Physics of Computer Graphics

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In the field of computer graphics there are usually four general applications that one thinks of:

1. Display of Information

2. Design

3. Simulation and Animation

4. User interfaces

(Angel, 2)

With regards to applied physic's applications, the area of computer graphics most focused on is simulation and animation. This is found in several different fields such as "aerospace, manufacturing, wireless communication, resource recovery, film-making, computer games, and virtual reality. Moreover, physics-based modeling is now generally accepted as a third principal mode of scientific investigation, along with theory and experiment." (Mason)

The goal is to usually create 3-dimensional objects and have them move and interact on the screen using data based off of physic's equations(i.e kinematic equations, energy and momentum, etc.) However often times programmer's and animators don't necessarily want to deal with having to code in every equation every time they want to have an object interact with something new. This brought forth the development of physic's engines. As processors have become more powerful, animators began to try and represent there animations using more realistic methods. In today's latest animated blockbuster's like Shrek 2, to some of today's hottest video games like Halo 2.

In order to achieve these realistic effects computer animators often use high-powered physics engines to simulate real-life physics inside a computer-simulated world. An example of such a computer graphics engine is Impact, which "includes six physics engines: Force Field, Law of Gravity, Gravity (used to target a particular object), Springy Thingy, Thruster, and Torque Motion."(Mortier)

These engines enable animators to ...

... middle of paper ... would take to render would freeze even some of the fastest machines out there. So what happens is we fudge the data and have each object appear brighter or darker based off of a simpler equation that gives the appearance that lighting does exist.


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Jewett, Serway. Physics for Scientists and Engineers. 6th Ed. Thomson Learning. 2004.

Kerlow, Isaac. "Applying the Twelve Priciples to Computer Animation." 22 February 2004.

23 November 2004.

Mason, John. "Physics-Based Modeling of Gaseous Phenomena for Computer Graphics."

13 August 2004. 23 November 2004.

Mortier, R. Shamms. "Emulate Physics with Impact." Computer Graphics World. August 1995.

Vol. 18. Issue 8. Pg. 90.
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