WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
In the world of Minecraft mods this has to top them all – a virtual computer running in a virtual game running in the cloud, so is the future virtual games running in virtual computers in virtual games in virtual computers? Argh! Paradox!?
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Computer chips have become so tiny and complex that it’s sometimes hard to remember that there are real physical principles behind them. They aren’t just a bunch of ever-increasing numbers. For a practical, well virtual example, just check out the latest version of a ground breaking new type of computer processor that was built exclusively inside the Minecraft game engine. And you heard that right.
Recently unveiled Minecraft builder “Sammyuri” spent seven months building what they call the Chungus 2, an enormously complex computer processor that only exists virtually inside the Minecraft game engine. This project isn’t the first time a computer processor has been built virtually inside Minecraft, but the Chungus 2, which stands for “Computation Humongous Unconventional Number and Graphics Unit,” might very well be the largest and most complex, simulating an 8-bit processor with a one hertz clock speed and 256 bytes of RAM.
This wouldn’t fit in a datacenter … it’s a monster!
By leveraging a phenomenon that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Hollywood sci-fi movie in this case the Minecraft processors actually use the physics engine of the game to recreate the structure of real processors on a macro scale by using familiar Minecraft virtual building materials including Redstone dust, torches, repeaters, pistons, levers, and other simple machines.
For a little perspective, each “block” inside the game is one virtual meter on each side, so recreating this build in the real world would make it approximately the size of an 80 storey skyscraper or cruise ship!
When connected to an in-game 32×32 “screen” and “controller” – manipulated by a Minecraft player avatar jumping on block-sized buttons – the Chungus 2 can play interchangeable 2D games like Tetris, Snake, or even a graphing calculator. Some programs need the Minecraft server to be artificially sped up in order to make the 1Hz processor fast enough to use. Each program is also built virtually in Minecraft, plugging into the computer like a game cartridge the size of a freight train.
Needless to say the project is an incredible application of computer science in action, created in a way that makes its principles immediate and visual. The video above showing off the Chungus 2 is dramatic enough, but if you want to check it out yourself, you can download and run it on your own server at mc.openredstone.org. And if we wait a few years then we might just get a Minecraft CPU that’s powerful enough to run Minecraft – at which point the universe, and our brains, will probably implode in a paradox.