Believe it or not, Venom is actually a romantic comedy between journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and the alien “symbiote” parasite that turns him into Venom. The only problem? The real science behind symbiotes pretty much guarantees the paraise would quickly kill Eddie, rather than give him superpowers like it does in the movie.
There’s a major scientific inaccuracy in the Marvel/Sony action film Venom. And it’s not that a talking, sentient alien goo knows “turd” is a pretty good punchline for a roast. The inaccuracy is that a talking, sentient goo isn’t killing its host, Eddie Brock.
Venom essentially offers an exaggerated portrayal of how parasites actually work. In the real world, animals infected by parasites don’t become badass Todd McFarlane creations. Instead, parasites straight up murder their hosts after taking their sweet time infecting bodies and controlling their muscular systems.
That last part is actually a recent discovery. Until a November 2017 report published by researchers at Penn State University and the University of Notre Dame (who unfortunately don’t appear to have a dope super team crossover name) it was widely believed that the Cordyceps fungus that infects and kills carpenter ants do so to control their brains.
With the help of deep learning algorithms that differentiated between ant cells and fungus cells, researchers discovered that the Cordyceps fungus infects the muscles of ants instead. You can see it happen in the video below.
Senior author David Hughes, Ph.D. and Penn State associate professor of entomology and biology, said as much in a statement that accompanied the published paper:
“Normally in animals, behavior is controlled by the brain sending signals to the muscles, but our results suggest that the parasite is controlling host behavior peripherally. Almost like a puppeteer pulls the strings to make a marionette move, the fungus controls the ant’s muscles to manipulate the host’s legs and mandibles.”
In Venom, the symbiote controlling Eddie Brock not only enhances Eddie’s strength, speed, durability, and stamina, but also enhanced his aggression. It also didn’t infect his muscles (at least that we can see), but it did show it can overpower Eddie. Luckily the two worked as a team, rather than Venom possessing Eddie to wreak havoc throughout San Francisco.
But if this was the real world (with real science) Eddie Brock would be long dead and the Symbiote would have moved on to another host — which may actually, sort of, be the plot of Venom 2.
This December, Inverse is counting down the 20 best science moments in science fiction this year. This has been #16.
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