2 years ago
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The Dubious Science of Ant-Man

He shrinks. He talks to ants.

Sure, you saw Ant-Man on opening weekend. Either because you love the little-known character, you love Marvel, or you just didn't feel like seeing Minions, you contributed to another opening box office success for the franchise.

But did you stop to question the science?

Probably not. When people see a movie, they suspend their disbelief. Screenwriting teachers will tell you that you have fifteen minutes to introduce your audience to the universe of the film. Anything you try to sell them on after that won't fly. This is debatable, but generally when people see movies and they complain about plot holes, the problem isn't what's happening on screen, it's that what's happening does not fit in to the universe that has been presented.
That being said, now that you're not currently watching the movie, you're free to consider whether or not the superhuman feats of the Ant-Man suit were actually possible.

Is it actually possible to shrink a human?

Theoretically. FiveThirtyEight interviewed professor James Kakalios of the University of Minnesota, who is a scientific consultant for films like Watchmen and The Amazing Spider-Man to find out how the shrinking suit in Ant-Man could possibly work:
We’re made of atoms, and the neighboring atoms are all touching each other. One method of changing your size that’s out: Just squeeze the atoms closer together. The atoms in your body are already touching other atoms. The reason why they don’t just pull super close together is because as they get closer and closer, the electron clouds from neighboring atoms overlap. Electrons are all negatively charged, and similarly charged objects repel each other, and when they get closer the repelling force is really strong.
So, it is possible. But according to Kakalios the results would not be pretty.

Would he be able to move normally?

Definitely not. Just because Ant-Man is smaller doesn't mean that gravitational force will work differently, *he* will. According to Rhett Allain:
If everything is smaller, shouldn’t it look the same? No. There is one thing that isn’t smaller — the gravitational field. This means that if tiny Ant-Man jumps with a lower speed, he won’t go as high and he won’t be off the ground for as long of a time. He is still taking hops, but the hops are super tiny — and yes, this is a tiny man on a tiny surface. Everything is scaled down.
So instead of running at full-speed like he does in the film (see the picture above), he might be walking more like an ant- lifting his feet but never fully detaching from the floor.

What about going sub-atomic?

In this case, the reality is actually weirder than the fantasy. Quantum physicist Dr. Spiros Michalakis was interviewed by Nerdist about what's really going on at the quantum level.
As far as we know, quantum mechanics and the math that it springs from defines the very fabric of space and time. It’s inherently random down at the level of the quantum, but again, zoom out and look at the trends of those fluctuations en masse, and probabilities emerge. The famous wave function of quantum mechanics describes these probabilities. For example, we can never really say an electron is orbiting a proton in a defined path. Rather, an electron has a certain probability of being in one place or another around the proton. Like all of science, an electron’s position isn’t definite, it’s fuzzy. Michalakis contends that the physical laws we see the universe operating under are trends in these quantum mechanical probabilities and that if you zoom all the way down, it all disappears. Gravity, relativity, time…everything. If Ant-Man can shrink down to the smallest of the small, he will enter this nothing, this non-reality. All of time and space will be open to him. He could literally change the universe around him Dr. Manhattan-style. And he could traverse time at will. It must be one heck of a suit that Pym produced.
That is way more power than anyone expects Ant-Man to have. Maybe that's why Falcon is so keen on contacting him during the post-credits scene?

Long story short: we probably won't be seeing any tiny superheroes any time soon. But it's fun to imagine the possibilities!

The excerpts from the interviews are super fascinating!
2 years ago·Reply
@allischaaff I know! I'm amazed at how much they thought this all through!
2 years ago·Reply
I now wish to shrink to quantum size
2 years ago·Reply
I want to be Dr. Manhattan.
2 years ago·Reply