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Google Games Science Technology

Google Sparking Interest To Quantum Mechanics With Minecraft 71

jones_supa writes "If you want to find the computer geniuses of tomorrow, you could do worse than to check out which kids are playing Minecraft. In a Google+ post, the Google Quantum A.I. Lab Team says that they've released a mod called qCraft to enable kids (and adults) to play around with blocks that exhibit behaviors like quantum entanglement, superposition and observer dependency. qCraft obviously isn't a perfect scientific simulation, but it's a fun way for players to experience a few parts of quantum mechanics outside of thought experiments or dense textbook examples. The team doesn't know the full potential of what you can make with the mod, but they are excited to see what Minecraft's players can discover."
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Google Sparking Interest To Quantum Mechanics With Minecraft

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  • Depending on what exactly this mod does, it could yield some interesting outcomes when used against creepers from within my dirt house...
    • Well you should probably play on play.strongholdcraft.com. Pretty good server, just saying. I don't have the mod I'm just advertising with absolutely not segeuy.

  • Now they can find prospective scientists to gag before they are ever scientists!
    • Don't worry, the parents of the dangerous ones are seeing other kids spending untold hours descended into Minecraft and ignoring the real world, and are keeping their own kids from using it.

      The Minecraft operators of today will make good lab techs for the kids who are out talking about quantum nature with their dads while building treehouses.

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @05:25PM (#45177053)

    two-slit experiment, the three-polarizing filters experiment, an SCR.....many ways to "do quantum mechanics" on a school budget

    • Neither the two-slit experiment nor the three-polarizing filters experiment show anything particularly quantum mechanical. Both would work just fine if light were a pure wave. I'm not really sure what experiments you could do with an SCR that would be particularly illuminating about quantum mechanics, but there might be some.

      • Wrong. there is a quantum mechanical revealing version of double-slit and polarizing filter experiment that a purely wave-based energy transfer can't explain

        • Please go on.

          • One runs the experiment in the dark with a photographic film or movable photomultiplier behind the slits, allowing the observation of single photons. The density of the photons exhibits an interference pattern.

            I've not done this experiment myself, but remember being told that it was possible using film during high school.

            • But you have to have other reasons to believe there are only single photons in order for that experiment to show anything quantum. Without such other information, all you're showing is very low energy waves interfering with each other.

            • by Goaway ( 82658 )

              And you can't reasonably do it yourself, as it requires more sophisticated equipment than most people would have.

      • by daknapp ( 156051 )

        Neither the two-slit experiment nor the three-polarizing filters experiment show anything particularly quantum mechanical. Both would work just fine if light were a pure wave.

        Umm.... isn't that what quantum mechanics is about? That everything can be described by a wavefunction (i.e. as a "pure wave?") Even if it weren't so, the three-polarizer experiment is an excellent demonstration of the counterintuitive properties of projections, which is key to understanding QM.

        • No. The "wave function" is only tangentially related to the concept of whether light acts like a wave, a particle, or has some kind of duality. It is tangentially related only because as you dig into the quantum mechanical nature of the universe, you end up with this statistical function that we happen to use the word "wave" in its name.

          All one shows in those two experiments is that like acts like a wave.

          • by daknapp ( 156051 )

            No. The "wave function" is only tangentially related to the concept of whether light acts like a wave, a particle, or has some kind of duality. It is tangentially related only because as you dig into the quantum mechanical nature of the universe, you end up with this statistical function that we happen to use the word "wave" in its name.

            Wow. In the words of Pauli, that is not even wrong.

            First off, the wavefunction is not a statistical function. And "wavefunction" includes that "wave" word for a very good reason. You are, I suspect, perfectly capable of reading an introductory quantum mechanics text. You just have chosen not to and yet feel the need to spout nonsense as if you were an expert.

            • I have not just read a quantum mechanical text, but got an A in quantum mechanics. Nice snark, but that characterization of the wave function is simply 100% inaccurate.

    • by gijoel ( 628142 ) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @07:54PM (#45177819)
      They've already proven that chickens [youtube.com] are simultaneously a wave, and a particle.
    • by fatphil ( 181876 )
      And if you want to do it in a computer environment, there's been a Perl module for 15 years:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... Mr. Feynman. I bet he would've loved this.

