Teenager builds the known universe in Minecraft

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Teenager builds the known universe in Minecraft

Eighteen-year-old YouTuber Christopher Slayton recently created entire planets, black holes, galaxies, and, well, the entire cosmos. And he didn’t use anything other than the blocks within Minecraft.

In over a decade since its release, Minecraft has become a creative powerhouse, with its strong community of millions working together to build a pantheon of block-based wonders, ranging from the Starship Enterprise to the gothic cityscape of Yharnam from Bloodborne. .

Recently, Christopher Slayton, who goes by ChrisDaCow on YouTube, decided to take the creative potential of the sandbox to its largest scale yet, by trying to recreate the whole cosmos…or at least the elements we know best.

Slayton began by painstakingly recreating the planet Earth. This would end up being a relatively humble beginning compared to what he was to follow, however it still took the block artist a full three days to measure the continents and get the colors of the surface, clouds and lighting. Lighting the globe proved to be particularly challenging, but by taking full advantage of a tool that allows him to “paint with light,” Slayton was able to give his creation immersive gradients and lighting effects.

An image from Slayton's Minecraft universe.  (Image credit: Christopher Slayton)

An image from Slayton’s Minecraft universe. (Image credit: Christopher Slayton)

With Earth complete, Slayton went on to create the other planets in the solar system. Some of these worlds orbit at a remarkable tilt, which was recreated in the newborn digital universe by painting the planets at an angle. This added layer of complexity was compounded by the fact that three of the planets – Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – host their own distinctive ring systems.

Finally, Slayton was able to block-build the Sun, complete with an apocalyptic amount of solar flares, with the help of some of the brightest blocks in Minecraft.

From here, the scale of the themes Christopher sought to build on became increasingly ambitious, as the digital artist aimed to recreate one of the most iconic cosmic structures discovered to date: the Pillars of Creation.

This vast collection of interstellar gas and dust is actually a stellar nursery that is part of the Eagle Nebula. At around 4.5 light-years wide, the pillars of creation are radically larger than anything he has designed to date. However, for practical reasons, Christopher decided to keep the size of his Minecraft renderings comparable to his model of the solar system.

In a video posted on his Youtube channelSlayton explained, “Every time I did a build, the actual scale was going to stay almost exactly the same, while the size of the object in the universe was going to grow exponentially in light-years.”

Remarkably, while creating the Pillars, he took into account their real-world positions relative to each other, and even modeled the main stars that are studded in images of the nebula that have been captured by Hubble and other telescopes.

Christopher then sought to recreate one of the most evocative and impressive celestial objects in the universe: a black hole. These cosmic creations are quite common in one form or another throughout our universe, and supermassive versions of them are thought to lurk at the heart of almost all large galaxies like the Milky Way.

Slayton decided to base his work on the black hole ‘Gargantua’, from the 2014 science fiction film Interstellar. While fictional, this singularity, and its light-bending properties, is an excellent representation of what a real black hole might look like if we were somehow observing from orbit without being brutally spaghetti-slapped by its intense gravitational influence.

Naturally, discovering the curves of a black hole is a challenging task when you have nothing but square blocks to work with. However, Slayton was able to use hundreds of block lines as guides to create the singularity’s light curves and then light them in such a way that it looked like an impressive Minecraftification of Gargantua.

Next, he painstakingly created a cluster of spiral galaxies similar to the Milky Way, and finally set to work on a representation of the entire universe. Based on computer simulations, many astronomers believe that the universe, when viewed from far away, would look like a huge cosmic web, in which filaments made up of bright galaxies and gas clouds are interrupted by voids of nothingness.

In all, it took Slayton over a month to create his digital universe, which has to be one of the most impressive and massive Minecraft builds to date. Time very well spent in our opinion.

Anthony Wood is a freelance writer at IGN

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