Virtual Design Master (VDM) is a technology contest in which contestants must create a technology design and then implement as much of that design as they can. Goals are given every week, and every week there is an elimination. Sometimes two people are eliminated, sometimes just one. Many self-eliminate, as it is a large amount of work. In the end, there can be only one, and they become the Virtual Design Master winner for the season. There have now been five seasons.
VDM goals are connected to a backstory. The backstory is based on fiction, and it has some interesting requirements, ones that far exceed the technology-driven goals for each week. In many cases, I find these quite fascinating. However, when I was a judge, I also found that people overlooked the basic physics involved in the backstory. They rushed to the technology without thinking about the implications of the backstory on such technology designs.
So, this is the first in a series of posts on the science of VDM—on the things overlooked by many participants who rush to an answer that, in many cases, would not be implementable if the reality of the VDM story were to take place. The don’t consider the science behind VDM backstory, and to me, that is a part of all design. In these cases, the requirements are overlooked.
As a judge in season four, I did my own design, taking into account the physics behind the VDM story. It took me down paths I had not seen in any design I looked at. I also did it in the allotted time. Would it have won? No clue, but that was not the point. The point was to find out the real science needed behind VDM: to look at all the requirements.
The VDM backstory starts with a zombie virus outbreak on Earth. A very wealthy person sets their mind on protecting humanity. Yes, there are a few who could actually do that. In essence, money is not an obstacle, so now we can dream.
Yet, before we can dream, we need a plan. That plan is as follows:
- Pick a site for a colony or colonies
- Build the colony infrastructure knowing the human race must survive
- Include all human knowledge in some form
- Pick people to place into the colonies
- Transport people to the colony sites
This list reminds me of one of the stories within the TV series From the Earth to the Moon, in which six things were listed as needing to be done to get from the Earth to the moon. All six had to be done in order. They were written on cells on an overhead projector transparency, and the top minds in the space program were looking at them and considering how to make each one happen.
We are at that stage now. We just wrote our list, and we need to complete the items in order. What do we need to do to accomplish them?