As a follow-up to his website that looks at the science of pop culture, local teacher Matt Brady has written a book that takes a deep dive into the subject of the science in one of TV’s most popular cartoons.
“The Science of Rick and Morty” is being published Tuesday in the U.S. by Simon and Shuster, and a book launch party is scheduled that day at Bailey Power Plant. The British edition came out earlier this year, and Polish and Russian versions are also in the works.
The book uses “Rick and Morty,” an Adult Swim cartoon about a mad scientist and his various misadventures, to look at a wide variety of scientific topics.
Brady, who teaches honors chemistry at Atkins High School and is adjunct faculty at Wake Forest University, and his wife Shari Brady, who teaches at Parkland, have been using pop culture such as comic books, movies and TV shows to make their science classes more interesting to students. They are behind www.thescienceof.org, a website that looks at such subjects as the biology of Marvel Comics mutants and why real-life gorillas can’t grow to the size of King Kong.
Several articles on the subject of “Rick and Morty” on that website drew the attention of a British book publisher, which contacted him and suggested making a book on the subject. “I printed out that e-mail, took it to my wife, and said ‘does this look fake to you?’,” said Brady.
They decided it was real, and he got the ball rolling. There was enough meaty material there for him to put together a lively 325-page book on the subject. “Virtually every episode has some bigger idea about science, and sometimes it’s a big whopping idea,” he said.
“Rick and Morty,” with characters who travel between dimensions and around the galaxy using ultra-high-tech science for various shenanigans, was perfect fodder. The show is wildly popular — an episode in which Rick was fixated on an old McDonald’s dipping sauce actually inspired the chain to bring that sauce back for a special event — and it often uses heady scientific principles in its stories. Parallel universes are a recurring theme, along with such subjects as divergent timelines, hacking someone’s memory like a computer, growing or shrinking the human body, transferring consciousnesses, creating microscopic universes, and much more.
“As a series, it really, really stays close to science,” Brady said. “It doesn’t just hide the science, or put the science into a blender. You can tell there was care that was put into it. ... sometimes. Sometimes, they’d just put the word ‘quantum’ onto something to make it sound sciencey.
“For a show about such sloppy characters,” he added (Rick is alcoholic and nihilistic and his grandson Morty is dimwitted and prone to angry outbursts), “The creators really pay attention to what they’ve said, to what they’ve shown and to what they’ve allowed to happen in one instance or another.” As he researched the book, he was surprised to find the depths to which the creators of the show had planted seeds and set up an internally consistent universe ... er, multiverse.
He said he thinks the book “will pass muster with most ‘Rick and Morty’ fans. It goes to what I do in all my articles. It’s not about ‘it’s fake, it’s stupid.’ It’s about ‘they do this, so what’s the science behind this?’”