An Experiment in Using Virtual Worlds for Scientific Visualization of Self-Gravitating Systems

Will Meierjurgen Farr, Piet Hut, Jeff Ames, Adam Johnson


In virtual worlds objects fall straight down. By replacing a few lines of code to include Newton's gravity in full, virtual world software can become an N-body simulation code with visualization included where objects move under their mutual gravitational attraction as stars in a cluster. We report on our recent experience of adding a gravitational n-body simulator to the OpenSim virtual world physics engine. OpenSim is an open-source, virtual world server that provides a 3D immersive experience to users who connect using the popular “Second Life” client software from Linden Labs. With the addition of the n-body simulation engine, multiple users can collaboratively create point-mass gravitating objects in the virtual world and then observe the subsequent gravitational evolution of their “stellar” system. We view this work as an experiment examining the suitability of virtual worlds for scientific visualization, and we report on future work to enhance and expand the prototype we have built.


scientific visualization; simulation; OpenSim; n-body

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