31 December 2008

Recent favorite things

Neal Stephenson's Anathem. I was a little wary after The Baroque Cycle, but I really enjoyed this— it was a real page-turner. Stephenson has created such a rich and lush world for this novel that you just don't want it to end. And there are dozens of fascinating ideas scattered throughout the story.

World of Goo (WiiWare; $15). "If I had played this game as a kid I might be a civil engineer now." World of Goo is an addictive physics-based puzzle game. You connect elastic "goo balls" to build structures to reach a goal while avoiding various obstacles. It's not as easy as it sounds because the structures sag under their own weight. The game physics are astoundingly realistic—so when your tower of goo balls collapses, you get the sense that it was your own darned fault. However, the levels are really well-designed and many of them require these critical epiphanies. The interesting thing about World of Goo is that it is surprisingly deep. As you play more and more, you hone your intuition for the game physics. So after you reach the primary goal in each level, you can come back later and play it again for the "OCD" point, which requires you to reach the goal in an even more efficient manner. World of Goo was written by, like, three guys in a garage, and yet it is very polished. Highly recommended.

I'm in the middle of Brian Greene's The Fabric of the Cosmos. Greene has a gift for developing accessible (and faithful) analogies that expose the core ideas—but not the math—behind physical phenomena, such as relativity and quantum mechanics. Highly recommended for laypeople.

1 comment:

  1. World of Goo is HARD. I was playing this one level that's basically a platform, lots of goo, and a pipe way above it all. By the end, I was just building goo as fast as I could on this swaying structure before it all collapsed. Luckily, I don't actually own the game, cause otherwise I bet I'd get obsessed with beating every level, with OCD goals.