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Special relativity or QM video games?

  1. Sep 18, 2006 #1
    I had this idea a long time ago that it would be fun to make a video game that would be relativistic - you'd be going near the speed of light, all sorts of different things would happen.

    Is there anything like that? Or the same thing for quantum mechanics, you are very very small and in a quantum world?

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 18, 2006 #2
    special relativity or QM video games

    I think it would be great if there were a video game that was relativistic, you're going near the speed of light and all sorts of things happen -

    is there anything like that? Or the same thing for quantum mechanics, you are very very small, in a quantum world ...

  4. Sep 18, 2006 #3
  5. Sep 18, 2006 #4


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    You could make a "relativity" game fairly easily with modern 3D graphics environments like OpenGL.

    Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, does not lend itself well to visualization. You can certainly visualize wavefunctions and so on, but you can't really draw a meaningful "picture" of, say, an atom.

    - Warren
  6. Sep 18, 2006 #5


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    Admin note: merged multiple threads into one. lark, please only post your topic once.

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  7. Sep 22, 2006 #6
    I posted it in the wrong place first and didn't know how to delete it ...

  8. Sep 22, 2006 #7
    qm would lend itself to video games. For example quantum tunneling. You are in a battle and somebody "kills" you with a sword - but with some probability, you don't die because the sword tunnels through you ...

    Characters and anti-characters are constantly being created, and disappearing ...

    You are entangled with a character, you are in a mixed state of happy and sad - they do something at the other side of the battlefield and instantly you feel happy ...

    And so on.

    It could even be realistic - just represent particles as characters.

  9. Sep 23, 2006 #8
    I've never heard of that, though I think I may have had a similar idea once. I guess the hard part would be defining what kind of game you want and how these concepts will fit in. On one end of the spectrum you could make a pure simulator; on the other end relativitistic and quantum mechanic concepts would be woven into everything, from gameplay to graphics.

    Here's a list of some ideas where qm and relativistic concepts can be incorporated into games:

    relativity - weird graphics, audio, or fight scenes; sci-fi plot where time dilation is a factor; a puzzle where you have to get objects from various star systems within a certain amount of time (though this might not be that different from a non-relativistic game of this type)

    qm - graphics of interacting electron clouds; maybe "quantum music" in the background where the background's music depends on how your electron cloud interacts with another person's; some sort of weird physics puzzle where you try to assemble certain molecules based on how their electron clouds interact

    I guess qm has three things you can borrow: 1. the concept of randomness, 2. advanced mathematics and interesting patterns, and 3. a setting for some sort of weird plot (which brings up a question: is there such a thing as a quantum butler, and if there is, how can we be sure he really did it in a quantum world?)
  10. Sep 24, 2006 #9
    This is would be a good idea. It's about time gaming industry come up with something more exotic and creative.

    I think one must be careful is that physics has a lot of constraints, and it is very hard to get everything right; it is fair to say, for me, popular sci-fi such as Star Trek does not get all the physics of SR or GR correct!

    One, however should be able to make a "Sims" game based on the Mr. Thompson paperback series by George Gamow, that would be fun!
  11. Oct 2, 2006 #10
    Well, it's important for it to be interactive. I looked at some of the special and general relativity simulations - things like, what does it look like to fly through Stonehenge at the speed of light - but what I'm thinking of is something that gives you more of the experience of being in that world. There were the Mr. Tompkins books, where the speed of light was not much faster than the speed of a bicycle. what would everyday life be like if the speed of light were very slow?

  12. Sep 12, 2008 #11
    I realize this thread is two years old, but I just stumbled on it and thought I might point out a Java prototype I made of a space-war game that obeys special relativity quite scrupulously. It could definitely be turned into a very cool game, but I haven't had the time to pursue it. The suggestion above to use OpenGL is a good one and if I (or someone else) were to flesh out this prototype, that would be the way to go. Hope someone finds this interesting and/or takes the ball and runs with it ...

    the prototype is at http://redshiftgame.com .
  13. Sep 12, 2008 #12


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    Maybe someone can find a good (classical) open-source game with a physics engine, and just modify the physics engine. That way you don't have to write the game itself. :rolleyes:

    It sounds like a cool project.
  14. Sep 12, 2008 #13
    Actually, most video games already incorporate QM and relativity. Quantum tunneling is just usually referred to as "noclip" and time dilation is called "lag"
  15. Sep 19, 2008 #14
    I imagined using special relativity in a game just a few weeks ago. You clearly can't make a real-time game with time dilation, but if you programmed A.I. to make your choices for you, it wouldn't be hard at all.

    The question is then what kind of game mechanics could you come up with by allowing relativity?
  16. Mar 24, 2010 #15


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  17. Apr 3, 2010 #16
    Huh. I mentioned this idea in a job interview with Mattel or someplace like that, in the 80's. The interviewer just grimaced - apparently thought it was a nerdy idea. :frown: I got no job offer.

    Shows that local stupidity doesn't imply global dryness :tongue:

    I think it would be a great idea as an academic teaching tool. And science buffs would love it.

  18. Sep 20, 2010 #17
    I thought about some technical aspects of this :

    if we take an extended object, then depending on the distance to the observer (eye e.g.), the time coordinate change (like ray-tracing, all photons have to arrive at same time at the eye to see the shape),

    but I couldn't achieve to visualize/understand what happens if this object now rotates (or let say moves~>contraction).

    At first glance the emitted light should be independent of the movement of the source, this should simplify some calculation, since there should be no v+c, since it's always c, only the frequencies/color of light will vary a few. (?)
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
  19. Sep 20, 2010 #18
    I mean the only difference I could imagine was : the end-time of photon can be used (via rounding) to index in which frame to store (however since in reality c is huge, the difference could hardly lead to a noticeable difference that would need to be stored in another image than the one indexed by the emission time. (It's just a computer aspect of how to store the animation, there is almost no physics inside)
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