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MIT Slows Down Speed of Light In New Game 113

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the woah-man dept.
New submitter schirra writes "Researchers at MIT Game Lab have created a free video game that accurately simulates the effects of Einstein's relativity. 'A Slower Speed of Light' challenges players to collect objects strewn throughout a level to artificially lower the speed of light. As light speed slows to walking pace, it makes visible the unusual effects one encounters when traveling close to the speed of light, such as the Doppler effect, searchlight effect and Lorentz transformation. The effects are, in a word, trippy. The team plans to release an open-source Unity3D toolkit called OpenRelativity to allow others to include the same relativistic effects in other games." They also plan to release the source code sometime next year (despite reports that it is open source already).
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MIT Slows Down Speed of Light In New Game

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  • MITT slow? (Score:4, Funny)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @11:51AM (#41908965) Homepage Journal

    Maybe if he'd been faster he'd have won.

    Meh, bad joke, mod me down :(

    However, this does sound like a pretty fun game. I haven't played anything in years, I might just try this one.

    • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @12:55PM (#41909647) Homepage Journal

      That whole red shift/blue shift thing always confuses me too.

      • red/blue shift (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That whole red shift/blue shift thing always confuses me too

        Here is red/blue shift (to my understanding) in a nutshell:
        First, remember that the frequency of light determines what color it will be. In the visible light spectrum, red is at one end and has the lowest frequency of visible light. Blue light has a higher frequency and is found towards the opposite end of the visible spectrum. Also, remember that the speed is a constant. When you see something, you see the light bouncing off of it. If an object is coming towards you, the light does not go 'the speed of lig

        • i thought red/blue shift had to do with states switching political allegiances or am I still stuck with election induced stupor.

        • by ColaMan (37550)

          Hmm. I think a better explanation is ripples on a pond from a rock.

          You are stationary on a boat on a pond. You throw a rock into the pond some distance away, the ripples move towards you across the water at a set speed and slap against the hull of the boat at a certain frequency.

          You repeat the process, this time moving your boat towards the origin of the ripples after you throw the rock. As your boat passes over the ripples as they travel towards you, they slap against the hull at a higher frequency = blue

          • by Guignol (159087)
            What you are describing is correct, but it just is the classical doppler effect
            For relativistic speeds, time dilation also enters the scene
            For example, if the source moves in circles around you, you are not to expect any classical doppler effect, but there would be a relativistic one completely due to the time dilation effect
            More about it here [wikipedia.org]
    • Not just a joke: a woman was turned away from polls because her MIT shirt was interpreted as electioneering for MITT Romney. Source [bocanewsnow.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @11:54AM (#41909005)

    First in my reference frame that is :)

  • I've often wished someone would do something like this. I've suggested on slashdot an interstellar military/trading game that would take relativity into account as a way to give people a more intuitive feel for it. I've wondered about the difficulties of a 2D game that would use a slow speed of light. But to have a 3D game that considers all the effects, including red-shift, is beyond my wildest dreams. I look forward to downloading and playing it.
    • Re:About time (Score:5, Interesting)

      by f3rret (1776822) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @12:11PM (#41909165)

      I've often wished someone would do something like this. I've suggested on slashdot an interstellar military/trading game that would take relativity into account as a way to give people a more intuitive feel for it. I've wondered about the difficulties of a 2D game that would use a slow speed of light. But to have a 3D game that considers all the effects, including red-shift, is beyond my wildest dreams. I look forward to downloading and playing it.

      Have you actually *tried* this game? Cus' it's a long way off from a big-ass 4x sorta game. I mean the game is fun, interesting and trippy and all that, but it is kinda rudimentary.

      Would be fun to play on a large screen while in an altered state though.

      • by duk242 (1412949)
        Or perhaps a really large screen and go an Oculus VR ;) Bonus points: Oculus VR already supports Unity
    • Like Velocity Raptor [testtubegames.com]?
    • I agree - I've often suggested such a game in the past. Part of the reason relativity and quantum mechanics are so hard to learn is they are so counter intuitive. Games like these could train our intuitions.

