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Wrinkles in the multiverse

Art by Thea Phillips

A fractured camera lens focuses in on Evelyn Wang, played by actor Michelle Yeoh, as she is simultaneously sucked into another universe. Unique worlds slide across the screen behind Wang, revealing her infinite alternate realities within the multiverse of the Oscar-nominated film “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

The film is a new take on the multiverse, a concept that gained popularity in the past decade in pop culture and particularly in the film industry.

According to Astrophysics teacher Michael Lupoli, the multiverse theory sprouted from mathematics and physics postulations. However, Lupoli said in reality, the multiverse theory is abstract and unconfirmed.

“(The multiverse theory states) that we exist in one of an infinite number of universes, (and) in our universe, physical constants are just right,” Lupoli said. “So we get stars, light and the ability to develop intelligent life that can study the universe. In all the other infinite universes, there are random physical constants.”

Lupoli also said proponents of the multiverse theory think our universe is only one of infinitely many that can support human life.

“Many say that because our universe has unique conditions possible to make life happen, our universe itself is an argument for the multiverse theory,” Lupoli said. “If something is so improbable, the only way to get it to happen is to have an infinite number of universes wherein some of them, everything works out just right to create life.”

While a theoretical concept, the multiverse allows films to form complex plots and story arcs. Film Composition teacher Alanna Williamson said multiverse films, such as “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Avengers: Endgame” from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, use the multiverse to create emotional scenes but can often create confusion for viewers.

“There are two versions of time travel (in the MCU),” Williamson said. “You can go back in the past and have the ability to impact the future, or you’ve already traveled back to the past, but (the future) never changes.”

However, Lupoli said the method of time travel in multiverse films is impossible.

“While there are ideas that black holes and wormholes may be related to the multiverse theory, there’s absolutely no reason to think you could drive a spaceship through one of those and arrive intact,” Lupoli said. “You’d be turned into pure energy, and you’d be ripped apart, atom by atom.”

While the multiverse concept portrayed in films is theoretical and unlikely, Lupoli said film representations allow viewers to expand their imaginations.

“People like this idea of magically snapping their fingers and making a problem go away, making yourself rich, making someone fall in love with you or whatever it may be,” Lupoli said. “Putting things in science fiction gets at the human fantasy of changing our reality.”

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