Stranger Things: Logistics and Science Behind the “Upside Down”
I think this goes without saying, but if you haven’t watched the show, there are a bunch of spoilers in here, so stop reading if that’s going to bother you. OR if you haven’t seen the show yet and you’re like me — unfazed by spoilers due to lacking the full range of human emotions — then feel free to keep reading.
After watching the first season of the show Stranger Things, I decided to pick apart what we know about the show’s parallel universe, the Upside Down. So here’s the stuff that holds up to scientific scrutiny, what doesn’t, and what this could maybe mean for unanswered questions in the next season. Remember, we’re talking parallel universes here, so most of the science I’m talking about is theoretical.
Traveling Between our Universe and the Upside Down
There’s two ways to travel between our universe and the Upside Down in the show: either through a wormhole or sensory deprivation tank. Let’s start with the wormholes. The wormholes seem to pop-up randomly in the woods near the government lab. Science tells us that it’s nearly impossible to create a usable wormhole, but technically possible if you have enough energy. Conveniently enough, the suspicious government lab in the show is the US Department of Energy– and they actually have their own controlled-wormhole. That’s the part that doesn’t seem to hold up: wormholes are extremely unstable and tend to crash quickly. So the random wormholes in the woods make sense, but it seems unlikely they would be able to have a permanent portal to another dimension in the lab.
The second way to travel in the show is by putting Eleven in a sensory deprivation tank. However, only her mind jumps into the other dimension. We know sensory deprivation can make our brain do a lot of crazy stuff. So when you take away Eleven’s physical senses, she seems to harness the power of her mind. And since she has some weird supernatural energy going on, her brain seems to freely move through space and time. This is extremely unpredictable though. I remember in one scene she ended up finding a Russian dude who disappeared, but in the other scenes she only transports to the Upside Down. Staying true to science and the theory of parallel universes, she probably wouldn’t be able to travel to the specific parallel universe Will is in; unless her powers are so strong that she can decide where to “go.” Essentially her mind is traveling through different dimensions but not universe-hopping. Either way, it’s unlikely.
Qualities of the Parallel Universe
Here’s what doesn’t make sense to me: being able to hear Will from the Upside Down. How could he throw his voice from one universe to another? As far as we know, Will doesn’t have any supernatural powers; in fact the more time he spent in the Upside Down, the weaker he got. So how could he even harness the energy to make the lights flicker and talk to his mom through the phone?
They seemed to get the other qualities right though. Scientists say if a human was able to travel through a wormhole, the other dimension might expose them to high levels of radiation and other dangerous material. They did mention the air was toxic; everyone had to wear hazmat suits when traveling to the Upside Down. Plus Will was about to die from exposure when he finally got out. That and, it didn’t seem like there was much food in there. I assumed that’s why the monster was so hungry. Which brings me to…
Monsters in Other Dimensions?
According to String Theory, there are 10 (or more) other dimensions beyond this one. Scientists think the fifth and sixth dimensions are pretty similar to the one we live with slight differences, but we can’t be sure about any of this. If the writers of the show are staying true to current theories (it seems like they’re trying to) the Upside Down is probably the fifth or sixth dimension. So would a monster live in the fifth or sixth dimension? Like life on other planets, it’s possible. But he seemed to be the only other living thing in there. Unless there’s a whole thriving world in the Upside Down that we haven’t seen yet. If the Upside Down is a parallel to our own universe, then they barely even covered any ground when we saw the characters exploring. Maybe the monster we see is living in exile in the woods, like big foot.
And what’s going on with this monster? It seems like he has the power to create wormholes himself. When he grabbed Barbara Johnathan didn’t even hear her scream or see her being dragged away. So it’s as if the monster saw Barbara from the Upside Down, jumped into our dimension, and then jumped back into the Upside Down. Same for that wall in Wills house the monster keeps jumping out of. He’s definitely got some weird powers going on.
So next season, I’m hoping to get an explanation for how the hell the monster got in there and why he seemed to be the only creature living in that dimension. I also would like to see what the government was hoping to accomplish by keeping that wormhole open. The show takes place at the height of the Cold War so I assume they were trying to spy on the Soviets, but we don’t see them actually doing a whole lot with it. Well, looks like we’ll be waiting until next Summer to get this all figured out.