is just beautiful, from the title ("Brave Noob World") to the idea -- a geographical survey of Azeroth. James Wallis, the director of Hogshead Publishing, gave this presentation at an "unconference" called Interesting '08, in which he tried to do a survey of Azeroth, in the same way that Tobold did -- by walking from one end to the other. And he discovers that Azeroth is pretty small and pretty dense -- it's about 12km across, according to him (I really like his comparison image of the Death Star), and using a Female Tauren, he even comes up with the force of gravity, which is about equal to Earth -- about 1g. Which makes sense; Blizzard would want the virtual world to feel the same as our world, no matter how big it is.

There's a problem with that, though -- if you have a small planet with the same gravity as a much larger planet, the only answer is that the mass of the planet is much more dense. And when you get a really small, densely packed mass, you start to mess around with the flow of time. So Wallis actually ends up explaining one of the more annoying features of Azeroth with actual science. Very nice.

It's definitely a fun example of looking for more in this MMO than Blizzard probably put there, but Wallis covers it with enough zest and logic that it works, strangely. Now if he could only explain the weather...

[via Massively]

Update: Looks like the video got pulled. It's been stowed after the break, just in case it comes back.

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Filed under: Tauren, Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard

How to hold a scientific conference in Azeroth

John Bohannon has been writing for Science magazine as "The Gonzo Scientist," and his most recent writeup, on a real scientific conference held in the World of Warcraft, is a great read. We reported that the event was happening back in May, and now Bohannon's put together a really honest report (from how the conference was funded to the reasons why it was chosen to be Horde-only) on what its like for these scientists researching virtual worlds to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and actually hold a conference ingame.

They had to deal with everything from conversation direction (they appointed one person to get whispers on any questions for speakers, though, as anyone who's ever been to a mass ingame event will tell you, you can't really keep people from yelling and screaming) to mobs in the Barrens. And it sounds like they did get something done -- besides the panels, which were only slightly frustrated by griefers, they took expeditions throughout the world, and did do a little thinking about how different meeting in RL and meeting in a virtual existence is.

Very good read. The end of the article has a link to a PDF book about the conference, but it's hidden behind Science's membership wall. Still, Bohannon writes clearly and fairly about the game, and it's fun to think of a bunch of scientists actually trying to navigate a virtual world while doing their own research.

Filed under: Events, Virtual selves, Guilds, Odds and ends

Control WoW with your eyes

Adding one to the list of things I've never thought of that are actually pretty cool, scientists at De Montfort University in the UK have developed a way to control WoW with your eyes. The system uses existing LED eye-tracking devices, and essentially the cursor just goes where you look. Looking offscreen in various directions can trigger different modes (for combat or travel, for instance). The intention behind this project is to help people with disabilities that prevent them from using traditional input devices. So far, judging by the video, the interface is not up to par with clicking or key-pressing, but I think it does have potential for situations where it's required. The research team hopes to begin trials next year.

[via Wonderland]

Filed under: News items, Hardware

Scientists make a real-life mechanical squirrel

This one is just barely related to World of Warcraft, but it's just too good to pass up: behold, Engineers of all races. Our real-life scientists are working on your favorite companion. Animal behavior scientists at Hampshire College have created a real-life mechanical squirrel.

And "Rocky," as they call him, is a lot more helpful than the noncombat version in Azeroth -- apparently by using the robot squirrel to mimic real-life squirrel behavior, they can "decode" what squirrels are saying. And supposedly that will help them figure out the same behavior (or at least parallels) in humans.

Their mechanical squirrel looks a little more realistic than ours -- they must have added some wool in with the Malachite and the Copper Modulator. But if science can do this with a mechanical squirrel, just think what could be accomplished with an exploding sheep!

[Via WoW Ladies LJ]

Filed under: Engineering, Items, Odds and ends, Humor

Convergence of the Real and the Virtual May 9-11

MMORPGs and other online communities have been fascinating scientists since their inception. The social world has vastly changed in recent years and many are studying their impacts on people, the economy, and the outside world. Several researchers will be presenting their findings at the "Convergence of the Real and the Virtual," proposed by John Bohannon, contributor to American Association for the Advancement of Science's online Science publication.

The conference will be held on Earthen Ring, US May 9-11, Horde side. The conference consists of three planned sessions. For any of you who have had the pleasure of attendance at traditional academic conferences, rest assured that the creators promise a more entertaining experience. The conference will include presenters from the National Science Foundation, The National Cancer Institute, The Minnesota Department of National Resources, and many universities and research institutes.

Attendees will be granted a virtual goodie bag and invited to in-game events such as a photo-opportunity with the Supreme Leader of Azeroth. For more information contact conference organizer William Sims Bainbridge or check out the conference's information page.

Filed under: Events, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

Study: Not playing WoW is more relaxing than playing it

A researcher at Middlesex University in Britain has conducted a survey of World of Warcraft players, almost 300 between the ages of 12 and 83, and found that people who play the game actually feel more relaxed before and after they play the game, rather than more aggressive at either of those times. Findings were supposed to be revealed today at a conference across the pond.

But from what I can tell, you can't say much more about this study than that people aren't as excited before and after playing WoW as they are while playing it. And it doesn't really take you a behavioral scientist to figure that out -- there's no way that taking a quiz given by some scientist is as exciting as, say, traversing the wastelands of the Barrens, or flying around Netherstorm.

Some people have taken this as a sign that the game somehow lets you chill out or makes you less angry than other gamers or people, which may be true, but that's not what's being said here. As far as I can tell, they're just saying that you're not as excited after playing the game as you are during. Maybe this will lead to something else, but as a finding, that's not exactly a groundshaker.


Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

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