Google's qCraft brings quantum mechanics fun to Minecraft
By Heidi Hoopes
October 23, 2013
“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it,” Niels Bohr famously wrote. However, Minecraft players can now be slightly closer to parsing the perplexities of quantum theory, thanks to qCraft, a collaboration between Google and Dr. Spyridon Michalakis, a scholar of quantum mechanics. What does this new mod bring to the game? Only quantum teleportation, observer dependencies, and Schrödinger’s Cat, for starters.
Minecraft famously already follows and recreates many natural laws of physics, and happens to be popular with tweens. So when Google contacted Michalakis about the collaboration, their main goal was demonstrating to kids the excitement of quantum computing and mechanics.
Distilling the essence of something as complicated as quantum mechanics into a Minecraft mod forced the designers to make a couple of key decisions. First, was it to be primarily educational or entertaining? Deciding on the latter priority, this lead to the second tradeoff. The mod is not a quantum simulator, but uses analogies that convey principles, portraying what entangled blocks of ore would look like in-game, for example.
So what does this look like to the player? Without giving too many spoilers for those who refuse to look at recipe lists, everything starts with mining quantum dust. From here, crafted items rely on the quantum principles of observational dependency, entanglement, superposition and quantization, resulting in new ways to create puzzles, teleport items, and create hidden or camouflaged effects. And be on the look out for an entangled quantum computer.
Michalakis humorously remarks in his blog post about the mod, “As an authorized quantum mechanic, I allowed myself to bend quantum mechanics, but I could not bring myself to mess with Special Relativity.” Now Minecraft players can also get a taste for hacking quantum mechanics. The team plans to supplement players in their fun with resources to extend their learning. Instructions for installing the free mod are available on qCraft’s website.
Watch qCraft’s take on the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment in the video below.