High school physics

Posted by Martin Vilcans on 14 January 2007

I haven't studied physics since high school (or the Swedish equivalent of it), but I have always thought it is a fascinating subject and as a game programmer I have of course come in contact with physics when reading about and/or implementing things such as rigid body physics, raytracing or lighting calculations. The current trend of basing gameplay on physics simulations is fun, and requires game developers to have at least basic knowledge of physics. I'm currently doing a hobby project based on optics simulations. For the research I turned to Wikipedia as the first step. I have noted that I often get faster results on a topic by skimming the Wikipedia article about it than googling for it, especially if the topic is a product, which may seem surprising. As an example, the Wikipedia article about Java gives a quicker overview of what Java is than Sun's Java homepage.

Anyway, back to physics. After reading about whatever it was I was looking for in Wikipedia, I googled for it as well to see if I could find more in-depth information. I found Light and Matter which is a series of free online physics textbook. I read parts of the book about optics and found it to be easy to read and sometimes even amusing. Most important, I found the explanations of the topics to be very good, even though they are short. The books concentrate on the concepts, and have less formulas than many other textbooks, which I think is nice as it's the concepts that are interesting, not the math. I will keep the link to these books so I can use it whenever I want to brush up my high school physics. (As far as I can remember the level of these books is the level we studied physics at in gymnasiet.)

Perhaps you are curious about what the optics based hobby project is? (Surely not, but I'm hoping you are.) I won't say more than that it is a game idea that I have been thinking about for quite a while, and this weekend I started to make a prototype. One more weekend of prototyping and hopefully I'll see if the concept is good enough to continue working on. In any case I get to use my high school physics knowledge, and I might even learn new things, which is always nice.

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