You probably wouldn't guess it, but the people behind some of your favorite movies and TV shows — even some of the ones that seem the least tied to reality — might have consulted a scientist in an attempt to keep things (sort of) realistic.
A program run by the National Academy of Sciences, The Exchange is a hotline (844-NEED-SCI) that screenwriters can call when they want help with the science in a script — any script.
Sure, some superhero movies can get pretty outlandish, but The Exchange's program director Rick Loverd told Tech Insider that their philosophy isn't about restricting scripts to reality — the science is there to inspire.
"Superman can leap tall buildings in a single bound. That's the character; you have to roll with that," he said. "But then within the world, now let's start to have that more interesting discussion about how you can ground that story in something that is in reality."
Scientists from The Exchange have consulted on an impressive number of blockbuster movies like Big Hero 6, The Amazing Spiderman, The Avengers, Battleship, Iron Man 2, Prometheus, and Tron: Legacy. They've also helped with TV shows including Castle, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, The Good Wife, and House.
Loverd told us about six projects The Exchange consulted on and shared specific examples of exactly what kind of scientific assistance was provided.
1. Ant-Man (Disney, 2015)
There's a scene in Ant-Man where the superhero "goes quantum."
"You would enter a reality where all concepts of time and space become irrelevant," we hear Dr. Hank Pym's voice say as Ant Man gets smaller and smaller. "As you shrink for all eternity, everything that you know and love are gone forever."
This scene had some input from Exchange scientist Spiros Michalakis, a physicist at CalTech.
"We got a call from the producers of Ant-Man while they were on the set in Atlanta," Loverd said. "Michalakis flew out to the set, met the director, and the producers, and Paul Rudd, and had a daylong meeting about the quantum realm."
After Ant-Man came out, Michalakis produced the 12-minute short, "Quantum Chess" where Paul Rudd battles Stephen Hawking in a game, narrated by Keanu Reaves.
It's probably the funniest quantum mechanics has ever been:
2. Thor (Paramount, 2011)
When Marvel was working on Thor, Loverd said, the creative team wanted to ground the rainbow bridge linking Asgard to Earth in reality, so they asked what physics they could use.
Exchange member and Caltech astrophysicist Sean Carroll suggested a wormhole, but Loverd said the creative team thought that was too 90s.
The Rainbow Bridge in Thor being constructed using special effects.
The creative team was also trying to figure out why Jane Foster, who was a nurse in the comic books, would be exactly where Thor landed.
"She’s a nurse. Other than extreme serendipity, what possible reason would she have for being out in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night?" Loverd said the creative team asked Carroll. And he responded: "Well, if she were a theoretical physicist, and she studied Einsten-Rosen bridges, and she had some data to suggest one might be occurring in that general area, then she would have every reason in the world to be exactly in that spot."
So Marvel made Foster a theoretical physicist instead.
3. Watchmen (Warner Bros., 2009)
Alex McDowell, a production designer on the Watchmen, wanted to know why Dr. Manhattan was blue. So he called The Exchange.
James Kakalios, a physicist from the University of Minnesota, went down to the set and gave them a lesson in waveform physics to explain.
Kakalios made a YouTube version of this lesson, and it's been viewed over 1.8 million times.
"[Kakalios] said that he would have to teach his intro physics class many lifetimes to get to 1.8 million people," Loverd said. "And he won a regional Emmy!"
See the rest of the story at Business Insider