    • http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/585990 [newgrounds.com]

      This is a game showing 2D relativistic effects that happens to be an actual game. You use time dialation to dodge bullets and try to turn different colored objects the same with Doppler. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any kind of skip-ahead (and I suck at it) so I could never see what the later levels added to the mix

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Somehow bragging about the open source nature of the project but not making it available on an open source OSes begs the question: WTF?

    I wonder if it has anything to do with the current status of video graphics on open source OSes.

  • Maybe set it in the world of Redshift Rendezvous [amazon.com] by John Stith.

    Main problem is simulating time dilation. Single-player, you could do it, I suppose. But you can't give multiple players their own individual time rates.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      But you can't give multiple players their own individual time rates.

      Why not? It's on a computer, you can make time go as fast or slow as you want. The faster you're supposed to be going, the slower the game goes for everyone else. It's just a matter of timing loops, not hard at all.

      • by f3rret (1776822)

        It's just a matter of timing loops, not hard at all.

        Would be a complete nightmare to keep synchronous across multiple computers and server though.

        • by Dr. Manhattan (29720) <`sorceror171' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @12:28PM (#41909353) Homepage

          Would be a complete nightmare to keep synchronous across multiple computers and server though.

          And everyone in the real world still thinks at the same rate. With turn-based games, you can do a little better - e.g. chess clocks that give dissimilar players different amounts of time - but for a continuous game it's rougher. And picture, you're walking down a hall, and suddenly things go slower because someone all the way on the other side of the map starts sprinting. It adds a whole new layer of lag-like behavior on top of the relativistic effects you're trying to simulate.

          The key thing about relativity is that, no matter what speed you're moving at, you feel the same. It's just that everything around you behaves differently. Slowing the game clock down because other people are going fast doesn't simulate that at all.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            The key thing about relativity is that, no matter what speed you're moving at, you feel the same.

            But the speed of light makes communications difficult over long distances, like the 10-20 minutes to get a signal to Mars. In a REALLY realistic game, when you call someone from Venus to Jupiter, it will be a while before they get your message. There's a lot of lag between planets.

            • I don't think a realistic space travel game will be much success. Travelling from Earth to Mars: Put your space ship on course, and then wait half a year, maybe making a small course correction every now and then ...

              • by tehcyder (746570)

                I don't think a realistic space travel game will be much success. Travelling from Earth to Mars: Put your space ship on course, and then wait half a year, maybe making a small course correction every now and then ...

                Sounds like most realistic flight simulators. Christ they're dull.

                Ten minutes of fun taxiing and taking off, a ten hour flight over the featureless Atlantic and five minutes of terror landing. The only good thing is that with autopilot you can sleep during the middle bit, much like real pilots. .

                • Of course; they're simulators. That's exactly what real flight is like. Of course, in the real thing the terror is a bit more palpable because you're ACTUALLY in danger...

                  Though there are aspects that are tricky to simulate; the taste of horrible coffee, the smell of a first officer with terminal flatulence, and the horrible shiver that goes down your spine when your finger happens to find a blob of some unidentifiable substance that has scraped off the fingers of the previous pilot onto the seat adjustme
          • by tehcyder (746570)
            I'm not going to disagree with anyone whose user name is Dr. Manhattan.
        • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @01:00PM (#41909717)

          There is no such thing as "synchronous" when you're talking about relativistic effects.

          Getting around that would be a very interesting problem to try to solve in multiplayer. At first blush, it seems impossible: player 1 won't be experiencing the same moment of time as player 2 at any given time. However, whenever two players interact in any way, whatever caused the interaction has to have happened for both players and that includes even just seeing them. If you can keep a log of what player 2 did in the past, you can figure out what instant of player 2's timeline player one should be seeing (of you could just simulate the actual flight of the photons, but that seems computationally impossible). And you can do the same for player 2's screen drawing player 1.

