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Relativistic Visualization

  • Gerd Kortemeyer, Jordan Fish, Jesse Hacker, Justin Kienle, Alexander Kobylarek, Michael Sigler, Bert Wierenga, Ryan Cheu, Ebae Kim, Zach Sherin, Sonny Sidhu, and Philip Tan, Seeing and Experiencing Relativity - A New Tool for Teaching?, The Physics Teacher 51,(8), 460-461 (2013)
    "What would you see if you were riding a beam of light?" This thought experiment, which Einstein reports to have "conducted" at the age of 16, of course has no sensible answer: as Einstein published a decade later, you could never reach the speed of light. But it does make sense to ask what you would see if you were traveling close to the speed of light, and one of the first physicists to embark on this effort was George Gamow in his Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland.

    A Slower Speed of Light


  • Zachary W. Sherin, Ryan Cheu, Philip Tan, and Gerd Kortemeyer, Visualizing relativity: The OpenRelativity project, American Journal of Physics (accepted)
    We present OpenRelativity, an open-source toolkit to simulate effects of special relativity within the popular Unity game engine. Intended for game developers, educators, and anyone interested in physics, OpenRelativity can help people create, test, and share experiments to explore the effects of special relativity. We describe the underlying physics and some of the implementation details of this toolset with the hope that engaging games and interactive relativistic "laboratory" experiments might be implemented.



  • Zach Sherin, Philip Tan, Gerd Kortemeyer and the Hayden Planetarium at the Boston Museum of Science, Einstein's Playground Planetarium Show
    Have you ever wanted to experience the complete distortion of time and space as we know it? The Charles Hayden Planetarium has partnered with the MIT Game Lab to immerse you in a virtual special relativity playground where you can witness the laws of physics in a completely new way. Using the power of video games, we turned Einstein's most famous theory from an abstract concept into something you can encounter yourself right here at the Museum of Science. Experience the effects of movement, time, and space as you’ve never been able to before in an immersive relativisitic visualization in full-dome projection.

    Einstein's Playground


  • Zachary Sherin, Philip Tan, Heather Fairweather, and Gerd Kortemeyer, Einstein's Playground: An Interactive Planetarium Show on Special Relativity, The Physics Teacher 55, 550-554 (2017)
    The understanding of many aspects of astronomy is closely linked with relativity and the finite speed of light, yet relativity is generally not discussed in great detail during planetarium shows for the general public. One reason may be the difficulty to visualize these phenomena in a way that is appropriate for planetariums; another may be their distance from everyday experiences that makes it hard for audiences to connect with the presentation. In this paper, we describe an effort to visualize special relativity phenomena in an immersive “everyday” scenario. In order to bring special relativity to human scale, we simulate a universe in which the speed of light is slower, so that “everyday” speeds become relativistic. We describe the physics and the technical details of our first planetarium show, "Einstein’s Playground," which premiered at the Museum of Science, Boston.