Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why every potential topologist should play Portal 2.

I am absolutely and inconsolably addicted to Portal 2. As a gamer who is absolutely awful at most games where aiming a gun is a necessary requirement but loves a good puzzle, there is nothing more perfect. A lack of enemies to shoot means I can spend my time thinking about how to solve the puzzle rather than getting worked up about the fact that I am incapable of aiming. Admittedly, I haven't finished the solo part of the game yet, nor have I touched the multi-player capabilities. What can I say, I am trying to draw out the wonderfulness that comes with a new game.

As a topologist, the mind-bending idea of using portals to glue to locations in space to me seems so obvious. A large portion of my time is dedicated to visualize spaces where certain portions have been glued together. For example, if we start with a space which is a long rectangle and glue the short ends together with no twisting, we obtain a cylinder. If we give the ends a twist before gluing, we have a Mobius strip. So, the portal is just some room in $\R^3$ with two points in space glued together.

If I ever teach a topology class, Portal may be required reading.

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