As Stranger Things season three shatters viewership records for Netflix, with at least 26.3 million Americans tuning in over the weekend, viewers are in the science field are questioning a significant plot point in the show regarding a key quantity in quantum physics.
To close the door to the Upside Down, and successfully kill the creature that is attempting to destroy 1985 Hawkins, Indiana, Chief Jim Hopper and dedicated mother Joyce Byers infiltrate a secret Russian base underneath Starcourt Mall. To open a safe which contains two keys to close the gate, they're informed by a journalist of the necessary code, which he learned from a soon-to-be-murdered Russian scientist.
The necessary code is Planck's constant, named for physicist Max Planck, an important quantity in quantum physics which links the amount of energy a photon carries with the frequency of its electromagnetic wave.
However, the reporter misremembered Planck's constant.
Dustin, however, knows his camp girlfriend, Suzie, will know the correct code and he calls her on a homemade ham radio. After singing the theme from "The Neverending Story," Suzie provides Planck's constant as "6.62607004." The code is successful, and Hopper and Joyce retrieve the keys.
However, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology noticed something off about the code during their own binge-watching of the show.
"A bunch of us finished the third season and we’re delighted that it used the Planck constant as a plot element. We listened to the value used in the show and realized it was actually the 2014 recommended value, not the one that would be available in 1985," Ben Stein, managing editor of the institute's public affairs office, told Yahoo Lifestyle.
Were #StrangerThings characters ahead of their time with Planck's constant (h)?— NIST (@usnistgov) July 11, 2019
2018: h=6.62607015 x 10^-34 J s
2014: h=6.62607004 x 10^-34 J s
1985: [SPOILER] tells the party that h=6.62607004 x 10^-34 J s, when the accepted value was still 6.626176 x 10^-34 J s that year.
"Were #StrangerThings characters ahead of their time with Planck's constant (h)?" the institute's Twitter account tweeted.
In 2014, Planck's constant was established to be 6.62607004.
However, in 1985, the accepted value for Planck's constant was 6.626176.
In 2018, the number was updated again to equal 6.62607015* 10^-34 Joule seconds.
"As far as we know, the actual 'true' value of the constant has stayed the same throughout the entire history of the universe,” Stein said. “But we as humans have been making better and better measurements of it.”
So far, Netflix has not responded to the tweet.
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