Tenet What exactly is an inversion now

“Tenet”: What exactly is an inversion now?

Inversion, entropy, reverse radiation: In “Tenet”, Christopher Nolan repeatedly throws technical terms around his audience while their heads are already smoking from the intricate time travel action. Trying to explain.

Christopher Nolan is known for combining breathtaking action and complex topics in his films. One of his favorite topics is time and its perception – as in his latest film “Tenet”.

But unlike with “Inception”, Nolan does not stop at introducing a crazy science fiction concept (with “Inception” it was the dream technology), the technical or scientific functionality of which is then not further explained:

In “Tenet”, various characters give lots of explanations that at first glance seem very scientific. We took a closer look at some of the key terms and how they are used in Tenet.

inversion

The central mechanism, thanks to which time travel in “Tenet” is possible, is called inversion. Unlike in well-known time travel films, here you don’t jump from one point in time to another, but actually travel by reversing the flow of time for objects and people.

This should be made possible by reversing the entropy of these people and things. But what exactly is entropy now?

entropy

We don’t even want to pretend that we are particularly familiar with subjects like the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but we probably don’t have to either.

Entropy can describe the thermodynamic state of a system. To put it simply, entropy means the amount of information that is necessary to be able to describe this system correctly, or, more simply, a measure of the order of this system.

A classic example of entropy are ice cubes which, when melted, transform from the ordered crystalline atomic structure into the disordered atomic structure of a puddle of water, whereby the entropy increases.

A classic example of entropy are ice cubes which, when melted, transform from the ordered crystalline atomic structure into the disordered atomic structure of a puddle of water, whereby the entropy increases.

Entropy and time

But that’s not all that important, because Nolan is less about thermodynamics or the order or disorder of a system, but more about the fact that the entropy of a system increases as time passes (at least in the long term, the entropy increases in the Universe too). Entropy is, so to speak, another term for “time flies”.

But that’s not all that important
Entropy is, so to speak, a different term for “time flies”

If one thinks further about this aspect, one arrives very quickly with Nolan’s interpretation of entropy in “Tenet”: If entropy corresponds to forward (or normally) running time, then reverse entropy corresponds to backward running time.

If entropy is forward (or normal) time, then reverse entropy is backward.

In “Tenet” there are still echoes of the thermodynamic origin of the term entropy in the fact that hot and cold are reversed during the inversion: When the protagonist (John David Washington) is trapped in an exploding car during his inverted journey, he burns not in spite of the flames, but threatens to overcool.

Nuclear fission and radiation

Scientist Barbara (Clémence Poésy) brings into play an explanation of how inversion should be possible. She suspects that the inversion is possible through some type of nuclear fission (like in a nuclear power plant or an atomic bomb) and reverse radiation.

that inversion is possible through some type of fission (like a nuclear power plant or an atomic bomb) and reverse radiation.

What is meant here is what is colloquially referred to as radioactive radiation, i.e. radiation that can release electrons (negatively charged particles) from atoms and molecules.

Reverse (radioactive) radiation should then presumably mean that atoms and molecules gain electrons and thereby acquire a negative charge.

Electrons and positrons

Another (?) Possible explanation is raised by Neil (Robert Pattinson), who has a master’s degree in physics (which we in the editorial team cannot help with) and by the way Richard Feynman and Ernst Carl Gerlach Stückelberg’s theories on electrons and positrons mentioned.

Basically, positrons are the (positively charged) counterparts of the electrons already mentioned. According to Feynman and Stückelberg, a positron is supposed to be an electron that travels backwards in time. The connection to “Tenet” is clear: In theory, the same particles travel back and forth in time, in the film they are the same people.

a positron is supposed to be an electron that travels backwards in time. The connection to “Tenet” is clear: In theory, the same particles travel back and forth in time, in the film they are the same people.

And here, too, Nolan picks out another aspect that he transfers to the characters and the plot: the protagonist is warned against meeting his non-inverted self during his inverted journey, otherwise there is a threat of total annihilation, annihilation. This term is usually used to describe what happens when particles and antiparticles (e.g. electron and positron) collide.

“Tenet” is not “Interstellar”

At the latest when the question of whether something like this could actually theoretically reverse the flow of time, we are finally overwhelmed fmovie. It is probably best to understand the explanations in “Tenet” like the explanations in “Star Trek”: as (pseudo-) scientific explanations that sound equally serious and exciting, but not necessarily correspond to reality.

It is probably best to understand the explanations in “Tenet” like the explanations in “Star Trek”:

“Tenet” is just not “Interstellar”, in which most of the events can be traced back to (theoretical) astrophysics, and luckily you can enjoy Nolan’s latest film without the explanations for the inversion being all one hundred percent scientific (and one hundred percent understandable) .

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