A Slower Speed of Light

(via Boing Boing) I played through "A Slower Speed of Light," the new video game by the MIT Game Lab, twice today.  Which, I mean, only takes like ten minutes.  But still.

The gameplay is incredibly simple.  You just move around (WASD, mouse) and collect orbs.  Every time you get an orb, though, the speed of light slows down, so when you start moving, you're moving closer to the speed of light, and therefore closer to the qualities of special relativity.  Some of these qualities include:

  • Red/blue shift:  The world turns into this surreal rainbow whenever you're moving.  At high enough speeds, if you look behind you, there's this deep blackness, because you're moving away from the light faster than the light can catch up to you.  It scared the crap out of me when I first noticed it.
  • Lorentz Transformation: the distance between you and other stuff changes when you're moving close to the speed of light.  I don't really understand what was going on with this, but it becomes more difficult to navigate.
  • Expanded visual range:  When you're moving fast enough, you start to see different kinds of light.  The stuff ahead of you looks bluer than it really is, but the creatures walking around look bright red, because they're giving off infra-red light.

They're also releasing the software as open source, so other developers can make more complicated games that involve changes in the speed of light, or near-lightspeed behavior ingame.

You can download the game for Mac or PC here, on the game's website.

A whole new kind of 3D image

(via Boing Boing) Some of technological advancement is stuff like confirming the existence of the Higgs Boson, studying the fabric that gives particles mass and making huge leaps in the most basic levels of understanding -- or, getting a vehicle the size of a Mini Cooper to land on the surface of another planet intact and send high-resolution photos.

But sometimes, technology is some people figuring out clever uses for old knowledge, maybe noticing that we can do something now just because we have refined enough tools, that we always could have imagined, but didn't.

These may be less awe-inspiring, but I think they're way cooler to learn about -- perhaps only because I can wrap my head around the whole of their implications (maybe), but mostly just because they're so damn clever.

Scientists at the University of California: Santa Cruz have figured out how to print a 2D(ish) picture that looks 3D, but not the 3D we're used to -- this kind of image reflects light as though it were a 3D object in the paper.

I don't know how to describe what this does, because I've never seen anything like it.  In the realm of image creation, it's basically a totally new thing, and that's one of the coolest things that technology gives us.

Right now, the technology is at about the level of dot-matrix printers, which is so out-of-date we don't even generally use it for receipts anymore, but I can only barely imagine what it will be like to look at one of these pictures in five years of improving technology, and then in five more years of price dropping.  I want a Van Gogh print that responds to light like you're looking at the actual shape of the oil paint sticking off the canvas.  And I really want some of the art made specifically for this medium.

Here's the video about it.  Watch it.  They manage to successfully explain what they're doing.