Computer Game Used to Simulate Universes with Alternative Laws of Physics
"Second Life," the virtual world in which users create avatars in order to build and explore their own world, allows physicists to simulate universes in which matter is governed in an entirely different way.
The default settings of the game dictate that the universe created in "Second Life" is based on laws of physics that are slightly different from those on Earth. For example, there is no liquid in "Second Life," and therefore no water resistance, air resistance, or buoyancy. Renato dos Santos of the Lutheran University of Brazil explains, "Water is a mere texture applicable to an object." Furthermore, light simply exists in "Second Life" without any physical mechanism involved in its production, and the sun "usually rises and sets each 4 Earth hours always directly opposite a full Moon," dos Santos says.
But even more intriguing is the scripting language of the game, which allows researchers to change the laws of physics at will. Dos Santos has been using 'Second Life' as a tool to create microworlds that have rules of physics entirely different from ours. By experimenting with these microworlds' relatively complex laws, students can compare them to those on Earth, and as a result, better understand the effects of the laws of physics and the way in which they tie together, as broken down by these >simulations. Dos Santos also believes that this educational tool could have real potential for scientific research, particularly if virtual simulations were used to manipulate the concept of time or demonstrate in which situations the laws of physics break down.