first_imgGive humanity a few centuries, and someone will work out how to build any contraption you can dream up. Leonardo Da Vinci drew blueprints for a partially-functional helicopter hundreds of years before one was actually built, and the physics behind the modern chopper would make even the great inventor’s head spin. Lucky for you there’s a handy video explaining the basic physics behind it.Most people know that modern helicopters have a tail rotor to counter the spin introduced by the main rotor blades. What you may not know is that the stability of a helicopter is dependant on a device called a swashplate.According to this episode of the YouTube series Smarter Every Day, the swashplate is used to change the angle of the blades during rotation. Contrary to popular belief, the blades on a helicopter don’t change altitude by altering the speed of the spin — it’s all about the swashplate. By controlling how much air passes over the blades, and at what angle, more or less lift is produced. This is called the “collective pitch.” By using the swashplate to alter the “cyclic pitch” of the blades, both pitch and roll can be controlled too.This is the second episode on helicopter physics Smarter Every Day has released, but the first to really start going into the finer details. Future installments promise to get into the minutiae of the technology behind helicopters. It’s definitely worth checking out if only for the rad RC helicopter tricks on display.More at Smarter Every Daylast_img read more

first_imgOne lesser-known aspect of the Game Developers Conference is the Game Design Challenge. For the past decade, the design challenge has asked a select few of the industry’s luminaries to tackle a single problem, each year. Sometimes the challenge is communicate a love story, other times to explain humanity to an alien species that has never seen it. This time the challenge was particularly fitting, as 2013’s is purportedly the final Game Design Challenge ever. The challenge was to make Humanity’s Last Game.Just what that meant was up to the designers on display, an all-star cast made up of the winners from the last ten years of the challenge. Participants included Harvey Smith (Deus Ex: Invisible War, Dishonored), Jenovah Chen (Journey), and Will Wright (being Will Wright). It was Jason Rohrer, an eccentric indie game designer whose best-known work is probably the Esquire Magazine-hosted Between, who took home the final prize. As seems fitting for a game about the existential end of humanity, this is a game that both has never been played and, in all likelihood, will never be played.The idea was to make a game with rules that had not been designed or play-tested by humans, and bury it somewhere in the Nevada desert for thousands of years. Tooling the pieces of his board game from titanium (even aluminum or glass wouldn’t have held up) was just the beginning, since Rohrer had to figure out how to design a game without ever actually seeing that design. His solution was to use an algorithmic approach, letting a primitive AI run simulated matches and change the rules based some unknown set of conditions.Jason Rohrer, designer of BetweenThis means that Rohrer did basically design the game, indirectly, by designing the designer. Still, after his algorithms came to some predetermined threshold of completeness he printed out the rules on long-lived paper and encased them in Pyrex, and buried the whole thing somewhere in the Nevada desert — Rohrer claims even he doesn’t know precisely where. He then sent out close to a million GPS coordinates, only one of which is correct. If a single person set themselves to checking each of these locations, it should take them over 2 thousand years to find the thing. In reality, it’s unlikely that anyone will bother, and certainly not before the area gets paved over in our inevitable march toward Coruscant-like over development.This winning entry won Rohrer not only the largest Game Design Challenge prize by far, but also one of the coolest prizes possible: an acre of land on the Moon. I’m not sure how well this deed will hold up in a few hundred years when Rohrer Jr. Jr. Jr. tries to assert ownership to the Lunar Real Estate Corporation, but regardless, he’s sent one of GDC’s most beloved traditions off in truly impressive style.last_img read more