          As long as, just like in the real world, no one can travel faster than light you'll always have all the information you need. If you allow FTL though, everything breaks, you can set up situations where you simply won't have the information about player 2 that you need to draw player 1's screen, which is awesome because it maps directly to breaking causality in the real world.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Actually, not even that is true. The effects of relativity aren't due to photon flight time. Imagine one player running at even a tenth the speed of light. When they stop, they would have only experienced say, a minute, but a stationary player should have been experiencing many hours. You'd either have to know what the stationary player is going to do in the future, or artificially slow down the travelling player, which sorta defeats the purpose.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            It's not possible to accurately simulate special relativity in a multiplayer setting. Just consider the twin paradox: two players are near each other, one accelerates away to a relativistic speed, and then accelerates his way back. The two players are back near each other, but the stationary player must have experienced more local time pass than the traveling player. That cannot be simulated while maintaining the invariant that each player experiences time as if they were their avatar. In other words, the "

          • by f3rret (1776822)

            There is no such thing as "synchronous" when you're talking about relativistic effects.

            There, however, is such a thing as "synchronous" in PC-based multiplayer games.

          • It would be awesome as a shooter, where your projectiles travel significantly faster than the speed of light, go back in time and shoot you in the back of the head before you've fired off the round... oh, wait... or, un-wait... err... guru meditation: The operation is attempting circular causality. Re-boot now? Y/N.
      • by Millennium (2451)

        Once you do that, it's only a matter of time before the playerbase starts clamoring for the banning of ultrafast engines as a form of griefing (which, to be fair, it would be). Get one person going at a respectable fraction of c, and no one else will be able to do anything until time "catches up" for the traveler.

      • by Bengie (1121981)
        Sounds like a great way to grief other players. Approach the speed of light and everyone else's systems effectively stop.
        • by pscottdv (676889)

          That's not how relativity works. Everyone else's clock appears to be slow to you while your clock appears slow to everyone else's.

          Actually, it's more complicated than that, because your clock appears to run fast to an observer watching you approach and then extra slow as you pass and retreat from the observer. It's not clear to me whether the "signal delay" due to the finite speed of light is taken into account in the simulation because their appears to be no animation on anything in the arena. They shou

          • by Cinder6 (894572)

            There are NPCs that move around. Their subjective speed doesn't appear to be affected by the orbs.

            • by pscottdv (676889)

              It's not clear it would be affected. The ratio of their walking speed w.r.t the speed of light would increase by the same amount as the players.

          • by tinkerton (199273) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @02:13PM (#41910659)

            A small enhancement to the game to make time dilatation more obvious would be making the balls bounce. I think.

            • by pscottdv (676889)

              That would be a good way to make them into clocks, but any constant (w.r.t the orb) periodic animation would work.

            • by xandroid (680978)

              Yeah, that would be great.

              First time through, I was disappointed that I couldn't see objects that were behind me appearing in front of me when traveling quickly, but maybe I'm missing something about how light aberration works with other relativistic effects?

              Before I read the description after the "game" is over, I was confused about why behind me didn't turn black any more when I got that last orb. That's a dramatic modification, maybe there should be an in-game message about the change.

              Also I still don't

  • Apparently, for each copy of the game we download, we're only allowed to install it on one computer, and optionally one other computer assuming we only run it on one of those two at once. Despite the fact that we're totally free to instead just click download again, and then that second download becomes a primary copy, and we -are- allowed to install them both and run them both at the same time. Is it just me, or is that a really odd bit of licensing for something that's being released completely free?

    • by Nyder (754090)

      Apparently, for each copy of the game we download, we're only allowed to install it on one computer, and optionally one other computer assuming we only run it on one of those two at once. Despite the fact that we're totally free to instead just click download again, and then that second download becomes a primary copy, and we -are- allowed to install them both and run them both at the same time. Is it just me, or is that a really odd bit of licensing for something that's being released completely free?

      it's wasteful licensing, imo. We need to be green, recycle files please!

