Warning: this article contains spoilers
If you saw The Adam Project recently and found yourself wondering if there was any truth to the science in it, then you have come to the right place. Today, we will discuss if the movie has more fiction or science and what might really happen if the science does hold.
Was the science behind the plot real?
I’m not referring to scenes where the glass doors that somehow didn’t shatter in the wake of the grenade that blasted even evil time travel agents off their feet, or the bullet that was only attracted to the giant magnet after it left the gun in the baddie’s hands. After all, no fictional movie franchise is above fudging the physics a bit for the sake of good cinematography.
I’m talking about time travel. Are we really just a few decades away from it being real? Or are Ryan Reynolds (Adam Reed), Walker Scobell (nerdy 12-year-old Adam Reed), Mark Ruffalo (Dr. Louis Reed, time-travel-inventing genius), and Catherine Keener ( Maya Sorian, who tries to destroy the world for profit) just living out Shawn Levy’s fantasy: a modern version of Star Wars, with a quantum twist?
Quick answer: The science of today makes me say “maybe,” or at least I won’t flat-out reject the possibility. If you are looking for a longer answer with explanations, read on.
For those who are not science buffs, there are a few key topics such as magnetic particle acceleration, wormhole theory, and the multiverse theory, that we need to work with.
What is magnetic particle acceleration?
In the movie, Dr. Louis Reed invents a magnetic particle accelerator, which he lovingly calls “The Adam Project”; the spark that ignites the later discovery of time travel.
Magnetic particle acceleration is an easy science to confirm since it was actually invented back in 1920 as a way to learn more about the building blocks of atoms, which we can’t see with our naked eyes or even under the microscope.
Basically, particle acceleration works because the particles have positive or negative charges, which causes them to move in the presence of a magnet. When charged particles move, they generate their own magnetic fields, meaning they act like magnets that act on themselves, which causes them to speed up or accelerate. The faster the particles move, the stronger the magnetic field they generate, which in turn causes the particles to speed up more, and so on and so forth. If the particles are small enough, they can continue this cycle until they are traveling at almost the speed of light (299,792,458 meters per second), which is the fastest speed that anything in the universe can possibly move.
So magnetic particle acceleration is a real, and very cool, thing. If you want to learn more about one of the world’s most powerful magnetic particle accelerator, check out the Large Hadron Collider on CERN’s website: https://home.cern/science/accelerators/large-hadron-collider
How does wormhole theory factor in?
Wormhole theory is a very subtle topic touched on in The Adam Project, but it has been used to hint at the possibility of time travel by the likes of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, i.e., the forefathers of theoretical physics and quantum mechanics. We see it presented in the movie when Dr. Reed is assigning his students to solve some extremely complex math equations on the whiteboard behind him.
Source: The Adam Project
The wormhole condition in this scene is referring to Einstein’s predictions of theoretical tunnels or “wormholes” that connect two black holes that exist in different locations in space and/or time . In the movie, the portals that the Adams use to travel into the past and future are probably Shawn Levy’s idea of a wormhole.
Up until very recently, scientists didn’t think it was possible to lab-grow a black hole. In 2017, however, theoretical scientists at Harvard and Princeton theorized a way to create them using a quantum material referred to as “exotic matter” and in 2021, physicists at the Israel Institute of Technology were able to make something that behaves like a black hole by putting a similar theory to use.
At this point, these lab-grown black holes are way too small to allow a human, let alone an entire jet, to pass through.
Source: The Adam Project
The theoretical scientists don’t seem too hopeful, stating that growing black holes on a larger scale is unlikely. We also don’t know what the effects of passing through a black hole would be on a living creature (although research is being conducted in this area, too).
Finally, we don’t know if passing through a wormhole would lead to the kind of time travel that’s on display in The Adam Project. Rather, wormholes might send us to alternate universes that simply look like ours in the past or future. This brings us to the final topic: the theory of the multiverse.
Would wormholes transport us through time, or to different universes altogether?
The multiverse theory states that our universe is only one of several, if not an infinite number of universes similar to our own. Several prolific, modern-day physicists like Michio Kaku, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Stephen Hawking, are proponents of the multiverse theory. Stephen Hawking even proposed that wormholes may be the portals into other such universes, which is a theory that’s still being entertained by scientists today.
If there is an infinite number of other universes, then hypothetically, there would be at least a few that are similar to our own but on slightly different time scales. For instance, there would be a universe that looks exactly like ours might in 2050, and another universe that currently looks like what ours did back in 2018.
Then, if we were able to travel through a wormhole that leads us to these particular universes that seem like the past or the future, we would, hypothetically, have something that resembles time travel. However, my guess is that the odds of us finding the right wormholes that lead to the right past or future universe, assuming we have the right technology to get us to the right planet are probably as close to zero as we can get.
Even if we did achieve such a feat of chance, I don’t see how you could benefit anyone in our universe, since anything you do to change its fate would only apply to the alternate universe to which you traveled.
So even if the science in The Adam Project had some truth to it, it is impossible to tell that this is what time travel would look like, especially just 30 years from now. All this to say: I wouldn’t wait for your older self to travel back from the future to deliver stockholder tips that will make you rich any time soon. I would, however, keep watch for new research in the fields of theoretical physics and quantum mechanics – they are bound to be utterly fascinating in the here and now.