I’m Drew Olbrich. In the past, I maintained a website of my personal projects at traipse.com, but it’s no longer active. You probably followed a link to a page about Penrose Tiles or my Thing in a Jar and wound up on this page instead.
I’ve moved my base of operations here, to lunarskydiving.com.
I’m creating apps about mind-bending science and math concepts that are normally unintuitive and hard to understand, but which can change how you think about reality. I want to make these ideas more accessible by transforming the mathematics behind them into interactive 3D models so you can “learn by doing”.
The next app I’m working on uses augmented reality to explain Einstein’s theory of special relativity.
Special relativity is usually taught by starting with two nonintuitive assumptions about reality that you probably don’t understand, deriving equations you don’t understand from those assumptions that you don’t understand, and then explaining the surprising consequences of those equations, like how time slows down when things move fast.
That’s nice, but…
When I first tried to learn about special relativity, I was eventually able to more or less understand all that, but it’s an understatement that would require the assistance of Carl Sagan to accurately describe the magnitude of to say that I didn’t find the experience particularly satisfying.
I could see how the equations of special relativity describe how time slows down, but I wasn’t left with an intuitive sense of why, in a real-world situation, if I walk across the room and then come back, and then you and I compare our timers, my timer will show that a trillionth of a second less time has passed for me than for you.
I wanted to know why this happens, and I did not want an answer that sounded like “well you see, we have these equations that accurately describe what happens”.
The business with time slowing down is extremely small, but it’s something that’s actually happening in the real world all the time. When you wave your hand in front of your face, less time is passing in your hand than in the rest of your body.
Not only that, but while your hand is moving, it’s a little shorter in the direction that it’s moving. It’s not an illusion, and it’s not a perspective trick. It’s how the Universe really works.
But why does all of this happen? Maybe I’m a little slow when it comes to physics, but it took me three years to really get it.
Relativity for Normal People
To fix this glaring problem, I’m creating the app that I wished I had when I was trying to learn about special relativity. If, like me, you’re not a physicist but you’re still curious about how the Universe works, you’ll want the app too.
I’ll post updates on this website as I make progress.
The Fourth Dimension
While you’re waiting, please check out my other app, which explains how to visualize four-dimensional space in your head by letting you play with a tesseract.