Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Physics of Angry Birds Space explained


Angry Birds Space is the newest version of the extremely popular game and it is as fun and addicting as the other versions.

I have always thought that games made an excellent learning tool when done right, with the right support by the teacher. Many video games teach students actual content knowledge, but most of them teach critical thinking and problem solving techniques. Research has shown that video games are effective as learning tools and many companies are working on educational video games. But, other video games can be used educationally also.

I love Angry Birds. I've have played, and solved, every version of the game and every level. It's one of those games you can't put down. I've played on my old Palm Pre+, my HP TouchPad, my Droid Incredible 2, and even on Chrome. My students and I are always talking about the new levels and how to solve them. I also use it in my Physics class to allow students to have fun while investigating forces, motion, momentum, angles and projectile motion. They have to analyze the problem and think through solutions. They learn and have fun.

Each time someone talks about using Angry Birds as an educational tool, there is someone else talking about it's errors or inaccuracies. It's actually built using a very good and accurate physics engine, so it is a great educational tool. But, Angry Birds Space has a whole new part to it - variable gravity fields. While some have said that it is inaccurate, I think it is just being creative. There are bubbles around the space objects that have different gravitational and frictional effects. They are not true examples of how gravity works around an object, but are fun and different and can be used as an educational tool.

Rhett Allain, a writer at Wired Magazine, has analyzed the physics of Angry Birds Space and "has now calculated the forces that act within the bubble-like region outside asteroids. After going through the first level, Allain found a constant force that acts as a sort of gravitational pull, along with a constant frictional force that pulls in the opposite direction as the bird's velocity. The birds are launched at a similar speed as on Earth (25 m/s in space as opposed to 23 m/s), but Allain suspects they get a slight speed boost as they enter the "air" around the asteroid. You can go ahead and read the source to see his work, which includes both calculations of the birds' potential energy and scripted models that mimic the motion of a red bird in orbit."

Read more about his analysis here: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/03/the-gravitational-force-in-angry-birds-space/ 



Video Games as Learning Tools (Angry Birds)


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