In August, the U.S. Department of Energy watched Stranger Things and promptly issued an official statement: “THE ENERGY DEPARTMENT DOESN’T EXPLORE PARALLEL UNIVERSES.”
Turns out that was a total lie.
In an interview on Chelsea Handler’s Netflix series that aired this week, Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy admitted, “[I] will note that we do work in parallel universes.” He hadn’t seen Stranger Things but was well aware of the questions the experiments at the fictional Hawkins National Laboratory raised about the real-life activities of the DOE.
Explaining further, he called attention to one of the major reasons the DOE exists: to explore “very basic science,” or the mechanics and building blocks of our universe. “[That] includes trying to understand the basic particles of nature and the structure of the universe,” he said. “Theoretical physics … looks at things like higher dimensions than three dimensions, and parallel universes.”
When the DOE’s Office of Public Affairs made its official statement in August, it asserted that the Energy Department dealt with powering the tools the U.S. needs to explore new worlds, not with charting parallel worlds themselves. “We’re talking outer space, not the bizarro cosmos in Stranger Things,” Paul Lester, a DOE representative wrote. Was Lester simply not privy to what actually goes on behind the institution’s laboratory doors? Or did he, perhaps, know too much? Either way, the reasons for the government’s sudden “JK!” moment remain unclear.
But we’ve been on to the DOE for a while now: Government-funded studies in parapsychology using sensory deprivation — explorations into the mind’s ability to bend the rules of physics, not unlike Dr. Brenner’s experiments on Eleven — actually took place in the 1970s and are thought to have inspired the writers of Stranger Things.
The DOE made four other assertions in its August post: Hawkins National Laboratory, as far as we know, doesn’t exist, and the Energy Department doesn’t mess with any monsters, at least not of the supernatural kind. Monsters and other lifeforms don’t generate electricity, and, as Munoz demonstrated in his interview, National Laboratory scientists aren’t “evil.” These claims are true, as far as we can tell, but after the DOEs latest admission, can we ever really be sure?