The Science Behind Marvel Comics’ New Cosmic Tale
This fall, the cosmic corner of the universe goes weekly as Marvel will release a new cosmic comic just about every week under the banner "Realm of Kings."
Credit: Marvel/Newsarama

Marvel Comics ? where Spider-man and Wolverine hail from ? has a long history of injecting science fiction into stories, especially within their line of comic books that take place in the far reaches of space.

In Marvel's latest creation "Realm of Kings," a hero composed purely of energy ventures through a tear in space-time to another reality. But what are the science facts behind this epic cosmic storyline?

Quantum energy

The one-time Avenger known as Quasar has become one with the quantum bands, which transformed him into "pure quantum energy."

As Einstein discovered more than a century ago, mass can get converted to energy, and vice versa. A single gram of matter holds an extraordinary amount of energy ? more than 20,000 tons of TNT, more than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima ? and anyone wielding that much energy could certainly be capable of acts of cosmic heroism.

According to quantum physics, all forms of radiant energy come in packets known as quanta, so "quantum energy" might refer to any of them. A truly bizarre form of energy that quantum physics suggests exists is vacuum energy ? the energy that exists in space even when devoid of matter.

Under the uncertainty principle, one can never precisely know both the position and velocity of a particle, so one can say countless "virtual particles" constantly pop in and out of existence in vacuum, each of which could exert force.

Evidence for both virtual particles and vacuum energy has been detected over the years. Some physicists have suggested there is enough energy in a coffee mug's worth of vacuum to boil all the oceans on Earth. Others more conservatively estimate it at roughly 350 trillionths of an erg, less than a thousandth of the mass-energy of an electron at rest.

Other universes, space-time tears

One consequence of quantum physics is the 'many-worlds interpretation,' which suggests a virtually infinite number of universes exist, altogether comprising every possible outcome to every event ? including, perhaps, the truly horrifying possibilities seen in "Realm of Kings."

But how would one adventure to another universe? The answer could be increasingly familiar tears in the space-time continuum known as wormholes. Einstein proposed that mass and energy curve space-time, creating the force we know as gravity. One consequence of his theories is that enough mass or energy concentrated in one place can warp space-time enough to create distortions allowing shortcuts in space, travel back in time and even voyages to other universes.

The main problem with any concept involving wormhole is keeping them open enough for travel, as they naturally want to slam closed and form black holes. However, physicists speculate that bizarre phenomena such as exotic matter or phantom energy could render wormholes traversable. Exotic matter moves in the opposite direction of normal matter when pushed, while phantom energy might be driving the accelerating expansion of the universe, potentially one day tearing apart galaxies, stars, planets and even atoms in a "Big Rip."

As unfathomable as exotic matter and phantom energy seem, they are both currently theoretically possible ? another fantastic potential element in the cosmos-spanning "Realm of Kings."