Black holes at the end of time in Loki

Now that I’ve pulled myself together after watching the Season 1 finale of Loki (and only barely), I want to mention the brief black hole science we see in the beginning of the episode. (MILD SPOILER AHEAD)

At the beginning of the episode, we fly past black holes and what looks like a rainbow bridge/Einstein-Rosen bridge (/wormhole) as we zoom in to Loki and Sylvie approaching the Citadel at the end of time. At first, I, like everybody else, was like “oooh, space, pretty”, but then my science brain kicked in.

First, the visuals of the black holes are fairly accurate. They have a bit of an accretion disk with some spiral arm structure on the edges, similar to what we see in spiral galaxies. They’re clearly 3-D spherical “holes” instead of 2-D circular “holes” in spacetime, and they even have a bit of a bright photon ring right around the event horizon. Sure, they aren’t verbatim simulations like the one below from NASA, but they’re very pretty and artsy-cool looking. In storytelling, the appeal of the science matters much more than the rigor of it. Checkmarks all around for effort and follow-through!

[GIF of a black hole nearly edge-on, from NASA Goddard/J. Schnittman. All the variants of this simulation are worth oohing and aahing over.]

Einstein-Rosen bridges (or wormholes) are most likely the inspiration for the Bifrost rainbow bridge that Heimdall controls. As an observational astronomer, I feel obligated to point out that although these are mathematically possible, we haven’t seen any observational evidence of them in our universe. Sorry. I still like them in sci-fi.

The other awesome science part is that black holes WILL actually take over at the end of the universe. There’s a Crash Course Astronomy video by the Bad Astronomer himself, Phil Plait, explaining the concept of “deep time” embedded below. In about 10 trillion years, degenerate zombie stars (black holes, neutron stars, and white dwarfs) will be the primary source of energy generation in the universe. After that, protons (one of the primary building blocks of atoms, and all matter) will decay. Anything that isn’t a black hole will dissolve into energy and tiny subatomic particles, and we’ll be left with black holes! That will happen in about 1 duodecillion years (1 with 40 zeroes after it). After that, things get super boring from a visual perspective, and I’m glad they didn’t go with that for Loki.

So, it makes scientific sense that He Who Remains/Kang the Conqueror lives in the black hole-dominated end of the universe. Using the visuals in the establishing shot was 😘👌 *chef’s kiss*

I absolutely love reading and watching science fiction, and it makes my nerdy heart so happy to see my research topic incorporated into the story.

(Header image: Disney+/Marvel Studios)