Over at Marvel, I chatted with actor Reggie Austin (Dr. Jason Wilkes on Agent Carter) some more about the physics I helped embed in the show this season. It was fun. (See an earlier chat here.) This was about Zero Matter itself (which will also be a precursor to things seen in the movie Dr. Strange later this year)… It was one of the first things the writers asked me about when I first met them, and we brainstormed about things like what it should be called (the name “dark force” comes later in Marvel history), and how a scientist who encountered it would contain it. This got me thinking about things like perfect fluids, plasma physics, exotic phases of materials, magnetic fields, and the like (sadly the interview skips a lot of what I said about those)… and to the writers’ and show-runners’ enormous credit, lots of these concepts were allowed to appear in the show in various ways, including (versions of) two containment designs that I sketched out. Anyway, have a look in the embed below.
Oh! The name. We did not settle on a name after the first meeting, but one of the things I suggested was that scientists can be very playful when it comes to naming things (Examples include X-rays, quarks and LGM-1 from physics, sonic hedgehog from biology, etc…)
Later, when I saw the first script I saw that the name “Element 0” was chosen, since it “did not fit anywhere in the periodic table”. This resulted in my first email back to the writers with the word “URGENT” in the subject line, since I wanted to make sure scenes weren’t shot before I could suggest a change. It was a playful notion, but I urged them to reconsider since this would be confusing. There is already something that has rights (in some sense) to the position 0 in the periodic table: Neutronium. That’s really quite different stuff from what this would be physically. Neutron stars are made of that stuff (in real physics) – also (at least in old comics-meets-physics speculations) Thor’s hammer. So that would be really not a good term. The term “Zero Matter” emerged in further discussion it seems (I can’t claim credit for that – I was not there), and I really like that name.