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Friday, June 13, 2008

Fun With Particle Physics

Check out the new online game Epsilon, created by the code-monkey super geniuses at Dissolute Productions. Epsilon challenges players to solve some the universe's biggest puzzles —Are there extra dimensions? What is dark matter?—using fictional technologies discovered when particle physicists gathered data from experiments run with the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN. As a "test participant" at Epsilon Experimental Sciences Research Facility, the gamer uses mini black holes, time travel, gravitational shifts, and wormholes to try to guide an orb through a maze to a portal.
The real LHC hasn't been fired up yet; that's set to happen this summer. The powerful particle accelerator—with a circumference the length of 300 football fields and buried deep beneath the earth on the outskirts of Geneva—will smash protons into each other at speeds near that of light and in conditions colder than space. Data collected from the LHC will help scientists re-create what happened a fraction of a second after the big bang and potentially detect particles like the currently theoretical Higgs boson, or "God particle," which helps physicists explain how mass and matter came into existence. In other words, they're hoping the machine will unlock some of the secrets of the universe.
Though Epsilon is mostly about the puzzles and less about the physics, it's stated goal is to allow players to "discover the potential of this whole new world of science," and it certainly does that. —Julia C. Keller