ByElise Jost, writer at
"It's a UNIX system! I know this!" Twitter @elisejost
Elise Jost

If you've seen Marvel's in theaters with 3D glasses, IMAX and the whole shebang, you'd be excused for secretly wishing you could conjure an extra dimension with the swipe of a finger and a metal ring. You never really thought you'd click on a link mixing superheroes and quantum physics, yet here you are, hoping to have a physics revelation that wouldn't even require an apple to kickstart your neurons.

But if you're hoping to find the recipe to some golden sparkle conjuring here, you best turn around. While there is some science behind the adventures of Stephen Strange, it's mostly in the way decided to bring it to the big screen: interviewed Adam Frank, an astrophysicist at the University of Rochester, NY, who consulted on Doctor Strange, and he's got a lot of things to say about multiple dimensions.

Doctor Strange's Powers Aren't Really Relying On Any Science, But The Multiverse Isn't So Far Off

'Doctor Strange' / Marvel Studios
'Doctor Strange' / Marvel Studios

Duh. It seems pretty obvious that Strange's powers aren't exactly scientifically verified — despite all the conspiracy theories you might have heard, inter-dimensional travel isn't really a priority for the international scientific community. Still, there's a division in science between a reductionist school of thought, which postulates that everything is made of material, like those who say love is only a chemical reaction, and a belief that not everything is made of quarks and atoms. People like Frank will acknowledge that some parts of our brain are still unexplored — and draw on that mystery to feed into movies like Doctor Strange.

We don't have a scientific account of consciousness, of what it means to have a subjective experience. So that's a place where you can allow these other dimensions, and other kinds of knowledge, other maps of the world that Doctor Strange is drawing from. That's how to bring it in.

'Doctor Strange' / Marvel Studios
'Doctor Strange' / Marvel Studios

Don't know how these characters can perceive other dimensions? Easy, it's all in that part of the brain we don't understand! There is a section of physics, however, that dedicates itself to multiple dimensions, so we're not so far off from a multiverse (if you're interested, allow xkcd's Randall Munroe to explain dimensions to you in cute little comics):

[One] idea for a multiverse is the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, where every time a quantum event happens, the universe splits off into a parallel version of itself, and each one goes on evolving and splitting and evolving and splitting.

The MCU Is Pretty Great At Integrating Science Into Fiction

'Doctor Strange' / Marvel Studios
'Doctor Strange' / Marvel Studios

Despite not involving complete scientific accuracy, there's one thing that the does right, and that's coherence within its own fictional world. When you have characters like Iron Man who play a large role in the technological progress of the Marvel universe, it's crucial to make sure that other stories are on the same level of progress.

As Frank puts it, it's "the respect they have for science" that gives Marvel movies their nerdy edge:

The great thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, speaking as a scientist, is the respect they have for science. It's not necessarily that they're using actual science. It's a superhero movie — what do you expect? But they build a coherent and consistent universe that respects the scientific process and that uses enough of real science to make things plausible or build off them. I always like, in the first "Avengers," [that] the movie opens up with the "Dark Energy Research Institute." And then, after that, you never hear about dark energy again. But as a scientist, I'm like, "Oh, look! They used the right term!"


Do you feel like Marvel movies should retain some sense of credibility?


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