Sci-Fact Column: Rick, Morty and the multiverse

Sarah Bloodworth

“Rick and Morty,” a critically acclaimed animated science fiction TV show on Adult Swim, stars Rick, an alcoholic mad scientist, and his grandson Morty, an anxious high schooler, who is easily manipulated into joining Rick’s “swifty” shenanigans through time and space. A UT physicist explores the accuracy of Rick and Morty’s adventures.

The show’s plot is mainly driven by Rick’s ability to use a portal gun to produce wormholes and travel to infinite universes and timelines within the “Rickstaverse.” The concept of accessing this multiverse, or the existence of multiple realities, through wormholes is debatable among physicists.

According to a poll by Cornell University, only 18 percent of physics scholars believe in the existence of a multiverse. However, Richard Matzner, UT physics professor, said he believes it’s possible that a multiverse exists. He said that the show’s portrayal of the multiverse, while exaggerated, is not entirely far-fetched.

Matzner said that multiverse theory is a result of a mathematical model theorists developed in the 1950s that concludes that the universe is much bigger than we can possibly see. Within this mindset, it is logical to assume that another universe could look like our universe, and even contain similar events and people.

“The depiction of Rick and Morty is true in the way that anything that could happen, is able to happen again,” Matzner said. “These universes shouldn’t be exactly the same … I think it’s a lot more likely that events play out similarly.”

In the show, the events that occur in every alternate reality are never the same as what’s happening in the “original” world. However, the show also implies that these universes are infinite, which according to Matzner, is not the consensus of multiverse theorists.

“Although the universes in the multiverse theory are not infinite, they are very big,” he said. “Science fiction is always imagining other universes, but it’s very hard to imagine things that are not a lot like us existing. The depiction (of the multiverse) in “Rick and Morty,” being infinite, is not true.”

Rick and Morty travel through these universes with Rick’s portal gun, which has the ability to transport anything from a single human to an entire space ship through a wormhole into another universe. Wormholes, according to Matzner, are theoretical passages between universes that allow quicker travel through space. Matzner said that while wormholes might exist, they would be difficult to use.

“The idea is that there is a series of microscopic wormholes in the universe and they are incredibly small and don’t connect very far,” Matzner said. “It’s actually possible to make a wormhole … (and) we can prove that they connect, but the problem is it doesn’t exist long enough for someone to go through it – it collapses.”

Matzner said Rick and Morty would have to solve this problem in order to open up wormholes large enough for human use. If Rick’s portal gun was designed to prop open wormholes, however, Matzer said the depiction of wormholes is more or less accurate.

Matzner added that the portal gun depicted in the show is not scientifically accurate, because the energy required to open, enlarge and support a black hole would be astronomical.

For a show that depicts a 60-year-old scientist taking his grandson on absurdly amusing and narcissistically driven conquests into space, Matzner said the portrayal of authentic scientific theories isn’t too “riggity riggity” wrong.

“Whoever created this cartoon read a good book about these theories and is putting it to use,” Matzner said. “‘Rick and Morty’ is current on the ideas … not an expert, but presents the ideas well.”