Google helps design quantum physics mod for Minecraft

Most people probably don't know much about quantum mechanics, but quite a few of you are familiar with Minecraft. An ambitious new mod called qCraft aims to marry the two, and teach us all a little something in the process.

With the qCraft mod, players can experiment with quantum entanglement, superposition, and observer dependency, and quantum computers. Of course, the developers stress that this isn't a quantum physics simulator, but rather an approximation of the concepts to help people understand the quantum world, which looks at the very bizarre things that happen when things are very, very small.

Using materials in the game, players can create observer-dependent blocks that change depending on how you view them. For instance, a block could be configured to be stone when seen from east or west, but wood when seen from north or south. Use quantum entanglement on a group of observer-dependent blocks and they all change state when one of them is observed. Blocks with superposition, on the other hand, have a 50-50 chance of being one type of block or another, depending on when and how you view them.

Confused? Just wait. You can also build quantum computers (which require ice blocks for cooling) that can store and transport entire constructs. If you build your house over a quantum computer, you can send it to an entangled quantum computer anywhere on the map.

And there's even more, but the point is to play the game and become more familiar with the concepts. Taken all together, you can create some amazing — if unnerving — effects. Like doors that only sometimes appear, or whole buildings that vanish until you look at them just right. It's as much magical as it is scientific, and perhaps that's the point.

Though the actual mod was created by indie game developer Daniel Rattcliffe (note spelling, Harry Potter fans) it was supported by MinecraftEDU, TeacherGaming, E-Line Media, The Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, the California Institute of Technology, and Google's Quantum AI Lab.

"Millions of kids are spending a whole lot of hours in Minecraft, not just digging caves and fighting monsters, but building assembly lines, space shuttles, and programmable computers, all in the name of experimentation and discovery," reads a post on the Quantum AI Lab's Google+ page. "We don't even know the full potential of what you can make with qCraft, but we're excited to see what Minecraft's players can discover."

If you're interested, you can download the mod from qCraft's website or the official Minecraft forum. It's also been folded into the Tekkit, Hexxit, or Feed The Beast Unleashed