Minecraft may look like a blockier version of the real world, but it doesn’t necessarily follow real-world rules. In creative mode, players’ characters can fly. This skill came in handy when constructing higher, hard-to-reach parts of the Bronx Science building.
And even when players’ characters aren’t flying, gravity—the force that pulls objects toward the center of Earth in the real world—behaves differently in the game, says Gardner Marshall. He’s a physicist who teaches a class on the physics of Minecraft at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. On Earth, gravity causes a falling object to accelerate toward the ground at 9.8 m (32.2 ft) per second squared. But Marshall’s students found that in Minecraft, a player who falls off a cliff accelerates at three times that rate. “Gravity is much stronger in Minecraft than it is on Earth, but your onscreen character is still able to jump really high. So these characters apparently have some seriously developed leg muscles,” jokes Marshall. Plus, unlike on Earth, the acceleration of gravity varies for different Minecraft objects. And some objects just float, as if gravity doesn’t apply to them.
Redstone, the fictional power source in Minecraft, has been compared to electricity because players can use it to power everything from lights to roller coasters. But unlike real-life energy sources, redstone’s power seems limitless. According to the law of conservation of energy in the real world, the amount of energy in a system must always remain the same. For example, a battery’s energy decreases as it supplies electricity to a flashlight’s bulb. The bulb then transforms this energy into heat and light. This isn’t the case when you power a light with redstone. “The light will just keep emitting light forever, and it will never run out of energy,” says Marshall.