Stranger Things and Extra Dimensions

If you grew up in the 80s, Netflix’s Stranger Things will get you back to your childhood. It is not only the setting of the series, but the whole story is written as they used to do it in that time. A group of children riding on the suburbs with their bikes, helping the paranormal kid to escape from the government, the “alien” monster and even D&D. The references to the classic movies of that time like Goonies, ET, Close Encounters, Alien and so on abound. It is as if someone had an idea during the 80s, but only got the funding to do it now. I’m eagerly waiting for the second season now.

The series is a mix of science fiction and fantasy, which is very cool. There is only one critique I want to do and that is with respect to the explanation of the Upside Down, the parallel “dimension” from where the monster of the show comes. I actually don’t like the term parallel dimension. I prefer parallel reality or parallel universe, as this is what they really are. A dimension is an extra direction in space or time, not a total new realm as it is usually portrayed. But that is still not my critique.

When the school teacher explain to the boys (you have to watch it to understand what I’m saying, I’m afraid) what a parallel reality would be he uses an example which is common in String Theory to help visualise what a compact extra dimension is. In the context though, the example does not make sense. Let me be more specific.

The teacher compares the Upside Down to an acrobat in a rope. For the acrobat, who is very large, the rope is so thin that it looks one dimensional. She can only move forwards and backwards. An ant, though, would see the rope with an extra dimension and can wind around it. For the ant, the surface of the rope is visible and it becomes two-dimensional, instead of one-dimensional. Because the ant is back to the same place after going one full lap around the rope, this dimension is called periodic and is different from a space dimension like the forward-backward in the rope which will never take you to the same place if you keep going on.

However, there is no complete parallel reality that the acrobat could go to by poking a hole in ours as the teacher suggests. Notice that the compact dimension is always there. The acrobat would need to magnify it to see it, but she still cannot “go” there in the same way as in the series they create a portal to the Upside Down.  It is true that science fiction is not science, but it does not mean that it can’t be consistent. It doesn’t need to be real, but with a help of a scientist adviser (hey guys from Netflix, I’m available! 🙂 ) that would lend a bit of realistic feeling to that which would make it, in fact, a bit more cool.

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