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Model Mysteries Book Cover

Model Mysteries
An Exploration of Vampires, Zombies, and Other Fantastic Scenarios to Make the World a Better Place

by Anne LaVigne and Lees Stuntz

If you’re interested in thinking about how to solve mysteries and like the idea of creating computer models and applying them to real-world problems, this book is for you. You can use it independently as a student, work with a group of students, or if you’re a teacher, share it with interested students to complete a guided or independent study.


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Preface from Model Mysteries

You may have heard the phrase, “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” voiced by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz many years ago. Her problems seem small in comparison to some we’re facing in today’s world. Many of our problems keep repeating themselves throughout history, finding their way into our popular culture, including fictional stories. So in this era, rather than lions, tigers and bears, we might think about zombies, vampires and other fantastical scenarios, OH MY! Even though these types of situations may seem a little silly, exploring them can help increase understanding of some of those more real, difficult problems we’re working to solve. So, given that...

  • How can zombie chickens taking over the world be similar to a growing national debt or the possible extinction of an endangered species?
  • How can the distribution of a new mind-control technology be similar to working toward a goal, like improving your grades?
  • How can vampires spreading throughout a big city be similar to the spread of a new deadly disease?

These and other included explorations are about deriving helpful answers, but the REAL point is to see how the underlying system works. As an example, if we were talking about automobiles, one set of lessons is to learn how to drive a car, but another – deeper – set of instructions is how to build and maintain an automobile. In the following chapters, we are going to be looking “underneath the hood” of each model.

Alston Image

Also, it’s important for us all to recognize that no model is ever going to be perfect, but model makers know that, and they continuously work to improve them to make them behave closer to how things work in the real world.

Why should you care?

Barry Richmond, creator of STELLA® software,coined the term “Systems Citizen.” The term is grounded in his idea that if people increase their awareness and insights about the systems around them, they can better make logical decisions while increasing their empathy at the same time. He illustrated this point by showing an image of someone who was clearly not aware of how his actions impacted others. Chris Soderquist later wrote this definition, “Systems Citizens have empathy, they respect others, and they wish to make the world a better place for everyone.”

As you use this book, your understanding of systems in general and these systems in particular will increase. If our understanding of systems expands, the hope is we’ll also make decisions that result in a better world for all.

Building Models

Getting Started

Now that you’ve downloaded the book, you’re probably wondering what to do next. The first step is to gain access to some modeling software, so you can build your own models!

Stella Online is one free option that’s described in the book. By registering with the CLE, you can get a special edition of Stella Online that will allow you to create one extended model. You’ll need this since the limited free version only allows you to build models with 12 or fewer elements; some models in the book contain more than 12 elements.

To get the extended “Stella Online CLE," follow these steps:

  1. Register for an isee Exchange account. If you already have an account, skip to step 2.
  2. Register with the CLE. The CLE will send your information to isee so they will add the free Extended CLE model to your account.[Note: you must use the same email used to register for your isee Exchange account.]
  3. You will receive a confirmation email from isee systems that your account is ready to go.
  4. Log into and check your isee Exchange account. You should now see a new model called “Extended CLE Model.”

Note: You can only have one extended model at a time, so make sure to use it to build a larger model, such as the one in Chapter 5. Don’t delete this model, or you’ll lose access to that ability. If you want to build another large model, erase the elements inside the extended model, and start again from scratch.


Energy Drink Mania

Energy drinks can be a quick way for people to increase alertness and energy in the short term, e.g., to study for a test or to complete a long, endurance drive. Caffeine in these drinks can also stay in the body for longer than you might think. Explore how different choices affect caffeine levels in the body over a 24 hour period!

Model » Lesson »

Check your Models!

As you build the models in the book, you might want or need to check your work. All of the main models and some of the extended models are available online for that purpose.

Check Your Models »

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