  • by green is the enemy ( 3021751 ) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @05:47PM (#45177119)
    It's a good idea to make Minceraft mods that expose certain laws of physics to interaction, even if not 100% rigorous and realistic. It could become a valuable teaching tool in the future for a large variety of physics and other scientific and engineering concepts. Somehow I feel Markus Persson intended this from the beginning.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by z4ckpete ( 1108053 )
      The redpower mod is how I learned how gates work and how they're combined to make RAM, adders, etc. I even made a simple calculator (which is not something I thought I'd have the attention span to do.)
      • Some of us crazy engineering types have made computers. In unmodded minecraft. Mostly because we can. It has NOT gates and OR gates, and that's all we really need. Myself, I implement cryptographic algorithms in Minecraft, when I have the time (rarely). There's no real use for it, and I'm under no illusion that they actually end up secure (a single creeper is a pretty good DOS attack) but it's fun to do.

        It's a fun exercise to make a computer at the gate level.
        • "a single creeper is a pretty good DOS attack"

          So that's what happened to Facebook this morning. I always suspected it was full of creepers...

  • Palatable? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    From the referenced article, "The engineered bacteria, dubbed genetically recoded organisms (GROs), have the added advantage of being resistant to many existing viruses. They are also less likely to escape the lab and survive than conventional genetically modified organisms, which should make them more palatable for commercial use."

    I have no intention of palating any such thing.

  • by iris-n ( 1276146 ) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @06:05PM (#45177207)

    At first I was quite excited with the idea that someone was able to use quantum mechanical elements in a game. But of course, they were not able to do this. They just created a mod vaguely inspired by quantum mechanics, that helps to perpetuate the myths so beloved by the lay media.

    The video linked just shows a dude running around, nothing very interesting. If you search youtube a bit, you can find videos talking about the mechanics they implemented. I found this one [youtube.com], about the basic elements -- observation, superposition, and entanglement --, and this one [youtube.com], with the extremely exciting title "quantum computers and teleportation".

    Of course, what they call observation and superposition have nothing to do with the quantum concepts, they are just blocks that are different depending on which direction you look at them, and the "entanglement" block is just a glorifed telephone. Their quantum computer doesn't seem to do anything besides teleportation, which is Star Trek teleportation instead of quantum teleportation [xkcd.com].

    Admitedly, these guys set out do to a terribly difficult task: quantum mechanics is a bit subtle, and quite far from games. The only ones I can remember off the top of my mind are the CHSH game [hrcak.srce.hr], which is about as exciting as tic-tac-toe, and a quantum strategy to cheat at bridge [wikipedia.org], which requires you to do a nontrivial amount of maths (and is actually unpublished research =).

    They have, nevertheless, failed. The mod looks cool as a game, though.

    • by bwcbwc ( 601780 ) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @07:47PM (#45177771)

      Considering how Minecraft physics are almost laughable even in the Newtonian realm (for example, you can compress/store 27x64 cubic meters of cobblestone into a 1m cube/chest) nitpicking on the implementation of quantum concepts is a waste of time. This isn't intended as a rigorous treatment, it's an introduction to the concepts and how they would impact if they were visible at the macro scale. Personally, I think the implementation of superposition is reasonable - the block is in an undetermined state when it's not being observed and has it's state frozen by observation. Switching states after being observed isn't quite kosher without some other interaction, but I'll live with that for the sake of gaemeplay. Maybe a redstone signal could be required to destabilize the state of the block after being observed. The Observer dependency is a bit more problematic with its directional dependencies, but I can't think of a good way to implement that in a game. In theory we could use redstone as an activator again and selecting the state of the block probabilistically based on available observers and their distance from the block, but that's a fairly complex algorithm to run in realtime, updating every 1/20th of a second (the Minecraft tick/sampling rate) in Java.

      The entanglement doesn't seem to properly describe the quantum phenomenon at all. Action at a distance != teleportation. The trouble is a realistic implementation would probably be exploitable in game terms. For example if you have 2 of those entanglement altars (or whatever they are called) and you place a block in one, I would expect to see the same block appear in the other one. Now how do you prevent people from using this to clone valuable blocks like diamond in game? In multiplayer, with 1 player at each "altar" you would have a very tight time sync requirement if both players tried to mine a block in their respective altars simultaneously.

      An alternative mod spotlight.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HI-keffxmA [youtube.com]

      • It's worse than that. You can fill an Ender Chest with all that cobblestone (or whatever), take another Ender Chest thousands of blocks away, and both chests will still contain the same items. The items are in two (or more) locations at the same time.

