Ant-Man rocks while distracting us from quantum science!

Uncontrolled shrinking into the infinitesimal cosmos as Scott Carey did in the 1957 sci-fi classic, The Incredible Shrinking Man — that is the concept Ant-Man owes a tip of the hat to in one of its final scenes when Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) plunges seemingly toward a similar fate after being left with no choice but to shrink past a threshold subatomic size in order to beat the bad guy.

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Ant-Man is great entertainment. The film is so well-crafted and performed by its stellar cast that it so effectively distracts a tech-savvy generation from its bad science. Well, everybody is fascinated by the notion of superhero action on ant scales anyway, which is why shrinking men (and kids) have endured as a premise in cinema for decades. On that, Ant-Man succeeds brilliantly, taking us for a ride over a landscape made breathtakingly gigantic by Lang’s powers.

Shrinking below the subatomic level presents conceptual problems though as we begin to wonder what then composes a man who retains his macro structure even as he floats amongst the same subatomic particles that would have made made him up at macro scales. So shrinking further down to quantum is nothing short of an infinite stretch of the imagination!

Indeed, one of the scenes suggests Scott Lang did just that in his Ant suit – shrink down to the realm where even the dimensions we can perceive meet their lowest measurable value. If I recall my college physics that’s smaller than the Planck constant where quantum laws take over and all sense ends. And, yet, Lang manages to get there while keeping his structure as a living, thinking human being intact, surviving, and figuring a way back to the macro world to fulfil the mandatory Hollywood happy ending.

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7 Comments on “Ant-Man rocks while distracting us from quantum science!”

  1. I like the movie costume. Reminds me of Kamen Rider. Even more so with the Yellowjacket costume. I hope that’s a trend to expect from movies these days.

  2. Nice observation, Benign0. I honestly would’ve not given it a thought had I not read it here hehe. Sci-fi like this opens the questions “Is that even possible?” especially with the kids. The first time I watch “Honey, I Shrunk the Kid” as a kid one thing that came to mind was why didn’t the kids exploded when fired by electronic beam? How can they outrun those flying insects with speed faster than their small steps? Kids ask many questions and now that I thought of it it’s endearing to see kids crave for knowledge. For some grown ups, it’s easy to accept things as it is.

    1. I also read that the opposite (enlarging small animals) also presents problems. Insects, for example, do not draw oxygen from the air the way we do (with lungs which we use to suck in air and bring it in contact with small capillaries where an exchange of oxygen and CO2 molecules with the blood stream is carried out).

      If I recall right, insects have receptacles through which air flows and the exchange tanspires without any muscular effort. So if an insect were to be enlarged to our size, it would suffocate because its greater biomass cannot be sustained by their respiratory system.

      1. That’s cool facts. I guess dwarfism and gigantism is the closest we have as reference for enlarging or shrinking beings. But either of the two happens due to natural abnormal phenomena in their pituitary glands and resulted to abnormality in physical features, maybe adjusting the bodily parts to fit in the available space. To enlarge and shrink a certain being may mean enlarging and shrinking (and adding and subtracting) all compositions but it’s impossible to do because it requires exact measurement on each structure that made up the body that will have to support each other all at once as you shrink and enlarge it. And also there goes the environment where the creature must adapt well. Also, as to shrinking, science must prove first that there’s no finite size of smallness before the notion that anything can be shrunk.

  3. Shrinking/enlarging would raise lots of questions indeed.

    Pretty strange, but I was wondering if it would be easier for an Ant-Man-style enlarged person to get drunk since proportionally increasing the size of a body does not only entail enlarging of the cells themselves, but also the spaces between them. So would the blood-brain barrier still be much of a barrier anymore, therefore? Haha.

    That’s what I love about the movie; it raises a lot of questions and forces us to imagine hypothetical situations.

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