Could a Fictional Character Win the Nobel in Physics?

Opening in select U.S. theaters over the next few weeks, Dark Matter is a movie about physics gone wrong. No, the Hadron Collider doesn't punch a hole in reality. Instead, it's about a much smaller and more personal explosion that occurs when a young Chinese graduate student named Liu Xing comes to the U.S. to study cosmology, and finds out that science isn't about truth but politics. Based on a true story, Dark Matter explores what happens when Liu Xing's radical theories of dark matter in the early 1990s clash with those of his academic adviser. When he refuses to toe the line, his adviser disowns him and Liu Xing hurtles towards personal destruction. The premise is intriguing, and writer Billy Shebar based his main character's ideas on real theories about superstrings.

Shebar claims that the "dark matter particle" predicted by Liu Xing could turn out to be "the real dark matter present in the universe." If so, Shebar boasts, "he could become the first fictional character to win a Nobel Prize."


While those claims may be a little far-fetched, the film itself sounds like one of those rare moments where fiction about scientists turns out to be as strange and haunting as science fiction. Though not as surreal as Darren Aronofsky's Pi, the flick deals with some of the same clashes between science-for-truth and science-for-prestige. Check the Dark Matter site for details about when it will be coming to your city.

Dark Matter [official site]

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Annalee Newitz

Whatever — the movie sounds really cool, even if the writer is over-excited.