What if You Could Play Pool with the Moon or Smash Galaxies Together?

A reader who was tired of my stories about L.A. Noire recently wondered why I hadn't written about Universe Sandbox. What's that? A simulation of the universe I can run on a Windows computer? And here I am at work on a Mac?

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At least I can watch the trailer of this marvelous-looking creation. You can get it on Steam for $10. Your enticement might be the trailer above... or these promotional blurbs below, which all are listed as Universe Sandbox features on the game's official website.

*Explore our solar system
*Blow up moons
*Line up the planets with a single click
*Play pool in zero gravity
*Rip Saturn's rings apart in 3D
*Destroy our solar system with a single rogue star
*View the paths of hundreds of asteroids & moons
*Compare the moons & dwarf planets
*View our constellations from other stars
*Make a football orbit a bowling ball
*Explore nearby galaxy clusters

Before today, I didn't know I'd ever want to do these things, nor had I imagined that I could pretend they were possible.

Oh! Here's a Universe Sandbox bombarding our planet with the planet(s) Mercury. Keep that kind of behavior in video games, people.

Illustration for article titled What if You Could Play Pool with the Moon or Smash Galaxies Together?

Universe Sandbox

DISCUSSION

I've had if since it popped up on steam, and I've put about three or four hours into it. It's neat, some of the stuff is awesome, like making two universes collide, but there's a lot that leaves me wanting. For example, you can "blow up" planets, but all this does is make them turn into a few smaller sized versions of the same planet. You can make a sun with 1 trillion times the mass of ours and shoot Neptune at it like a pinball, but it will only ever orbit (though super elliptically). With some trickery, you can make Neptune enter the sun, but it will orbit out the other side unfazed, which is sad, because the one thing I really, really wanted to do was launch planets into stars and see a little poof. And my biggest problem is that everything it loads is local, so if you collide the Milky Way and Andromeda, you only see those two. There are no starts of in the distance to zoom to, just those two galaxies as objects. And if black holes are in it, I've yet to find them.

But for all it's flaws, it's really cheap fun for a good simulator. If you like watching space stuff happen, it's worth it.

Edit: Also, I understand that it's limited because the simulator does a lot, and they have to think of people's computers, but there should be an option for top spec computers to eek out a bit more from it, as my computer has no problem doing anything this game can throw at it what so ever.