The Real Physics Behind Dark Matter's Interdimensional Travel

The Real Physics Behind Dark Matter's Interdimensional Travel

Blake Crouch isn't a scientist, but that didn't stop him from incorporating real scientific ideas into his best-selling novel Dark Matter and The. Apple TV Plus A sci-fi thriller based on it. And one theory that really stuck with him was that of alternate universes.

Cover of Black Crouch's book Dark Matter

Dark Matter was originally published in 2016.

Black crotch

“I was really moved by the idea of ​​multiple realities and the science behind it,” Crouch told me in an interview. “I (thought) it would be really cool to write a novel about quantum physics.”

However, Crouch said he did not take any science or math courses in college. So to incorporate quantum physics into the book and the show, Crouch worked with Clifford Johnson, a physics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I spoke to Johnson about the physics behind the myth.

“It's a really great story about the choices we make in our lives,” Johnson said. “It was great to see so much science up front, and so I helped (Crouch) develop a lot of ideas.”

The basic theory that dark matter explores is that of the multiverse — the theory that there are an infinite number of other universes beyond our own. And to explore this theory, the show uses an interdimensional travel device called “The Box.”

The box is a gigantic contraption that may not be as visually appealing as similar devices in other works of science fiction, such as the Back to the Future DeLorean or the Doctor Who TARDIS, but there are real theories behind how it works. And who knows, maybe these ideas will lead to breakthroughs in the world of physics, or maybe they already exist in another universe.

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How does the box work in Dark Matter?

Dark Matter's box is an example. Interdimensional travel device. According to TV Tropes, these types of devices allow a person or group of people to travel to another universe. And that journey starts with the box.

In Dark Matter, the characters enter the box — which blocks everything from the outside — and take a mind-altering drug. Then our characters imagine the reality they want to step out of the box and into a different universe. Johnson explained that the box is a way to visualize all possible outcomes of a superposed quantum state.

Well, explain it to me like I'm five years old.

Joel Edgerton's character Jason Deason stands in front of the box. Joel Edgerton's character Jason Deason stands in front of the box.

It's no DeLorean, but the box will still transport you to another universe.


An easy way to understand this, and superposed quantum states, is to use the famous Schrödinger's cat thought experiment.

The essence of the experiment is that you put a cat in a sealed box that you cannot see, along with something that can kill it, such as poison or radioactive material. Then, since you cannot interact with the objects inside the box or observe whether an object in the box has hit the cat, you cannot observe whether the cat is dead or alive at any time. Is. So the cat is both at the same time – it is in a superior position of both dead and alive. Only after opening the box and observing the cat can you report the condition of the cat.

The cat in the experiment has two possible outcomes — alive or dead — but when a person enters a dark matter box, they have a number of outcomes to choose from, Johnson said. The dark matter box is essentially the reverse of Schrödinger's cat. Instead of the observer not being able to see or interact with a small part of reality, the observer cannot see or interact with anything outside of a small part of reality (the box).

So, the way the Dark Matter box works is that a person enters it, imagines the reality they want to enter with the help of drugs, and then that person exits the box. Kar goes to the reality he created with his mind. When the person is in the box, they place themselves in a state of superposition between all the different realities, and what they focus on becomes real after they leave the box and observe it.

Can the box really work?

A box of dark matter on the shore of a lake with the sun in the background. A box of dark matter on the shore of a lake with the sun in the background.

Maybe one day we'll invent a box-like device.


Maybe, but we'll never know. Some have theorized on reality as represented by dark matter.

“Those who won. Nobel Prize in Physics in ('22). were talking about extraterrestrials and the idea that objective reality doesn't exist,” Crouch said. “There's no independent reality that's out there unobserved by conscious, biocentric beings.”

Others have said similar things. Robert LanzaAn adjunct professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, he developed a theory of biocentrism that argues that consciousness is the driving force behind reality and the universe, not the other way around.

“Nothing exists unless you, I, or some living being perceives it,” Lanza wrote. American Scholar in 2007. “The images you see are created by the mind. Everything you are experiencing right now… is actively being created in your mind.”

However, the biggest obstacle to proving these theories is building a device like Box. Both Crouch and Johnson said designing the box was a challenge because it had to block everything — and I mean everything — in order for a person to be in superposition.

“Things like temperatures, anything above absolute zero,” Crouch said. “Or neutrinos fly through our atmosphere, constantly flying through our bodies … air, temperature, all these things…”

Any change in these variables will make the box a mere piece of metal because these shifts will act on the person inside the box and move them out of the superposed state.

“We've never built anything like this and it's not clear that we really can,” Johnson said. “But it's fun to imagine what it would look like if you could.”

Are there other ways to reach alternate universes if they exist?

If entering a state of superposition to enter another reality seems a little too far out there, perhaps a black hole can help. It might sound as fantastic as a box of dark matter, but renowned physicist Stephen Hawking entertained the idea. Hawking theorized that a black hole could serve as a gateway to another place, including another universe.

“These are not the eternal prisons they were once thought to be,” Hawking said in one 2008 lecture. “Things can escape from black holes, even outwards and, potentially, to other universes. So if you think you're in a black hole, don't give up. There is a way out.”

We don't know for sure what would happen if a person fell into a black hole, but Gaurav KhannaA physics professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth told me in an interview that a person can survive a collision.

A black hole in the Milky Way A black hole in the Milky Way

Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

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Khanna and a team of researchers found that if a person, or a spacecraft, fell into a supermassive black hole like Gargantua in the movie. Interstellar or Arrow A* In our own solar system, it can be a smooth and steady ride.

“While we don't know what the other side of the black hole connects to,” Khanna said, “if we take a leap of faith and imagine that the other side of the black hole connects to another part of our universe, or Maybe another dimension, then you can go from one to the other easily, without too much pain.”

However, Khanna said that a black hole must meet three criteria to potentially serve as a portal: it must be considered supermassive, it must be old, and it must rotate. If a black hole does not meet these requirements, i.e. it is too small, well…

“The smaller (the black hole), the worse it is,” Khanna said. “Even if you go into a black hole the size of our Sun, I don't think there's any hope of survival.”

So can we travel to other universes with the right conditions?

“It's not a blueprint for how to travel to another world,” Crouch said. “It's a speculative idea that says, 'Oh if we had some things, some advances in these particular areas of technology, maybe we could start talking about how macroscopic objects are in a state of superposition. How do I exist?'”

And if traveling to another universe by taking a person into a state of superposition like dark matter proves implausible, a supermassive black hole could do the trick.

“The door is a little bit open,” Khanna said. “We have some sense, empirically, that this might actually work.”

You can watch Dark Matter now on Apple TV Plus, for a price. $10 a month. You can also check out how February was the warmest February on record. And what to know about it. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

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