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Please excuse the misquote from another film but reading this question has inspired me to ask if the Grid simulates air and the quote is kind of related as both movies share a similar concept of a simulated world within the real world.

There are several pointers to say that it does: the light jets have wings and execute aerial maneuvers, Sam appears to be breathing heavily after exertion, and Sam's blood is bright red when he bleeds.

However all those could be seen as part of the individual 'programming' of the vehicles or programs/users rather than part of the environment.

So does the Grid simulate an environment with air, do the individual programs simulate the effects of air, or is there some other explanation?

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From a programming POV getting to programs to implement 'environment' and having a stand alone environment entity is probably the most sensible way to go about it. – AncientSwordRage Jan 2 '13 at 10:07
GAH! Blood is red all the time, air or not. They aren't blue blood cells, they're RED blood cells. – Rob Jan 2 '13 at 16:39
@rob - Although RBCs are red, air or not, the bright red people associate spilled blood with is a response to the Oxygen in the air. Were there no air, the blood would look much darker when spilled. Arterial blood will be brighter than Venous blood, but both will be darker than blood exposed to air. That being said, how much we could see that difference in a movie is questionable -- movies love that 'Bright Red Flash' of blood, regardless of validity. – K-H-W Jan 2 '13 at 18:58
@KeithHWeston but it would still be red (just a dark red) – HorusKol Jan 2 '13 at 23:01
@HorusKol - Oh, no argument.. But because of the nature of the site, I thought it needed to be clarified -- in a Non o2 rich environment, the 'splash of crimson blood' wouldn't look like what we are used to seeing. At lower o2 levels, it can almost look purplish; it would be interesting to see a show with space combat or something similar show that -- a large number of people would claim it wasn't realistic... then a HUGE number of people would jump on them explaining why it was :) – K-H-W Jan 3 '13 at 1:12
up vote 2 down vote accepted

No. It does not make sense that the Grid would be simulating air.

The Grid is a virtual environment that mediates control of machine resources through the visual metaphor of combat games. Two types of virtual environment exist:

  1. Bottom-up simulations, where there are low-level universal rules of interaction and everthing that exists in the simulation is built atop those rules. Our universe seems to be such a simulation, with quantum theory and general relativity providing the low-level rules that govern the existence of stars, atoms, life and everything else.
  2. Patchwork virtual reality, where the goal is to be simulate some environment accurately enough to convince some privileged observer. Rules are local and ad hoc, "reality" may only be simulated where the observer is looking/existing at that moment. Simplified formulas replace non-linear dynamic systems. Unobserved group behaviors are modeled statistically instead of computing the actions of each group member. And so on.

Probably every computer game you've ever played that simulates some shared reality uses patchwork VR. The advantage is that complex systems can be simulated well enough to provide verisimilitude and entertainment without reifying low-level details (at huge computational cost) that the game player would never notice anyway.

The Grid is at its heart a game system and no sane 1980's game programmer would simulate air molecules. Games don't directly simulate air ever today and current hardware is at least a thousand times faster.

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Good answer but the Tron world may not be a VR system, it may be some kind of alternate reality... Hmmm this leads on to another question... – user11295 Jan 11 '13 at 14:20
The Tron novel indicated that there is air in the Grid world. – Valorum May 30 '15 at 23:11
Games today don't simulate air, but they do take regular actions into account. Flight Sims and air combat games take drag into account. Cloud movement. Exhausted npcs breathing hard. Chest breathing movement. You don't need to model air molecules to model the reactions to air in npcs. – user16696 May 31 '15 at 3:42

Based on the official Tron Junior Novel, there is indeed air in the Grid. Shortly after arriving, Sam notes that there's a distinct change in the air quality between the real world and the grid world.

The night air felt different now, wet, foggy, cooler. Maybe the jump off the Encom building had rattled his brain. Shaking his head, Sam walked over to the streetlight where he’d parked his motorcycle. It was gone.

It's also mentioned that in the game world Sam is breathing air, and at one point has it knocked out of him by a stern blow:

Just then, the skylight above Sam exploded, fracturing into pixilated shards. A guard came down right on top of him!

The air left Sam’s lungs with a whoosh. As he grappled with his foe, they both tumbled through the open door. Then Sam and the guard plunged toward the dance floor below!

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It's worth noting that the only character described as breathing is Sam. As with his blood, it may be that he's the only person in the whole grid (aside from his father) who actually breathes the air. – Valorum May 30 '15 at 23:14

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