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UCSC students design video game aimed at making astrophysics fun - San Jose Mercury News

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Now, two doctoral students at UC Santa Cruz are programming a ruse on the cosmic scale: They've designed a game that tries to make astrophysics fun.

Kate Compton and April Grow, both students at UCSC's Center for Games and Playable Media, hope players will feel like they're "farming" in space as they cultivate star gardens. In doing so, gamers also will learn about nucleosynthesis, the process by which stars forge atoms into the elements that make up the periodic table. But Stellar, which will be soon be available on Google's Chrome Store, is first and foremost a game -- and its programmers hope the approach will help spark children's interest in science.

"We wanted to make a cute, colorful, playful, approachable thing that deals with a heavy physical concept," said Compton, 31. To pull that off, they'll have to do what some may believe to be impossible: make nuclear fusion adorable.