In terms of educational software, Kerbal Space Program has Granny’s Garden knocked into a cocked hat.

I’ll admit that this one is only about science, and specifically rocket science, but I’d wager if you got a bunch of kids, gave them the basics about getting a ship built and into some kind of orbit, then challenged the group as to who could get the highest orbit, the natural curiosity and a willingness to try new things that classroom competition promotes would teach them more about Newton’s laws, transfer orbits and vectors than an hour in a traditional environment ever would.

(You might, I concede, need a session afterward to explain that the big rocket with dozens of engines was a failure because a = F/m and mass in this instance was big, and also why slingshotting around the planet works better as a means of gaining altitude than going straight up, but that’s easier when you’ve got talking points to start from.)

The joy of the game is that the Kerbal planet is significantly smaller than Earth, which leaves breaking out of their atmosphere easy enough that it can be done within a few minutes of starting the game, hard enough that doing so with a sufficient quantity of fuel to play around in orbit and return your boys to Kerra Firma is still a challenge.

At the moment it’s still an obvious beta, but even for an adult who supposedly doesn’t need to learn physics is surprisingly engaging – some of this being that the game’s current open ended state leaves you to make your own objectives; single stage to orbit being a good one involving a combination of both shipbuilding and piloting skills.

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