A strange stone lies between the hills of the meadow. Who could have carved it? And what is its true shape?
Archive for January, 2014
A friend of mine recently sent me this quote from J.C.R. Licklider (an important figure in computer science) from around 1969, talking about one of the first display of 3D on a screen:
Sutherland's demonstration [...], is a step that takes us into a new world. It does so [...] because the laws of this new world are the laws the modeler programs into it. The effects that can be created are thus constrained by limitations of the programmer's imagination rather than by the way things actually are on this mainly Euclidian-Newtonian earth.
The laws of the model's nature have to be logically and mathematically consistent with one another, but not with physics.
I like how clear it was to him even at the time. I especially like the following, because it is something I realized myself:
It will be intellectually at least as exciting to perceive and explore a synthetic 4-D world as to perceive and explore a merely actual, merely 3-D moon.
The concept of space is so fundamental to us. We built the concept of a dimension in order to explain the physical world, but the concept is strangely naturally not bound by it, in the sense that dimensions are not simply limited to 3. Width, depth, height; just add one more number! Even more surprisingly, we can take everything we know about our 3D world and extend it to 4D. This new world has something deeply interesting about it. It is very similar to ours in many ways, but all its differences stem from changing one single number in the mathematical representation we have of physical space itself.
So in a sense we can think about logically and mathematically consistent worlds as the new frontier for human exploration, which we have discovered a new way to extend. It's fun to think of games and interactive simulations as sort of spaceships that allow people to explore a different part of our universe.
When I started working on Miegakure I only had vague ideas of how it would play or even look like on screen! I just set up the rules, and followed where they lead me...
More next time.