anyway, while reading it, i came up with what i think is an interesting problem. i thought i'd share it with the group, and see what kind of ideas for how to implement such a scenario people came up with.
for simplicity, it deals with a 2 dimensional universe, with no gravity, no friction, but the usual laws of inertia apply. there is mass, length, and time, and the units we will use for them are Kilogram, meter, and second, although these are completely arbitrary names merely used for convention. we shall say that one frame=one second.
there are some objects in this universe.
each object has the following properties:
mass(remains constant for individual objects)
acceleration(includes a direction)
position(an x,y coordinate)
spin(change in direction/second, measured in degrees)
torq(change in spin/second)
there are 3 such objects in this universe...
object#1: the Chunk.
this is a chunk of rock, but could be any piece of floating debris.
the chunk has spin(randomly set at the start of the simulation), velocity(also randomly set), a mass of 1000kg. it cannot accelerate or apply torque to itself on its own.
object#2: the Collector
this is essentially a bucket into which the chunk must be placed. for all intents and purposes it is stationary.(however, it MAY have a random spin and velocity). like the chunk, it cannot accelerate or torque itself. the mass is immaterial, but for sake of consistency, it masses 2000kg.
object#3: the TugBoat
the tugboat is the focus of this exercise, since it is the only agent that can perform actions. it masses 250kg. it starts at the same position as the collector, with the same velocity and spin as the collector(if any), and it has its landing claw on.
the landing claw of the tug will attach it to another object, thus allowing the tug to apply acceleration and torque to the object to which it is attached.
the landing claw can only be engaged(turned on) when the position and velocity of the tug and the object to which it is attaching are equal. also, the spin of both objects must be equal. the tug can only attach to one object at any time.
besides the landing claw, the tug has 4 other ways to affect its environment. these work in sets of two.
there are foreward and reverse thrusters. they accelerate the tug(and any attached object) in the direction in which the tug is facing, or the opposite direction, respectively. only one will fire at any time, and we represent 1 as being full forward, 0 as both off, and -1 as being full reverse.
the amount of force exerted by either thruster is 250 kg-m/s/s. this means (for the physics impaired), that it can accerate itself alone at 1 m/s/s. but if it had the chunk attached(making it a total mass of 1250, it would only accelerate (250 kg-m/s/s) / (1250 kg)= 0.2 m/s/s.
the tug also has two turning thrusters. a clockwise(starboard or right) and a counterclockwise(port or left). 1 represents pure clockwise turning, -1 pure counter clockwise turning, and 0 means no turning.
these apply torque to the tug and any attached object.
the amount of torque is 2500 kg-degrees/s/s. this means that the tug can torque itself by 10 degrees/s/s, but if it had the chunk attached, this would drop down to 2 degree/s/s.
the tug has a number of sensors it can use to help with its task.
the tug can look at any other objects and tell how far away it is from itself.
relative bearing sensor:
the tug can look at any other objects and tell which direction it lies, in relation to the tugs own direction... for example, if the tug was facing due west, and another object was due north of it, the tug would see it as 90 degrees clockwise from itself (i.e. 3o'clock)
relative spin sensor:
the tug can detect how fast another object is spinning. this sensor can only be used when the position and velocity of it and the object it is observing matches exactly.(i.e. the tug and the object must share the same axis of rotation) note: if the tug is currently rotating at 10 degrees/second, and the object it is observing is rotating at 15 degrees per second, it would see the object as rotating at 5 degrees per second.
now that we have laid out the rules, we can now state the goal of the scenario...
its simple: get the chunk to the collector, and make sure their spins match. when this occurs, the collector will automatically assimilate the chunk, making it a larger collector. then the tug must dock with the collector.
collision does not exist in this universe.
if there are any questions for clarification on this problem, just ask.