November 12, 2012 at 17:17 PM EST
MIT’s Media Lab Releases Experimental Game That Bends The Laws Of Relativity
Understanding relativity is hard but playing games is easy. What's a physicist to do? Why, make a game about walking near the speed of light, of course, silly!
speedoflight4

Understanding relativity is hard but playing games is easy. What’s a physicist to do? Why, make a game about walking near the speed of light, of course, silly!

A Slower Speed Of Light is a game/simulation that allows you to exist in what amounts to an environment where you can reduce the speed of light. By picking up colored orbs you slow light down more and more and you approach the speed of light

A Slower Speed of Light is a first-person game prototype in which players navigate a 3D space while picking up orbs that reduce the speed of light in increments. Custom-built, open-source relativistic graphics code allows the speed of light in the game to approach the player’s own maximum walking speed. Visual effects of special relativity gradually become apparent to the player, increasing the challenge of gameplay.

The game, using the Unity3D engine, recreates the following fun speed-of-light quirks:

These effects, rendered in realtime to vertex accuracy, include the Doppler effect (red- and blue-shifting of visible light, and the shifting of infrared and ultraviolet light into the visible spectrum); the searchlight effect (increased brightness in the direction of travel); time dilation (differences in the perceived passage of time from the player and the outside world); Lorentz transformation (warping of space at near-light speeds); and the runtime effect (the ability to see objects as they were in the past, due to the travel time of light).

Considering I have literally no idea what any of those things mean in real life makes this simulation quite valuable in understanding relativity and high-speed travel. It also makes for a trippy good time while smoking various substances and/or drinking a lot of 4 Loko.

The game is free and open source. Gerd Kortemeyer, a physics educator, and the folks at MIT Gamelab, including programmer Ryan Cheu and designer Ebae Kim, built the simulator to offer a closer look at the weird stuff that happens when you really and truly start thinking about faster than light travel.

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