Walk with Special Relativity

by Amy Marcott on January 3, 2013 · 0 comments

in Arts, Design, Learning, Modern Geekhood, Research, Science

Screen shots of the game showing (from top) an increasingly relativistic world.

Screen shots of the game showing (from top) an increasingly relativistic world.

We all know light travels very fast. But what if it traveled at human walking pace? A new game from the MIT Game Lab, called A Slower Speed of Light, shows just what would happen if light decelerated to this speed.

The game itself is fairly simple: collect 100 orbs. For each orb you pick up, though, light slows incrementally, and the visual effects of special relativity gradually become apparent. These effects, rendered in real time 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)
  • the runtime effect (the ability to see objects as they were in the past, due to the travel time of light)

Says Philip Tan ’01, SM ’03, creative director of the MIT Game Lab, about the game: “It conveys some of the joy that theoretical physicists actually experience every day when they’re dealing with these very, very interesting issues about the real world.”

Watch the game’s trailer below, then download and play A Slower Speed of Light.

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