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This App Turns You Into The Silver Surfer Of Subatomic Space

Matter is a new game that shrinks you down to the size of a boson to show you how vast the space between particles really is.

If you were able to shrink yourself to the size of a subatomic particle, the world would look very different. You’d find yourself floating in what appeared to be outer space, and objects which are completely solid to you now would turn out to mostly be space between particles.

This is the world you explore in Matter, a name game by interactive designer Laura Perrenoud and fragment.in that tries to make sense of the subatomic realm, allowing players to surf on a beam of light as they bounce between electrons, bosons, and leptons.

Coming from a family of scientists, Perrenoud says that Matter was inspired by her fascination with science, and particularly particle physics. Perrenoud created Matter as a way to communicate her fascination with the unknowable emptiness of matter at a subatomic scale.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the particle world,” she tells me. “We can’t really picture it. What we call ‘matter’ is really just an illusion. It’s really just energy and information.”

As a game, Matter tries to make a player feel as if they are undergoing a fantastic voyage into the subatomic realm. Subatomic particles don’t really look like anything, so in Matter, they are represented as different glowing points, which can interact with a beam of light in various ways. The point of the game is to build a light path by harnessing the properties of various particles to reach a point in 3-D subatomic space.

Playing Matter can be a slightly disorienting experience, because on a subatomic scale, there’s no real meaning to terms such as up or down. But that’s as intended.

A work in progress, Matter isn’t done quite yet, although Perrenoud showed off a beta version of her app as part of her graduate project at ECAL. Although Perrenoud is in no hurry to finish Matter up, she’s hoping to release it to the iOS App Store next year.

“When they play it, I hope people will ask themselves questions about the world we live in,” says Perrenoud. “What is matter? Is it just a little bit of something and a lot of emptiness in between?”

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at john.brownlee+fastco@gmail.com.



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