The physicist who melded the science and fiction of A Wrinkle in Time

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The new Disney film adaptation of Madeleine's 1962 book L & # 39; Engle A Wrinkle in Time follows the awkward teenager Meg Murry (Storm Reid) as she scours the universe in search of her father, NASA scientist Dr. Alex Murry Dr. Murry (Chris Pine) had disappeared years earlier, and Meg traces it with a combination of science and the supernatural, one that Brown University physicist Stephon Alexander helped to mold.
Director Ava DuVernay found Alexander through the Science and Entertainment Exchange of the National Academy of Sciences, a network that brings together people in the entertainment industry with scientists. Alexander, a theoretical cosmologist, is also a saxophonist who has written about the connections between the universe and music in his book, The Jazz of Physics. This fund helped inform the connective tissue that unites the science of the film version of A Wrinkle in Time with its science fiction and fantasy.
In the first scene, Dr. Murry and young Meg watch sand bounce on a metal plate that vibrates in Dr. Murry's garage. When the plate vibrates with the correct frequency, the sand moves in scribbles and waves known as Chladni patterns. "What you're seeing is actually a visual manifestation of a sound pattern," Alexander tells The Verge. "Of the disorder, you have these beautiful patterns, and these patterns carry the correct frequencies and the right harmony."

Dr. Murry discovers that certain frequencies also allow him to break the fabric of space-time and travel to distant worlds. The fictitious phenomenon is called "tessering", from the word "tesseract". In the real world, a tesseract is a four-dimensional cube. In the film version of A Wrinkle in Time, a tesseract is an interdimensional portal that allows people to take advantage of the vibrational frequency of love to travel instantaneously in billions of light years.
"Maybe many people would criticize and say:" Oh, that's not real science, "or" It's weird to think about love, which allows us to think, "says Alexander. But the point, he says, is to encourage young people to dream big. And he hopes that the trail of scientific bread crumbs sprinkled throughout the film will lead young people to start investigating these concepts for themselves. "You're never too young to start thinking about really advanced ideas."
The Verge spoke with Stephon Alexander about the verb "to tesser", the universe as an orchestra and the vibrational frequency of love.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
When you were interviewed for the scientific consultant concert, how did you merge physics and fiction in the film?
I am a theoretical cosmologist, so I work in the physics of the early universe. And the physics we conjure up to explain these weird things that happen with the primitive universe has many fantasy elements in it. So I told them that there is well established physics and there is physics that we are working on that we have good reasons to believe, but it is something strange, it is something strange. And that we could use part of that physics in the movie.
There are some people who wanted to lean more towards the magical and fantasy side of the book, and there were some who asked for more, "We really should base this on some hard physics." And I think the case I made was that … we can have both. We could do both.
The movie calls frequencies in a way that the book does not. The revelation of Dr. Alex Murry about how "tesser" comes when he hears his colleague and wife, Dr. Kate Murry, singing to their newly adopted son. The gadgets and gadgets in the garage of his garage begin to get out of control, and he says, "Love, that's the frequency!" Tell me how this idea became such an integral part of the movie?
What we do know is that in our universe, everything seems to be composed of fields, like electromagnetic fields. And these fields can vibrate. Think of a field as something like a guitar string. When you pull a thing off the guitar, it makes different sounds, and those different sounds correspond to different vibration patterns. And [there’s also] frequency: how fast this vibration is happening, compared to how slow it is vibrating.
One thing we learned in twentieth-century physics is that we can think of our universe as an orchestra. And all these vibrations create different harmonies. These harmonies manifest as different forms of matter and energy in our universe: stars and galaxies come from vibrations. So, clearly, if you want to achieve something in the universe, you may want to find the correct frequency.
How are you? And what is based on science, and what is more fantasy or science fiction?
I would say that 70 percent was based on physics and 30 percent was based on fantasy. It is a well-established fact that space can deform, and the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun is an example of spatial deformation. We have found black holes in the center of many galaxies, that is an example of warp space. We discovered gravitational waves recently, he was awarded a Nobel Prize for that. That is an example of waves that create space, like waves on the beach. So we are using this idea of ​​extreme deformation of space so that it can travel very long distances.
The idea is that, if we can find the correct frequency so that it can create a tear in the fabric of space and time, it can deform space and time. This is the science fiction element of him. Dr. Murry basically invents a device that can transform the energy of sound into energy of light and that the energy of light basically reaches the correct frequency. That triggers this machine to create what we call instability to eventually deform the space around Dr. Murry and create a portal for him to really listen to these other planets.
So we are really combining some of the ideas of modern physics about Einstein's theory with the physics of sound and how sound can become light, and that is called sonoluminescence. You are using the ingredients of love and physics all at once to make this magic happen.
Does anyone really use the verb & # 39; tesser & # 39 ;?
It's exclusive to A Wrinkle in Time.
Has science determined the frequency of love?
I would say we have not arrived yet, but I think some people are interested in that kind of questions. The beauty of science fiction is that it is a space that allows us to fantasize in that way, and say, what if science did that? What would happen if science found the frequency of love? Then maybe you can achieve these tremendous feats. So that was a marriage between, say, fantasy elements and science fiction.
What do you expect young viewers to take away from the film's science treatment?
When physicists approached quantum physics, this Schrödinger guy went on vacation and came back with the idea that an electron can be a wave. If you think about that idea, it would seem like science fiction, it would seem absurd about 100 years ago. But it came from his desire to understand how nature works at the most fundamental level. That is the reason why we have cell phones and computers. All that technology comes from the strange idea that an electron, or matter, could be waves and could be in two places at once. It sounds like science fiction back then.
So, the idea of ​​combining ideas of love, and being one with the universe, and deforming space and time, and sound, and vibration, and frequency – all these ideas that seem to be eccentric and science fiction are really An invitation for young people to be brave and dream big. Having a great imagination is for me the most important thing about being a scientist, being brave in front of people who tell you that your ideas are crazy.


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