The Universe, now in collectible trading card format

Saturn, with statistics depicted
Saturn, from the The Solar System deck

Over the years, I collected some trading cards and even played a few games to a rather obsessive extent, hoping that my opponent trading partner wouldn’t have the cards I had and would be dumb enough to trade his rare card for a handful of my common ones.

But thanks to the Internet, and to people willing to do the hard work to make them available, you can download the entire set, print them out, and hoard them impress your friends.

And that’s just what Stephen Wilkins at Oxford University has done by creating an Astronomy card game. It’s still in the proofing stage, but you can download, print them out on card stock and trade away!

Card sets like these are a great way to engage the public. Of course, you can hand out links to websites but people may not remember to check them out later. But if you can give them something they can hold in their hand, it makes an immediate, physical impression.

Game play and other uses

Stephen Wilkins envisions the cards can be played in a manner similar to Top Trumps. Being an American, I haven’t heard of or played this game before, but it sounds like it would be a great game to play with kids. Here are a few other ideas:

  • Use the Solar System deck to create a model of the solar system by arranging the planets in order of distance, and using the information on the cards to set the distances to scale.
  • Create a Hertzsprung–Russell diagram with the cards from the Stars deck
  • Work out the lifecycle of stars from the Stars and Nebulae, Clusters, & Exotica decks
  • Create a logarithmic scale of the universe from all the decks!

Looking sharp

And by the way, the production values of these cards are slick! I love the typography and graphic design. Below is a sample from each deck:

Gemini North
Gemini North Observatory from the Observatories deck
Antares from the Milky Way: stars deck
NGC 3603 star cluster
Young star cluster NGC 3603, from the The Milky Way: Nebulae, Clusters, & Exotica decsk
image of Centaurus A with stats
Centaurus A from The Universe deck

Needless to say, it’s hard to summarize all of the awesomeness of the universe into a few card decks, but this is an excellent effort. I can imagine expansion sets to include stuff like the Kuiper Belt, Brown Dwarfs, Binary Stars, Exoplanets, Black Holes, Quasars, Dark Matter, Cosmic Microwave Background, etc.

After all, you have to do something to keep the collectors busy!

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