App to Mash-Up Particle Physics and Angry Birds

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Fans of the hugely popular smartphone app Angry Birds will be thrilled to learn that they will soon be able to combine their love for slingshotting wingless cartoon birds with physics. Last week CERN and Angry Birds creator Rovio announced a collaboration to create a “learning program” for kids aged 3 to 8.

For those unfamiliar with Angry Birds, the premise is that evil pigs

have been stealing the birds’ eggs. Players use a slingshot mechanism to

launch different colored birds (with different abilities) at the pigs

to destroy them. Over 12 million copies of the game have been downloaded from Apple’s App Store since its debut in December 2009.

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This isn’t the first time the popular game has piqued someone’s interest in physics. Over at Wired’s Dot Physics blog, physicist and Angry Birds fan Rhett Allain produced a series of posts examining the physics within the game over the last couple of years. Per Allain:

“Angry Birds and other video games have a whole new set of rules. Rules that I don’t know. And these kinds of games let me set up my own little experiments to determine these new rules. Sometimes the game behaves the same as real life and sometimes it doesn’t.”

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Allain has investigated launch speed, launch angle, and acceleration and velocity of the birds, among other factors, complete with graphs and equations to represent the data gleaned from hours of play.

The CERN/Rovio collaboration is skewed towards a younger audience, intended more to pique kids’ interest in science as part of the company’s ongoing efforts to augment Finland’s national kindergarten curriculum with their Angry Birds Playground brand. (Rovio is a Finnish company.)

In the Playground version, players will be able to roam an island searching for traces of the stolen eggs, solving puzzles along the way. Some of those puzzles will relate to CERN’s particle physics research, although no specific details have been shared so far. If this effort is successful more physics-based games may be developed with Rovio.

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“Rovio has quite a comprehensive educational program,” CERN’s Rolf Landau told Symmetry magazine. “To hook onto that and provide content that gives young children an idea of what CERN is doing and what modern physics is all about with the help of the little angry birds, I think that’s quite promising.”