The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Help CERN and Angry Birds Battle Evil

What cool phenomena should CERN and game-maker Rovio build into a modern-physics version of Angry Birds?

2 min read
Help CERN and Angry Birds Battle Evil
Rovio

Still basking in the Cerenkov glow of their Higgs boson papers, the folks at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) announced another international collaboration with a group equally famous for particle-acceleration experiments: Rovio, the Finnish company that launched a billion Angry Birds. (Rovio announced the billionth Angry Birds download last month.) Rovio and CERN will collaborate to bring modern physics into the Angry Birds Playground, yielding a learning program for elementary school-age kids.

“Modern physics has been around for 100 years, but it’s still a mystery to many people. Working together with Rovio, we can teach kids quantum physics by making it fun and easy to understand,” said CERN’s Head of Education, Rolf Landua, at an October Frankfurt Book Fair press event announcing the alliance.

I say, why should the physicists have all the fun?

Visions of sugar plums danced it my head (er, so to speak) and took the form of:

  • Electrically charged birds that fly through magnetic fields to curve their trajectories and generate lightning bolts to fry evil swine.
  • Spinning gyro-birds that twist and tumble when the pigs try to deflect them. (Note to self: Pseudotensors make the best toys.)
  • Birds that diffract through double slits to mow down a whole phalanx of pigs in a hail of probability interference fringes.
  • Birds with superposed states.
  • Birds that tease Schroedinger’s cat.

When I started calculating that you could accelerate a six-ounce sparrow to three-quarters of the speed of light (and a relativistic mass of 9 ounces) if you could pull a surgical tubing slingshot out to 14 000 astronomical units…well, it was clear I was getting carried away. Fun calculation, limited game-play potential.

Clearly my ideas need a lot of work. While I continue to look for my battered paperback of George Gamow’s Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland ("Does one of the kids have it?" I thought late last night.), I'm hoping to find out what you think. What physical phenomena would you like to see in Angry Birds vs. the Higgs Boson (my title, not theirs)? CERN and Rovio are listening.

“We are planning to explore further possibilities to integrate a large amount of modern physics—in a playful and motivating way - into the various Rovio platforms,” CERN’s Landua told me via e-mail. “I would be really interested to see the proposals…most likely there would be many good ideas.”

I agree. I predict that you'll come up with amazing ideas—certainly be better than mine.

Over to you. If you’ve got an idea, please add a comment.

The Conversation (0)

Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Vertical
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}