        It comes in handy because you can fill the one you leave at your base with spare tools and extra food, and take another one to the mine. Then while you're away down in the mines you can use up the food and tools and replace them with items you've quarried. Go b
      • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

        Come on, Minecraft does not pretend the implement classical physics.

        The problem isn't lack of rigour, is that it gives you the wrong intuition. For example, the essential feature that distinguishes superposition from a classical mixture is that there is a basis in which the result of a measurement is deterministic, and from what I have seen this is not the case in the mod.

        One way that it could be done: a "superposition" block, that can be prepared in the states |0>, |1>, |+>, or |->. If you look

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      moreover, most treasure boxes in most games work in a fashion that what is inside is generated only after you open the box. before that the box can have aything.

  • by quax ( 19371 ) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @06:46PM (#45177415)
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @06:50PM (#45177435) Journal

    A half-dead blocky cat

    • by Anonymous Coward

      that describes the kind of pussy most geeks get: It's either real but out-of-it, or fake and pixelated.

  • by Chuckstar ( 799005 ) on Saturday October 19, 2013 @07:06PM (#45177505)

    Here's an interesting possible psychological experiment. If you could design an game that utilized the rules of quantum mechanics, and you exposed young enough kids to it, would quantum mechanics become intuitive to them?

    Quantum mechanics always seems so unintuitive. Is that because of nature or nurture? Have our brains evolved to understand a classical world? Or do we develop those intuitions as we experience the world?

    • Plain ol' physics can be intuitive enough at times - our brains have not evolved to understand it at all, merely to survive. A very basic example is that the mass of an object does not change its rate of deceleration due to friction. F = ma, Force of friction = mgcos(theta), therefore mgcos(theta) = ma and gcos(theta) = ma. Another is that, despite what is seen in films, a swinging object is more likely to fall at the bottom of its path than the top. I would be very, very, very surprised if there was a gam
    • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

      Well, you could say that doing a PhD in physics is playing such a game, and, sure enough, most physicists have a working intuition on how quantum mechanics work -- more on the level of given a description of a situation, they can tell more or less what will happen without doing the calculatios. Doing that part is not hard at all. Heck, this kind of intuition mathematicians develop about the most abstract and artificial objects.

      But on a more fundamental level, I don't think it is possible to develop a good i

      • by vix86 ( 592763 )
        I think you missed the point, and probably because the OP didn't carry the results of the 'experiment' out to its conclusions. The OP was suggesting that we use games to make concepts in quantum mechanics more intuitive to KIDS. I've always wondered if we can bring the concepts and teaching of harder concepts, to kids at younger ages, if this won't spur more quicker advances because less time is spent in the more valuable years simply trying to grasp current ideas. For example, there was probably a period
    • by lxs ( 131946 )

      You don't need to go as far as quantum physics. Human intuition on physics is very limited. Even something as simple as a toy gyroscope makes no intuitive sense.

  • or really anything...

    I made a post for a website on how to get a mob spawner in MineCraft; part of the post included
    a 4 second video showing the process. Lots of pictures but one video.

    I'd forgotten all about it until the e-mail started and did it come, a 4 second video nobody likes
    now has 420K views. I've much better videos, of glitches, all sorts of stuff but none anywhere close to
    the reception (views) of this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvxY-9DC2rQ [youtube.com]

    Was cool the hate line was red and long, called a saber for the longest time. Ads are not allowed
    or seen, practicing what I preach.

    Minecraft has a heck of a following of all ages, as it's very simple to learn yet you can get very complex with; it as Google is showing.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Probably the video got so many dislikes because it's useless. There's no explanation whatsoever, and before you're tuned in your attention to the video, it's over.

      • Probably the video got so many dislikes because it's useless. There's no explanation whatsoever, and before you're tuned in your attention to the video, it's over.

        Wasn't meant to of been viewed by the public it was part of a post, but I didn't care who saw it.

        There was a description that I kept upto date but then I had to follow the website it was posted on.

        So many people hit the website only to find you had to join to view it, that that one post was viewable without joining,
        so I went with that format. Once again one must join to view the post so I haven't bothered updating it.

        Also it was a glitch in either the beta MineCraft or MineCraft and some MOD, you could only

  • nice game

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.