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The physics of video games

By Nathaniel Callaway
On February 14, 2017

Science on Tap was an event started a few years ago as a way for members of both the student body of the university and the surrounding community to come, eat some food, have some drinks and learn about science. The session was originally inspired by the Roman Catholic Church group “Theology on Tap,” which was the same thing except about theology instead of science. Dr. Brian Crother, a biology professor on campus, was invited to one and decided to do something similar but with different kinds of sciences, with each week having a different kind of topic.

Held on the first Tuesday of every month, this month’s Science on Tap was held on Feb. 7 at Tope lá restaurant in downtown Hammond at 7 p.m. Its topic of discussion was “The Science of Video Games,” where a physics professor, Rhett Allain, dissected different games and explained how one would go about understanding the physics used in these games. Allain had previously worked on trying to understand the physics used in these types of entertainment before when he calculated what Luke Cage’s, the character from the Marvel Netflix series, mass was after the trailer was released and there was an image of him lifting up a man above his head.

“Physics is just how I give back,” said Allain. “I love it a lot and I love these things a lot so it’s my way of participating. These particular topics I do, this one along with the Luke Cage one and all those are really just what I do for fun. It really kind of started when I tried to calculate the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier from the movies, I wanted to see what kind of propellers they’d have to use and how much power it would take to fly something like that, and from there it was just a whole lot of fun.”

Allain also shared what originally got him interested in these types of projects.

“One day I was teaching a class and I had them calculate something similar to what I’m doing now, and they weren’t doing so well so I came in and I really helped them all work out the problem,” said Allain. “Then I just liked it so much that I wanted to continue doing it, whether it was for my class or not.”

Allain stated that doing activities such as these is really how he contributes to what is around him.

“Some people are artists and such, so they might see this chair and say ‘I really like this chair, I’m gonna paint this chair’ and that’s how they get involved,” said Allain. “Well, physics is what I do, so if I see this chair and say I really love it I’m gonna sit down and figure out the distribution of weight among all four of its legs, because that’s just what I do.”

Allain spent most of the session discussing the physics of Angry Birds, and talking about how the different birds interact with the other objects in the game. However, he also talked about games such as “Bad Piggies,” “Super Mario Run” and “Fruit Ninja.”

The next Science on Tap will be Mar. 7, entitled simply “TBA,” something Allain had a hand in creating and is kept a secret until the day.

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