Solar System Simulation
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the NAU Solar System Simulation (SolSys) ?
The Solar System Simulation is an on-line 'virtual' laboratory for undergraduate
level courses in the social and communications sciences. In this laboratory,
students in each class collaborate in building a 'working model' of a community
in a shared future Solar System.
The communities that the students build are expected be:
The primary objective is to challenge students to develop sustained
and mutually beneficial communication and exchange within and among their
- historically and scientifically plausible,
- ethically and aesthetically desirable, and
- sustainable on a long-term basis.
- Students work in teams which are consituted from one or more undergraduate-level
classes . Students work collaboratively
in their classrooms and through the Internet.
- The primary Internet medium is a multiple-user domain, MUD/MU*-type program
(see Connectivity). Students and faculty
also use e-mail, listservers, news groups and web pages to communicate within
and among the teams.
What do students actually DO in the Solar System Simulation?
In their classes, each team of students has to:
- determine the specific location and nature of their settlement site,
- determine the needs, both individual and collective, that must be met
at their own site,
- divide labor and responsibility for devising how these needs will be
- develop their local scenario, then negotiate that 'proposal' with other
sites into the general Solar System Scenario,
- determine the resources available at this site for meeting community
- develop sustained and mutually beneficial communication and exchange
with other sites in the Solar System,
- build a working model their community through research, presentations,
and negotiations, in the classroom and in SolSyS, and
- document their product.
What do students learn from their participation in the Solar System Simulation?
Through their active participation in building a working model of a sociocultural
system of a future community, and participating in an evolving system of such
communities, students learn about the dynamics of human communities:
* they learn to do applied research and problem solving using conventional
resources and the Internet-mediated technologies,
* in this process students develop their skills of:
- Interdisciplinary team work: each student works to some extent
outside hir area of academic specialization, cooperating with other students
from diverse backgrounds on the formulation of the simulation and on the
solution of bproblems that arise during the course;
- Communications skills: the students must propose and defend ideas
orally within their sub-groups and within the whole class; there are reports
to be presented to the whole class, written and oral; and students constantly
propose and defend ideas over the Internet with fellow students, students
on other campuses, and with practicing professionals, the members of the
- Debate, negotiation,and crisis resolution skills: the students
identify intra- and inter-community which they research, propose alternatives
for solution, weigh the merits of their proposals, decide among themselves,
then formulate and execute plans of action - for which they are held,
individually and collectively resopnsible;
- Data acquisition skills: in addition to computer database resources,
students also make use of information resources such as local and university
and community resources, in Flagstaff, for example, the USGS Planetary
Geology division and Lowell Observatory;
- Analytical skills: the students learn to make both quick-and-dirty
and more substantiative qualitative judgements about the feasibility
of proposals, e.g how much material could be brought early to Mars, whether
a given structure has enough living space, or whether a proposed power
source is adequate, etc.;
- Creating and maintaining a simulation: the putting together of
the simulation and adjusting it while running it involves creativity,
teamwork, and critical faculties; and
- Computer use skills: the students engage in extensive communication
and research via the Internet.
* Each instructor develops specific learning objectives and assignments
for hir own class.
What is a pedagological environment?
There are several MU*-type programs operating in the Internet
that are dedicated to educational objectives. MicroMUSE, Diversity University,
ATHEMOO, College Town and EON are examples. Each of these sites models a campus
environment and provides numerous opportunities for deliberate instruction.
The Solar System Simulation is different: it provides
a social laboratory environment and relies on the the instructor and
classroom interaction to distill knowledge through reflection and analysis
of the laboratory experience. To distinguish the SolSyS from environments
that emphasize deliberate instruction, we have coined the term 'pedagogical
environment' for an environment in which learning happens.
Why is SolSyS closed to the public?
The Solar System Simulation has controlled admission for the
same reason that the participating schools do; classes of students are busy
working for academic credit and should not be distracted.
How can we participate in SolSyS?
Communicate your interest to Dr.
Reed D. Riner, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Northern Arizona
What kind of VR program does SolSyS use?
The Solar System Simulation is running in a ____. The direct
telnet address is dragonmud.org 4567; see Connectivity
for more information.
READ MORE ABOUT IT:
(individual copies of these papers are available on request)
Riner, Reed D.
"Virtual Ethics <- Virtual Reality." Futures Research Quarterly, 12(1):57-70, Spring 1996.
Riner, Reed D. and Jennifer A. Clodius
"Simulating Future Histories: The NAU Solar System Simulation & Mars Settlement." Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 21(2):121-127, 1995.
Neville, Melvin K. and Reed D. Riner
"The Mars Course: A Technological and Societal Simulation." in David Hartman editor, Proceedings of the American Society of Engineering Education Pacific Southwest Section 1993 Annual Meeting and Conference, 1993.
Guide to Teams || Adjunct
Faculty || Internet
SolSyS FAQ ||
This page is maintained by:
Reed D. Riner, Professor,
Department of Anthropology
last updated 02.11.15