Preview - Intro To Learning With Computational Models

Using models to learn science

Scientists use scientific modeling approaches to construct knowledge about the world. In this section, we will explore ideas about scientific models.



Please answer the questions below.

It only became widely accepted knowledge that all matter in the world is made up of tiny elementary particles in the early 19th century.

Let's look at the the picture below. Can you tell what it is a model of?

Some of you would say it's a model of an atom. Some would say it's a model of 'Neon atom', because it has 10 electrons. It could also be one of several ions, since we don't know the number of protons, correct?

Anyway, the point is that these representations in a model allow us to think about a model and various natural phenomena that are associated with the model in certain way. Can you explain what could this model be useful for?

Let's look at a computational model of wildfire. Imagine that you are observing a forest using a drone that is hovering on top of a forest. So what you see in the model is the top view of a forest. Each patch represents a tree. A red patch represents a burning tree. 

Play with the model and make some observations.

Describe what could this model be useful for researchers or other people using it.

Change density of trees in the model and observe spread of the fire.

In such models, trees are agents. Behavior of agents is programed in the model. 

An example of such rule would be - a tree would not move.

Can you guess, a rule that trees might follow in this model regarding catching fire?

Based on your exploration of the model, can you guess how density of tree affects spread of the fire in the forest?

This 'fire model' is an example of an emergent systems microworld. It is modeled in terms of interactions between the agents (trees) and it allows us to observe emergent patterns regarding the spread of fire in the forest. We can change parameters such as density of trees and study how that would affect the spread of fire in the forest. It also allows us to make some predictions regarding the spread of fire in a forest.

However, this model does not include all the factors that would affect spread of fire in a forest. Can you suggest some factors that can be added in this model?



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