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How 'Avengers: Endgame’ makes science fun through pop culture

Rizki Fachriansyah
Rizki Fachriansyah

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, May 15, 2019  /  01:30 pm
How 'Avengers: Endgame’ makes science fun through pop culture

A still from Avengers: Endgame. (Marvel/File)

Editor's note: The following may contain spoilers.

With the record-breaking success of Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame still dominating most of the pop-cultural discourse three weeks after it was released in theaters worldwide, the general public has been abuzz with seemingly endless debate on whether the long-running superhero saga ended on a satisfying note. 

Some breathed a sigh of relief as they celebrated the return of heroes who had previously fallen victim to Thanos’ genocidal finger-snapping, while others complained that the three-hour film was simply too overstuffed to be emotionally resonant. 

Amid all the hype surrounding Endgame, a group of science experts affiliated with the state-sponsored Young Indonesian Academy of Science (ALMI) held a public forum to discuss a more complicated issue: whether the film’s science-fiction elements, including time travel and hyperspace, are up to snuff. 

In an effort to bridge academic and public interests in science, ALMI vice president and physics professor at the Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) Husin Alatas and physicist Yudi Darma from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) served as key speakers in “The Science Behind Avengers: Endgame”, which touched on the accuracy and real-world feasibility of various science-fiction conventions in the popular blockbuster film.

“Long story made short, traveling back in time to right past wrongs – or in the case of the Avengers, to retrieve the Infinity Stones and resurrect their deceased comrades –is purely fictional. That said, the film’s time travel principles are indeed based on real-world research,” Husin said during the discussion at the National Library in Central Jakarta on Tuesday.

Referring to complex scientific concepts such as the second law of thermodynamics and entropy, Husin explained that an individual could only move forward in time in a continuous, linear progression. 

Furthermore, if time travel were actually possible, it would have unintended repercussions that could damage the fabric of reality, he said. 

“Time travel could cause what’s commonly referred to as “the grandfather paradox”. If we went back in time, we would inadvertently trigger a string of circumstances that would endanger our existence in the first place,” Husin said, while giving the example of going back in time to eliminate his grandparent, therefore erasing his own existence. 

Read also: Artistic individualism the real casualty of 'Avengers: Endgame'

He said Endgame’s time travel component was not entirely implausible as it was based on British physicist David Deutsch’s Many Worlds Theory, which asserts that a time-traveling individual would automatically create an alternate timeline and, in turn, a new reality. 

Yudi said that according to the Many Worlds Theory, the Avengers did not travel back in time but rather jumped to an entirely different dimension. 

On the subject of Captain Marvel’s extraordinary ability to travel between planets and galaxies in mere minutes, Yudi said a recently published photo of a supermassive black hole could point to the existence of a worm hole – an intergalactic shortcut that could enable the superheroine to fly to faraway galaxies in minutes. 

“What we still don’t understand is how Captain Marvel got her haircut in space,” he said jokingly, referring to actress Brie Larson’s short hair in Endgame

Although most of the scientific elements featured in the film are fictional, Husin and Yudi commended the film’s combination of superhero action and science as an accessible gateway through which the younger generation could be introduced to real-world concepts. 

“Never stop watching films; they serve as launching pads for ideas that we can explore further,” Yudi said, adding that the most revolutionary scientific ideas were often born from artistic visions.

The forum was met with enthusiasm by members of the public, who felt that the scientific scrutiny of popular entertainment such as Endgame could inspire young people to pursue careers in mathematics and physics. 

“Those who say that mathematics and physics are boring will probably change their minds when they discuss various scientific concepts through pop culture,” Barry Mikhael Cavin, principal of the Erudio School of Science in Jakarta, told The Jakarta Post. 

Mikhail Surjadi, owner of the GadgetApa technology channel on YouTube, said the discussion was thought-provoking. 

“As a Marvel fan, I’ve always been curious about the actual, theoretical basis of various scientific concepts teased in Marvel Cinematic Universe films,” he told the Post. (kes)