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Virtual Worlds May Be the Future Setting of Scientific Collaboration

PhysOrg.com (08/04/09) Zyga, Lisa

The California Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Drexel University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have formed the first professional scientific organization based entirely in a virtual world. The Meta Institute for Computational Astrophysics (MICA) conducts professional seminars, popular lectures, and other events entirely online in virtual worlds. MICA is based in Second Life, where participants use avatars to explore and interact with their surroundings, and the organization plans to expand into other worlds when appropriate. MICA also is working to establish collaborative partnerships with the IT industry, including Microsoft and IBM. In addition to uniting people in an innovative, free, and convenient way, virtual worlds can provide new possibilities for scientific visualization, or visual analytics. As data sets become increasingly large and complicated, visualization can help researchers better understand different phenomena. Also, virtual worlds can allow researchers to immerse themselves in data and simulations, helping them think differently about data and patterns.

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