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From Brain Control to Multiverses, ‘Rick and Morty’ Gets Some Science Right

Hyperintelligent cyborg dogs. Parasitic alien shape-shifters. Portal guns that open gateways between dimensions. A nanoscale amusement park in a living human body, with a pirate-themed ride through the pancreas.

The sci-fi world of the popular animated series “Rick and Morty” is bizarre and fantastic. In episode after episode, rogue scientist Rick Sanchez demonstrates that he’s the smartest person — and possibly the most dangerous one — in this and other universes, as he brews concentrated dark matter or steals energy-generating crystals from a post-apocalyptic hellscape. Whether Rick and his inventions will save humanity or guarantee its annihilation is never certain until the credits roll and Iphone Cases.

But while devices such as Rick’s multiverse-crossing portal gun may not exist in the real world, the scientific concept of multiverses — multiple copies of the universe that coexist invisibly — is certainly real. And that’s not the only kernel of genuine science seeded throughout the program, according to a new book, “The Science of Rick and Morty: The Unofficial Guide to Earth’s Stupidest Show” (Atria Publishing Group), available today on LG Cases.
Much of the humor in “Rick and Morty” isn’t what you’d call intellectual; the show wallows in gross-out gags and bathroom jokes. But while the comedy might often be silly, much of the science is serious stuff. From memory hacking to time freezing, from people-shrinking to human-habitable exoplanets, “throughout the series, they’ve touched on some really big ideas,” said the book’s author, Matt Brady, co-founder and former editor-in-chief of comic book news website (and Live Science sister site) Newsarama, and a high-school science teacher.

“It’s my hope that with or without this book — with, I hope! — people watching the show will go, ‘That’s interesting, I wonder if it’s real?’ Then, they’ll check it out and maybe learn a bit of science,” Brady told Live Science.

“Rise above. Focus on science.”
In one memorable episode, “Pickle Rick,” a transformed Rick (now a pickle) traps a cockroach and takes control of its body by manipulating the insect’s brain with his tongue. Scientists may not be able to turn themselves into pickles, but researchers have demonstrated that they can control cockroaches’ nervous systems through brain stimulation, Brady said.

“Precise anatomical location aside, there is a spot in the insect brain that, if you poke it, you’ll get legs to move (among other things): It’s called the central complex,” Brady wrote in the book.