The Physics of Stranger Things

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If you haven’t watched Stranger Things on Netflix yet, now’s the time. The show has already won over audiences across the globe and won some awards, too. Its second season is set to premier on Halloween of this year and people are already obsessed about its trailer.

As much of the plot revolves around physics, we thought we’d look at the reality behind some of its points.

Yes, There Are Alternate Dimensions

We’ve talked about Stranger Things and alternate dimensions before. The version in the show is more fiction than accepted theory, but the truth is that there are almost certainly alternate dimensions to our own.

What that would mean, exactly, is a bit harder to explain. In simplest terms, our minds recognize three dimensions of space. Again, we’re simplifying here, but think about how there is length, height and width to every object. Now imagine there was a fourth way of measuring it. Or a fifth. Or a sixth.

Ergo, there could be another dimension to ours that we’re simply unaware of because we have limited senses. There could be thousands of them.

Alternate Dimensions and Parallel Universes Aren’t the Same Thing

That being said, one thing that Stranger Things gets wrong is that alternate dimensions and parallel universes aren’t the same thing. In the show, these terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

A parallel universe is pretty much what it sounds like and usually what people mean when they refer to alternate dimensions.

Imagine that, somewhere, there is another universe and in that universe, you exist. However, you’re slightly different. That “you” is the result of a different decision you made along the way. Maybe it was whom you married or if/where you moved after school.

You couldn’t travel there, though, at least not in the traditional sense. This alternate “you” is somewhere we most likely can’t get to by only understanding the three dimensions we currently understand.

It Takes an Insane Amount of Energy to Study Parallel Universes

While laymen call them “parallel universes”, most physicists would be more comfortable referring to them as brane-worlds. This is a kind of shorthand (yes, even physicists use slang) for “membrane”, a reference to the idea that the universe we can see is akin to a membrane that is connected to a web of other dimensions.

Imagine the walls that separate two apartments. Each wall is its own universe (or branes). Between them is a thick, thick layer of insulation.

Using the flea from the tightrope analogy in Stranger Things, you can imagine that the flea is able to walk along a wall just fine. The other wall, though – the other universe – is not accessible to the flea. Even if it started chewing away at the paint and then the wood, there would still be the impossible problem of all that insulation for the flea to deal with.

A solution would come in the way of a massive amount of force. If the flea somehow was able to operate a power drill, it could take aim and plow right through the wall and insulation.

If an earthquake hit, the walls may even slam together, with the soft insulation no longer being enough to keep the two apart.

Again, the science teacher in Stranger Things, Mr. Clarke, references this when he talks about the massive amount of energy that would be needed to move from one universe to another. That’s what we find out is happening in the Hawkins Electric Plant.

This may be an explanation for black holes or even worm holes. That’s the kind of energy we’re talking about.

For example, a black hole could cause two walls to slam together because of its intense gravitational pull.

Unfortunately, that same amount of pressure would be way too much for anyone to possibly survive it – demogorgon or not.

A worm hole, on the other hand, would be different. That would be more like the pencil Mr. Clarke pokes through the plate. This is most likely what Eleven did to create the physical path to the Upside Down located inside the electric plant.

At the moment, the closest we’re getting to the kind of energy needed to pull off a Stranger Things is the Large Hadron Collider. While it’s already yielding some very interesting results, as far as we know, there have been no demogorgons.


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