Sunday, October 20, 2013

Minecraft Goes Quantum

I ran across this earlier today and wanted to share the link.   The following is just a snippet of the full article. 

Minecraft is an incredible Turing complete game as it is, but now Google is responsible for adding quantum mechanics into the mix. So can you now build a quantum computer from Minecraft bricks as well as a classical one?
Minecraft is, as we all probably know, a game that educates as well as entertains. As it is Turing complete you can use its bricks to build logic circuits and eventually an entire classical computer. This all takes work and a lot of brains, which is why Google, or at least part of Google, thinks that this is the place to find the computer geniuses of tomorrow. To quote from the Google Quantum AI Lab Team's Google+ post:
Millions of kids are spending a whole lot of hours in Minecraft, not just digging caves and fighting monsters, but building assembly lines, space shuttles, and programmable computers, all in the name of experimentation and discovery.
This raises the next question:
So how do we get these smart, creative kids excited about quantum physics?

Read More at iProgrammer

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Minecraft: A Parents Guide

Minecraft SplashI assume any parent with a school age kid has heard their kids or their friends talk about Minecraft.  It has become a cultural  phenomenon with over 12,000,000 copies sold worldwide and adding up  with about 13,000 additional copies being bought each day.  Those are impressive numbers for any game and there are many more downloads where you can play for free as long as you don't access a server.  In this parents guide to Minecraft I want to explain the basics of the game and at the end let you know some issues you need to cautious about.

My Credentials

I am a dad and my son and I have been playing almost every day since the dawn of beta 1.8 (2011), and his interest only wavers occasionally.  I am continually amazed by some of the creative things he is able to make within such a simple game and some of the YouTube videos we have seen of other people's creation are astounding.   Needless to say I am a fan and often act as an evangelist for the cult of Minecraft.

What is Minecraft?

Minecraft is a sandbox game; this means there are no defined rules and no set purpose.   I usually describe the game as being similar to an empty lot in a neighborhood.   One day the lot is used for a game of baseball, the next it is used to play war, and the next it is medieval kingdom.   The
boundaries and materials in the lot are always the same but the game is different depending on the mood and the players involved.  This leaves a lot of room for exploring and interpretation to the player.   This is a very different concept than most of the video games I have played.   I grew up playing games like Pitfall as a kid and Doom in high school and college.   In these games I had very little control, the levels were set and they were always the same.   Once I learned the rules I could play through the game very quickly.  The adventure was in learning the rules of the game and using those to my advantage.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Great Article on using Minecraft in the Classroom

Minecraft in all it's greatness can be a burden on parents that are unfamiliar with the game or Parents who grew up with Pitfall, Donkey Kong, and Mario.   We look at video games as levels and not as active play Games.   In the article link below you will find a great article on how to use Minecraft in the classroom or as an educational tool at home.

Toys as Tools: Using E-Games for Learning
By Jeffrey MacCormack

My daughters were supposed to be doing their homework, but I heard too much giggling not to be suspicious. Homework is not supposed to be giggly. Then, from down the hallway, I heard snippets of the following conversation: “I used fences for teeth. Come see how it looks” … “Hold on a second. I’m in the long intestine. I’ll be right there”
I was completely baffled. “Are you two playing video games or are you doing your homework?” I asked through the bedroom door. There was a long pause, and then they replied in sing-song voices, “Yyeesss!

Read More

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hunt for the Golden Apple IRL

The boy and I were lucky enough to score tickets to Minecon 2013 in November, and like any good Geek we can't show up empty handed to a CON.   But what is a Minecraft nerd supposed to take Minecon.   We thought about crafting a pick-axe, and still might, but a pick-axe takes space and we are driving from Texas to Florida and space will be limited.

We decided that the most compact yet cool item we could take would be the Golden Apple.   The Golden apple is small and we are going to try to get people to sign it like a baseball. Hopefully this will be a great keepsake he can put on his bookshelf.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Saving the Planet Saturday.

Have you ever thrown away something metal? Sure you have.  We all have.  Did you cringe just a bit thinking this piece of trash might be the tipping point that brings about the future apocalypse that forces humans to leave Earth forever? Probably not , but I watch alot of science fiction and I won't apologize for it. 

Over last several weekends My father-in-law and I have replaced the hot water heater in both of our homes and had two huge tanks to dispose of.   FIL decided we needed to recycle them and might actually make some money in the process.  It sounded like an adventure to me so I decided to take the boy and expand his horizons.   

Now the boy has been with me to the city dump a few times to drop off some yard waste and tree clippings.  (My wife thinks I have an unhealthy fascination with cutting down trees.)  If you can swing it, a trip to the city dump is an eye opening experience for a kid.   Possibly for the first time in their life they get a chance to see where the bags of trash go when  they leave your curb.