Jan 29, 2009

Posted by in Physics Humor, Physics Talk | 10 Comments

Gamers are taking over the word “Physics” and I hate it – last warning to Gamers


Gamers (video game coders and players) are taking over the word “Physics” and I absolutely hate it!

I did a simple search for “car physics” on Google and 25% of the links on the first page are for coding the games and how to render the cars within the game!

For gamers to claim that what they are doing is physics is like the Italian plumber Mario to claim that he is the smartest cosmologist or most experienced astronaut ever because in Super Mario Galaxy , he traveled to seven different galaxies.

For gamers to claim that what they are doing is physics is like Salvador Dali to claim that his painting of warped clocks is same as warped space time of general relativity!

I know, some of you are going to point me to the definition of physics “the science of matter and energy and their interactions” and argue that “hey, the gamers are doing the same thing – they are implementing the relationship between the matter and energy and their interaction”; and of course you will be completely wrong.

Read the definition of Physics again – it is the science of matter and energy and their interactions. To decipher this definition, you need to understand what “science” is; and science is “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” So Physics is “The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of matter and energy and their interactions”. Now tell me, if you think gamers are using the word physics in the same way.

Gamers take the crib sheet that physicists gave them and try to code it on the silicon chip or in the software. They might be doing the science of computer programming, but they are not doing science of matter and energy and their interactions!

I have a great deal of respect for their skill – I enjoy playing Grand Theft Auto, and Spores and Sims and Mario on Wii – and more power to them -but it is not the same as doing “physics”!

Major hardware developers are on the band wagon too: nVIDIA – Physics Graphic Cards; and cute ones like PhysX graphic cards – as if we wouldn’t notice. Reminds me of the Microsoft’s “The Intenet” on a disc; compare that to the nVidia or ATI “physics cards”.



Wow, all of Physics, on a chip with a little fan! how nice!

So call it something else – call it gPhysics, Gasics, Ghysics, iZysics, McPhysics, or something. Leave the word Physics alone.

ImageI am warning you… if you continue to use the word Physics for some silly graphic tricks, we will have no choice but to withhold the laws of physics from you guys, like we do with cartoonists and for fine folks that draw anime.

Trust me, you don’t want a mob of angry physicists on your tail… we have black holes and all your bases are belong to us.

Talk Like a Physicist

  1. I completely agree that the use of the word “physics” by gamers completely messes with our otherwise useful google searches.

    However – I don’t think it is completely unjustified. You claim that physics is a science that involves observations. Gamers make observations – and they try to make their computer models match these observations (make it look more real). Oh, and by gamers, I really mean computer game programmers.

    To me, science is all about making models. Game programmers make models.

  2. @Rhett: I don’t disagree that they do science; I am just ranting that the science they practice is the science of “computer programming” not science of physics.

    >and they try to make their computer models >match these observations (make it look more >real)

    No argument there – they make models of their code to match observations.

    Gamers (including the game players) are equally guilty because I have heard too many of them talk about the “physics” of the game referring to the code of the game or the hardware acceleration of the graphic rendering.

  3. Frank Noschese says:

    Based on your definition, this wouldn’t be physics, it’d be computer science:

    “A model approach to climate change

    The Earth is warming up, with potentially disastrous consequences. Computer climate models based on physics are our best hope of predicting and managing climate change, as Adam Scaife, Chris Folland and John Mitchell explain”


    Or am I misinterpreting?

  4. You guys are jelaous because games do better stuff relating physics than physicists do. I mean it’s more real than in the real world.
    Real world sux. I hope CERN succeeds in destroying it.

  5. Cyril Verness says:

    “Architect” has also been appropriated by the programming community. Search online job listings for architects and you’ll find most are for people who work with computer systems and not buildings.

  6. Boo! Hiss! I’m a former physics grad student and game programmer. It is a perfectly good application of physics, and yes, you do actually have to understand your physics to do it right. For example, you often have to do collision calculations for arbitrarily shaped rigid bodies with friction, which means deriving those equations for the particular shape rather than using a general formula (because of course, you want to calculate it quickly.) The idea that it’s silly graphics tricks, when it’s essentially the same thing that’s done with any kind of physical modeling, just displays some ignorance of what’s involved. Maybe you should try reading those links on car physics….

  7. clearly the author of this post is just jealous because he or she would like to be a senior computer programmer. author: take some computer science classes and do a lot of coding. also, you might need to get laid ^^

  8. Jay Fraser says:

    Whilst I understand your annoyance at your search results being diluted with hits which do not interest you, I entirely disagree with what you say in this article.

    From the dictionary:
    1. The branch of science concerned with the study of properties and interactions of space, time, matter and energy.
    2. Of or pertaining to the physical aspects of a phenomena or a system, especially those studied in physics.

    A physics engine models what the physical aspects of the real world or a subsystem of the real world. Hence, by the second definition, the word physics is perfectly relevant for this usage.

    You have an elitist attitude in this article, which is unpleasant. Your condescension towards people from different disciplines to yourself is arrogant. Please, don’t highlight how you say you have a ‘great deal of respect for their skill’ as some sort of defence in the same article as you suggest they rename their work ‘McPhysics’ and say they have as much right to call what they’re doing physics as Super Mario does to claim he is the best cosmologist – such a defence would just be painfully transparent.

  9. Jay Fraser says:

    Oh, and furthermore, the graphics engine programming and physics engine programming are entirely separate things. Perhaps if you wish to criticise the talent involved in games programming you should at least know the first thing about it.

  10. FabriceN says:

    The author seems to simply don’t understand what the claim is about. A “physics engine” (either software or hardware accelerated) has responsability to simulate some physics law, most often linked to Newtonian dynamics (e.g. deformable models, fluid dynamics, articulated solid, or collisions). Ok, this is applied math algorithms to solve systems of differential equation (or subtools for that), and not artificial brain to design new physics as you might restrein the meaning of the world. Bu then, I guess *you* are taking over the word “physics”.

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