Virtual Mine: environment education at its best

Virtual Mine is “an educational 3D environment, game, and educational curriculum for teachers, students, and anyone who’d like to learn more about mountain top removal, coal fired power production, alternative energies, and the amazing music and culture in the Appalachian mountains”. Which sounds a little staid on the surface, but the reality is an engaging and immersive education experience. I attended the launch tour this morning alongside around 35 others, mostly educators and developers, to see what was on offer.

Funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Independent Television Service, the Virtual Mine consist of an entire island in Second Life. After equipping a hard hat and HUD, a series of processes can be controlled and viewed. Whether it’s tree-clearing, the removal of the mountaintop for mining, or balancing the nearby town’s energy needs with the environmental impacts of the mining and cola-fired power station, it’s all covered.

Have a brief look for yourself:

This is the sort of build that tends to shine a very bright spotlight on the opportunities virtual worlds provide for education, including environmental education. That said, one of the tour participants made a humourous comment during the ‘turn off all the unnecessary lights in the town’ exercise, asking that we shut down the region’s server in the process to truly save some power.

Some of my other snaps from the launch tour:

Tree clearing simulation


The blasting begins


Coal-fired power and its town impacts


Turn off the damn lights!

Congratulations to the developers of Virtual Mine and the wider support team. You can find out lots more information on the project here.

Beware the hotel death ray

In an era where environmental sustainability is a big thing, a lot of work has been done to minimise the environmental footprint of large buildings. The Vdara Hotel and Spa is one such building, but it’s having an unexpected impact. The reflection of sunlight in one section of the pool area is a little like an ant being introduced to a magnifying glass on a sunny day.

Disposable plastic cups have been seen to melt and a guest claims his hair was set on fire. The hotel is working on a solution, but in the meantime I imagine there’s going to be no shortage of marshmallows in the pool area.

via [Las-Vegas Review Journal]

How to stop receiving a hard copy phone book

For Australians: if you’re like me, you may not have opened your hard copy phone book in months or years. At best it ends up a doorstop or footrest, albeit an unattractive one.

There’s now an option to cancel receiving them. Whether you want to save trees, space or both, go here to cancel your next phone book delivery. It gets you three years of non-delivery rather than it being a permanent arrangement, which is probably only fair given people can move house regularly.

So go save some trees – unless you’ll miss that sexy doorstop.

Running a virtual world

Following up from my last post on energy use and MMO’s – there’s an interesting interview with a hosting facility on the logistics of keeping World of Warcraft’s European servers running.

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