      Of course, the other thought is that is how they are keeping a track of how many people/computers are running it. If each download only represents 1 computer, it's easy to keep track. Of course, you are probably the only person who read the licensing agreement, i know i didn't.

      • Yeah, my thought was "License agreement? Whatever, this thing is free".
        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Yeah, my thought was "License agreement? Whatever, this thing is free".

          It's free as in beer, but so is a pirated copy of Windows.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Of course, the other thought is that is how they are keeping a track of how many people/computers are running it. If each download only represents 1 computer, it's easy to keep track.

        I'm not sure how, but I'm convinced that is infringing on my basic human rights.

  • omg, I got serious motion sickness from that "game". But I collected all 100 orbs in 4:33 it said. But now i have a headache, and i feel like i'm going to puke.

    If that is how it is when you get close to the speed of light, I'm glad I'm a slow ass human, I couldn't take moving around.

    The effects are weird, the controls are weird, and if it didn't make me feel like crap, I'd play it again, it was cool.

    If you get motion sickness, be prepared to get sick, otherwise, it was pretty neat to check out.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Smoke a joint before you play, that's far better than Dramamine at combatting motion sickness. Actually, for alleviating any kind of gastrointestinal queaziness including food poisoning and alcohol hangovers.

      • by Nyder (754090)

        Smoke a joint before you play, that's far better than Dramamine at combatting motion sickness. Actually, for alleviating any kind of gastrointestinal queaziness including food poisoning and alcohol hangovers.

        I was stoned. =)

    • Headaches and puking your guts out. A not-often explored side effect of fantastical super powers. (But props to Watchmen for vomit-inducing teleportation.)
    • Ditto on the motion sickness, and I cant remember having experienced it before. Gamers be warned.

  • The concept is great, mechanics are clever, and anything that helps people particularly kids gain a better understanding of the physical world deserves to be promoted. You might be able to snag some talented artists to work on this. There are many 3D software communities on the web. Blender forums is of course a great place to start. However, I would recommend the Luxology forums. The makers of Modo. Lots of talent over there, great community attitude and I know there are many people there would lik
    • maybe I should give a link... http://forums.luxology.com/ [luxology.com]
      • And if they're looking for commercial support, I might humbly suggest the makers of Dramamine(Tm) motion sickness pills.

        I mean, wow....

    • anything that helps people particularly kids gain a better understanding of the physical world deserves to be promoted.

      Hell, forget the kids, I've contemplated making games with relativistic effects (albeit more of a Asteroids clone) and I never considered that the Doppler effect would shift non-visible spectrums into something we could see.

      My mind, it's blown.

  • C'mon. Windows and Mac only?!
  • Gameplay footage (Score:5, Informative)

    by FlynnMP3 (33498) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @12:59PM (#41909693)
    • by xandroid (680978)

      Too bad that player didn't know anything about relativity before playing it. Kept complaining about "sliding around".

      "Did I slow down the speed of light?" Yes you moron, that's the name of the goddamn game.

    • by xandroid (680978)

      I find the trailer to be a far better video for showing what this project is all about. It shows some gameplay and gives an explanation of the goal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu7jA8EHi_0 [youtube.com]

  • There's a book (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @01:01PM (#41909739)

    This stuff is explored in Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland, by George Gamow. The title character has various dreams which illustrate aspects of modern physics. For example, he dreams about riding a bicycle while the speed of light is 30 mph, and playing billiards with Planck's constant = 1. It's an interesting read; I recommend the omnibus Mr. Tompkins in Paperback, which has Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland and Mr. Tompkins Explores the Atom

    • by Quirkz (1206400)
      'Einstein's Dreams' also explores a series of worlds where the properties of relativity are slightly different or slightly more pronounced than in our world.
  • Multiplayer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elfprince13 (1521333) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @01:14PM (#41909871) Homepage
    I'd be even more impressed if they managed to make it multiplayer. Maybe merge this with the Resequence Engine [achrongame.com]? Not for time travel necessarily, but because they've already worked out how to run multiple reference frames at once, and I suspect you'd need an event buffer for every pair of players, and possibly to introduce a preferred reference frame as well for simulating the environment.
  • Realistic sublight space battles? shut up and take my money!
  • Just tinkered with this for a few minutes, and aside from feeling slightly dizzy, this was an interesting physics demonstration.

