... But it would be nice if the computer could somehow adapt to the close choices we make and focus in on the parameters that generated those close matches. Maybe this isn't possible the way the applet works (remember the lack of programming knowledge
I know there are such things as computer adaptive testing that take the given answers into account when generating the next question. I just wondered if it could be applied here?
I really like your analogy to adaptive testing. That is a good one for me to use in understanding this myself. I'll see if I'm able to use it successfully when attempting to explain the situation to others, or if I only sound confused.
In computer adaptive testing, your answers are compared to the unique correct answer for each question. There is a lot of sophistication on how to present the next question based on your pattern of previous correct and (hopefully not too many) incorrect answers. But for each question, there is a single right answer known in advance by the software.
For our situation, we clearly don't know the correct answer ahead of time. We also don't know for sure that there is only a single correct answer. Adaptive systems work great where you know for sure there is only one correct answer, or you only need to find a single correct answer out of many possibilities. Consider an adaptive system that users interactive evolution - feedback from a person - to design an antenna that meets certain design goals. Once you've gotten a single antenna design that meets all the goals, you're done. You don't need to prove that the new design is the only design that meets the goals.
In our situation, we're trying to not only determine the "correct" simulation parameters, but also how many such sets exist.
We do have the ability to use other adaptive/evolutionary computation techniques. However, our experience tends to show you need at least 50 plausible candidates before you can evolve them. For a single session, that's probably asking for a lot. For the collective set of responses from all our volunteers, that's definitely an aspect of what we'll be doing to try to teach the computer to pick good matches.
Again, good analogy.