Rick and Morty is the animated, high concept, Sci-Fi rigmarole that we all love. But, far from the cartoonish nonsense that it appears to be at first glance, there are plenty of real science facts and theories behind what we see in the show. While most of the show is strictly in the realms of fiction, there are some concepts that the writers utilise regularly that have their basis in established science facts. Here, we take a look at some of the real science principles that form the basis of some of the concepts in Rick and Morty.
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
In the episode, A Rickle In Time, Rick, Morty and Summer manage to mess up the whole time frame of all universes, and split time up into many different pieces. They then have to try to find a way to solidify time into one unified piece. This actually employs the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. What Einstein’s E=mc2 is to relativity theory, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is to quantum mechanics. It states that it is impossible to know, simultaneously, the exact position and momentum of a particle. That is, the more exactly the position is determined, the less known the momentum, and vice versa. Essentially by trying to measure their exact place and speed in space and time, Rick, Morty and Summer removed themselves from time all together.
The Many World Theory
A cornerstone of the Rick and Morty universe is that there are an infinite number of universes, with an infinite number of Ricks, and an infinite number of Mortys. Therefore, nothing anyone says or does actually matters. It’s ultimately the source of Rick’s extreme existentialism. But this has a basis in fact. There exists an interpretation of quantum-mechanics, (the fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles), known as the Many-Worlds Interpretation. This suggests that there are many worlds which exist, occupying the same space and time, yet parallel to our own. The existence of the other worlds makes it possible to remove randomness and action, at a distance, from quantum theory, and thus, from all physics. If this were true, it would suggest that nothing anyone did mattered, and that the laws of physics are constant, and unaffected by outside forces. The theory is also referred to as MWI, the Everett interpretation, the theory of the universal wave function, many-universes interpretation, multiverse theory or just many-worlds. The original relative state formulation is due to Hugh Everett in 1957.
The Simulated Universe Theory
In the episode: M. Night Shaym-Aliens, Rick and Morty try to get to the bottom of a mystery, only to find themselves trapped on an alien spaceship. These aliens are trying to find the formula for concentrated dark matter, and it turns out that Rick and a completely unaware Jerry have been trapped inside a simulation, inside another simulation. While this is not a direct interpretation of it, it does have a grounding in an existing scientific theory known as the Simulated Universe Theory. This theory suggests that the universe we all currently occupy is in fact a giant simulation, by a quantum computer. It would be indistinguishable from true reality, and potentially, could contain conscious minds, which may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation. It is a theory that dates all the way back to French philosopher and mathematician, René Descartes, in the 1600’s, when he famously philosophized that the people he saw out his bedroom window could in fact be metal machines disguised as humans. More recently, though, the theory has been given some level of credence by Elon Musk, who firmly believes that reality is a simulation created by a super intelligence.
In the episode Auto-Erotic Assimilation, we get introduced to Unity. Unity is Rick’s ex-girlfriend, but also, she is an assimilating hive-mind, and has taken control of an entire planet. Every person on the planet thinks with one unified mind. This has its basis in science fact rather than science fiction as hive minds can be found readily in nature. For example, honeybees and ants operate in colonies that function as a hive mind. Singularly they don’t get a lot done, but as a collective colony, both of these creatures do remarkable things. Their communication is based on hormones and pheromones. It also exists to a degree in humans, where people will begin to think with what is referred to as a collective consciousness. This is how social constructs develop into societal norms, and how certain practices and behaviours are deemed as either acceptable or unacceptable. There are also more sinister implications to this: a certain level of brainwashing of the mass majorities, at the hands of our self appointed systems of hierarchy, becomes normalised. This can lead to governmental control becoming less democratic and more absolute.
Also taken from the episode A Rickle In Time is the reference to Schrödinger’s Cat. In this episode, as time begins to rip itself apart, we see lots of cats just floating around. This is a nod to a very famous physics theory, that forms the basis of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle previously mentioned. Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what he saw as the problem with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics when applied to everyday objects. In his theoretical experiment, a living cat is placed into a steel chamber along with a hammer, a vial of hydrocyanic acid, and a very small amount of radioactive substance. If even a single atom of the radioactive substance decays during the test period, a relay mechanism will trip the hammer, which will in turn, break the vial of poisonous gas and cause the cat to die. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, which stated that, essentially, nothing is real until it is observed, and all possible states and outcomes exists simultaneously until the point of observation, the cat would be both alive and dead at the same time. It would remain this way until someone opened the box to find what state the cat was in. Schrödinger’s experiment counteracts that, by demonstrating that the cat was either dead or alive regardless of whether or not it was being observed.
The Mechanics Of Rabies
In the episode Total Rickall, the Smith family household has been infested by parasites, that feed off brainwaves and alter perception. They masquerade as various characters, but they change everyone’s perceptions, and convince them that they have been a valued member of the family forever, implanting false memories and emotions. This is a trait that is found in the Rabies disease. Rabies affects the hippocampus, amygdala and hypothalamus. These brain structures control memory, fear, and emotion. Rabies can even alter the ways in which you release serotonin. The disease essentially hijacks the brains own neurons, and then attacks it. Basically, rabies turns your own brain against you. Much like the parasites did in this episode.
Nazi Experimentation On Dogs
In Lawnmower Dog, Rick gives the family dog a helmet that enables him to speak. He grows super intelligent, and eventually causes a canine uprising, where dogs take over the world. While none of that is based on any real science, it could have been inspired by Nazi experiments from the 1930’s. The Hundesprechschule Asra was an institution for performing dogs that existed in Leutenberg, Thuringia, Germany, from 1930 until near the end of World War II. It contained famous dogs that appeared to be able to speak certain words. The institute was the site of Nazi experimentation and animal research. The idea behind this was to create a battalion of talking dogs. The idea, despite being completely bonkers, was to glean greater control over the hounds, and to add extra force to their military units. These experiments were taking place at the same time as Nazi experimentation on humans, in an attempt to create a super army of immeasurable force.
In Raising Gazorpazorp, Morty gets an alien sex robot, who he accidentally impregnates, and winds up being the father to an alien/human hybrid baby. Probably the most outlandish piece of science fact on this list is that a pregnant robot actually exists in the real world. It is a life sized blond haired android, that simulates the pertinent vital signs and exports of a pregnant woman, including blood and urine. It has been used as a teaching tool all around the world, and has even had an emergency cesarean section performed on it. It even gives birth to a tiny little robot baby. Seriously.