Videogame simulates "a slower speed of light"

MIT researchers developed a game that simulates the weird relativistic effects of slowing down the speed of light.

A Slower Speed of Light is a first-person game prototype in which players navigate a 3D space while picking up orbs that reduce the speed of light in increments. Custom-built, open-source relativistic graphics code allows the speed of light in the game to approach the player's own maximum walking speed. Visual effects of special relativity gradually become apparent to the player, increasing the challenge of gameplay. These effects, rendered in realtime 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); and the runtime effect (the ability to see objects as they were in the past, due to the travel time of light).
"A Slower Speed of Light"


  1. This will be awesome to experience in Metroid (when the time comes), but now what I really want is a FPS where you can collect mushrooms to grow larger and spit fireballs.

    1. That’s a great idea! They mentioned this on the project page, but I really like the idea of teaching weird physics concepts through experience/simulations made more fun with gameplay.

    2. Was done, together with the relativistic world, many many years ago – not as a game but as a book of stories; the famous George Gamow’s “Mr. Tompkins” ones.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if these books were the game’s inspiration.

  2. Hmm…what about when the escape velocity of the planet exceeds the speed of light? The planet collapses to singularity.

    1.  Well, if you collect a sufficient number of orbs in the game, the speed of light falls enough so that it’s below the escape velocity.

      With light unable to escape, eventually, you’d accumulate enough photos that their collective mass would cause a the planet to collapse. 

    2. It’s actually a misconception that the formation of black holes is just a matter of the escape velocity exceeding the speed of light–after all, you can still escape a planet’s gravity traveling at less than the escape velocity if you are moving away using powered flight rather than being in freefall, but with a black hole this is not possible. But it is true that as the speed of light decreases, the Schwarzschild radius GM/c^2 would increase, until it exceeded the planet’s radius, at which point the planet would have to collapse…this game presumably isn’t trying to accurately simulate gravity though, since in relativity that requires general relativity, not just special relativity. You could just imagine that the game takes place on a large platform of negligible mass that’s accelerating at 1G through empty (flat) space, and that’s where the apparent gravity is coming from.

  3. 1st impression:  So cool!
    2nd impression: OMG why did MIT decide to build the world’s most most efficient barf-o-tron…?

  4. Just a head’s up.  It’s working perfect on my laptop with Mac OS 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) although they say in system requirements it’s only been tested in Lion (10.7.x).

    1. It crashed my MacBookPro 10.6.8 (after grabbing 63 spheres, so I had a brief chance at relativistic fun).

      Edit: The screen went black with no cursor. cmd-tab didn’t work for switching programs. I think it was a true crash. I had to hard reboot.

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