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Nicole Ackerman | SLAC | USA

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The Fun Side of Physics

I happen to think that there are many fun aspects of physics, but I realize not everyone finds C++ programming or spinor algebra interesting.  A large part of what makes this enjoyable (for me) is the puzzle-solving aspect, especially when the little tasks are very disconnected from the physics they are eventually useful for.

For those not motivated by neutrino masses, or simply sick of debugging code, there are many distractions out there that vaguely tie to physics.

  1. Quarked! is a project to present subatomic physics to 7-12 year olds. While there are many aspects to this project, the games are my favorite, especially the Baryon Blaster. If they had an “advanced” level on this I think I’d manage to memorize all of the baryons’ composition!
  2. The Particle Zoo is a source of cute plush “particles”, including particles us physicists have a hard time finding! I got a set awhile ago including the neutrino, electron, muon, and tau. My neutrino hangs out with me at work and the muon often gets tossed around at home.
  3. KSpaceDuel is my favorite computer game (only for linux). You have a satellite, orbiting a star, and your goal is to destroy your enemy’s satellite through bullets and mines. The bullets and satellites are effected by the gravitation of the star, so predicting trajectories is essential.
  4. PhET offers a bunch of interactive science simulations. While they are practical, educational tools, they can also be used as a source of fun. Most of them have a built-in failure mode – getting a laser locked is fun, but blowing it up is better.
  5. Star Formation: The Game! The physics gets harder every level, just like actual research! My high score is 22,118 so far, with a chain of 66 stars formed.
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