Archive for July, 2015
An Unpredictably Long Winter is Coming
Fans of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire or the television series, Game of Thrones, know well the often repeated warning, “Winter is coming.”
For those living on the continent of Westeros in this fantasy world, summers can be long, and so can the winters. But some winters are especially cold and last for several years, while others are relatively mild and short.
What causes this variance in seasons? Martin doesn’t offer an explanation, so we’re free to speculate.
Simulating Westeros in Universe Sandbox ²
The paper may be tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use its parameters to try simulating it in Universe Sandbox ². Like the paper, we were unable to find stable orbital parameters that would create the level of unpredictability discussed in the books or the show.
We could, however, create a system that has variable winter and summer intensities on regular predictable intervals with a large northern polar ice region. Though our results didn’t exactly match those in the paper, we managed to recreate similar seasonal patterns to what the authors describe in their paper.
If you own Universe Sandbox ², you can see this simulation for yourself in Alpha 15: Home -> Open -> Fiction -> Lands of Ice & Fire | Game of Thrones.
To open the temperature graph, open the Westeros planet’s Properties, select the Climate tab, hover over the Surface Temperature icon and click the Graph button.
If you don’t own Universe Sandbox ², you can buy it now to get instant access to the alpha via Steam code: http://universesandbox.com/2
If you already own Universe Sandbox ², just run Steam to update to the latest version.
Or you can buy Universe Sandbox ² here:
We’ve just released Alpha 15.2, which features a simulation of NASA’s New Horizons trip past Pluto and its moons. The spacecraft will be closest to the icy dwarf planet next Tuesday, July 14th. You can find the simulation in Home -> Open.
We will be updating Pluto’s and its moons’ textures as data is received from the New Horizons spacecraft.
If you keep the simulation running to 2019, you will see New Horizons approach its second target, 2014 MU69 (or PT1), an object with a diameter of 30-45 km orbiting in the Kuiper belt. New Horizons will likely be closer to PT1 than our simulation reflects, though, as NASA will be using a portion of its remaining fuel to get closer to its target.
You can also check out NASA’s own New Horizons simulation.
Recent Updates & Changes
In this update we’ve also made it possible to draw trails relative to a body and made additional tweaks and fixes.
In Alpha 15.1, released on June 26th, we updated the look of Ceres based on the latest photos from NASA, added a random asteroid feature, new moons of Pluto, pulsar jets, and improved the look of brown dwarfs. We also re-introduced the ability to customize launch bodies: Hover over bodies in the Add panel then press a number key to assign the body to that launch slot.