Games for science teaching, outreach and research

(Presenting applications and applets made with Processing)

Processing originates in the well-known MIT Media Labs and is an open source project designed to open the world of computer algorithms to people with little background in computer science or mathematics. Processing was aimed at artists and designers but is now more and more used by people with other backgrounds such as science. We have found Processing to be an excellent tool for developing animations and games for teaching and outreach but also use it for advanced computing tasks.

Unfortunately over the last years the installation and use of Java based programs has become more complicated for most people. For example the web applets below probably will not run in your browswer any more. At the moment we have are using Unity to develop new versions of our apps and games for outreach, and use Python for the teaching of programming. We will continue to host our Processing work below, because the Processing community is still very active.

Examples of our use of Processing

Web applets that can be used online:    The following programs can be run directly on this webpage. All of them are simple, interactive and demonstrate an optical effect, technique or technology. Most of the following links also provide the source code for the applets.

Inspiral Signal

Do you know the sound of a gravitational wave? Listen to this!

Stimulated Emission

A simple simulation showing the working principle of a laser.


Play with a pendulum to learn how suspensions can be used to reduce vibrations.

Optical Spring

Investigate the features of an optical spring.

Gaussian Beam Viewer

A beautiful tool to learn about the amplitude pattern of Gaussian modes.

Michelson Interferometer

An animated sketch that explains the interference effects in an interferometer.

Cavity Calculator

A simple simulation of an optical cavity.


How a light field is reflected at an optical surface.


Stand-alone games and applications:     These programs are available for download and run as stand-alone applications. They were developed to be used in public talks, as part of exhibitions or in similar outreach activities.

Space Time Quest

A manager-style game for designing a gravitational wave detector.

Black Hole Pong

A new version of the classic game Pong, now with black holes! A nice way to get a feeling for gravity.

Stretch And Squash

A programme illustrating how a gravitational wave distorts space. It makes use of the webcam image to `stretch and squeeze' your audience.

You Are Einstein

A virtual mirror which gives you and your friends the Einstein look.

Augmented Reality Pendulum

A virtual pendulum follows the motion of your hands, as a real pendulum would do.


Misc:    Other examples of Processing applications which might be useful for interesting.

Looking for black holes with lasers

An animated web banner made with Processing.js.

Bouncing Ball

A simple example for an Android app made with Processing. A small ball bouncing around your sceen, pulled by gravity.


Our contributions to Processing

For our own Processing work we often needed two features not available yet: nice looking sliders and the possibility to plot functions or data in 2D and 3D. Following the open source spirit of Processing we have filled these gaps with our own contributions:

  • our own processing library gwoptics provides a range of functions and tools for plotting in 2D and 3D
  • further, we contributed shiny new sliders to the G4P (GUI for Processing) library (look for the Cool Sliders example)