    *spoilers*
    I particularly enjoyed strafing left or right and seeing the color spectrum (as you get closer to 100 orbs).

    The sound / music is pretty relaxing... neat game(relatively speaking of course)!

  • It's definitely an interesting game, but I found the controls particularly horrible. I understand why they are the way they are. Going from near light speed to a dead stop without any deceleration is rather unrealistic and vise verse. However, from the perspective of it being a "game" it was downright annoying.

    Great concept, though, and definitely an interesting learning tool. It'd be even more fun if one could adjust the variables directly and and explore the consequences of those variables more deeply.

    • If you try to move forward in a corner or facing a rock, you won't move but it looks like you were accelerating !

      They just don't use the speed of the player but compute speed with your intent of acceleration...

      This is a huge mistake, I wonder if there is more: I'd like to see how the relativistic effects really look like.

      • by Jonah Hex (651948)
        After playing for a bit I think this is a side effect of the distortion effect used to create the sliding when you try to turn at speed. It is a bit disconcerting to see it happen when your not actually moving however. - HEX
  • by tinkerton (199273) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @02:07PM (#41910567)

    I think immersion in the right simulating environment can give people a level of physical intuition that many physicists never achieve.

  • the explanation of special relativity to the point where even people with no scientific background can start denying it and petitioning schools to represent alternative views in the curriculum. Intelligent magnetism perhaps ?
  • On a smaller scale, the same thing is done on this relativistic re-skin of Asteroids about 5 years ago:
    http://playthisthing.com/relativistic-asteroids

  • Obligatory XKCD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ClickOnThis (137803) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @03:40PM (#41911575) Journal
  • Excuse me while I go vomit.

    Very neat effect but... yikes.

  • This was a bad demonstration of relativistic effects. All it really does is demonstrate the Doppler effect, and it does that poorly. People are evidently not warm, because they do not glow when infrared light becomes visible. Chimneys do, but so do shadows under roofs.

    The huge mushrooms emit what, gamma rays? They emit light that is visible even when enormously red-shifted.

    There is no Sun or sky. No campfires. No warm machinery. No radios. No flowers with UV patterns. Nothing familiar that will ill

  • The other moving spirits should be Doppler shifted after light is slowed. Even if you are "still," the other spirits continue to move relative to you. After light is slowed enough that Doppler shifts are noticeable at low speeds, the light bouncing off the other spirits should be Doppler shifted because they have a component of velocity moving towards or away you at a large fraction of the speed of light.

  • What about the contraction of angular distance around the axis of the direction of motion? As you approach the speed of light, shouldn't the field of view contract so significantly that as you're moving forwards, it appears you're moving backwards?

    I didn't see that effect in the video, or did I miss it?

    (eg, as you move forward at the speed of light, objects at 90 degrees to your direction will appear to be at 45 degrees to your direction )

    GrpA

  • Previously in this frame of reference: ;-) http://science.slashdot.org/story/05/05/16/0036207/excursions-at-the-speed-of-light [slashdot.org]
    A relativistic first-person bike ride simulator.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    When people will stop to talk about this in the wrong way ?

    There is no such thing like "twins paradox" or time slowing down....

    Einstein, in his time, was trying his best to talk about a INFORMATION TRANSMISSION problem.

    There's is a limit , the speed of light. If you are travelling in the speed of light and sending information back, let's say your position, gps, whatever. It will take more and more time to reach his destiny. Period. There is no such thing: time goes faster, time goes slower, twin go older, t

  • Why are they so high for something that looks like the original Doom?
  • Definitely the most awesome thing I've seen this lunchtime. The first FPP game I've considered loading onto my system since Portal.

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