I keep tripping across this flawed thinking in the Marvel Universe. And with the new movie coming out recently, maybe it’s time to remind us of the flaws. I’m not rushing out to the movie. I’ll see it when it comes to Netflix. But, as far as I can tell, Thanos is an idiot with no math or astronomy skills. Here are some of the reasons I say this:
If you HALVE the population of any critter in a constrained environment – and apparently Thanos’ “snap” halved the population of all critters in the universe, according to this account – then it doesn’t really take that long for the population to recover. Most populations follow a Leaning “S” curve, this is because growth slows as resources are depleted. So, if the population is suddenly reduced by half, it will make a sudden jump in growth rate to compensate and if the resources available are the same, it will recover to the same level. So snapping only has a short term effect. And I’m not even talking about the Avengers returning from the Phantom Zone or wherever they went. But then what?
Living on Planets is a Bad Idea, for Advanced Civilizations
The surfaces of planets are a limitation for the growth of Biota, including intelligent life, like us. But this need not be the case. There are plenty of materials and resources in any solar system to build much more living space. And Stars produce plenty of energy, so no shortage of that either. Dyson Spheres, or more properly a Dyson Swarm, and the Kardashev Scale of Civilizations are examples of thinking in this area. Folks have done the math to figure out how much material is required. It will take a long time, but the construction is not resource or energy constrained. Notice that I have not mentioned Fusion reactors? I’m assuming that space habitats will just harvest sunlight. No clouds, no night, so it is on all the time.
So the whole notion of Advanced Civilizations running out of energy or resources, even without assuming access to “Magic” of the types in the Marvel Universe, is just pretty short sighted. We stupid humans are smarter than that. We know that there is plenty of resources and energy in any solar system to support thriving populations of billions upon billions of humans in the lifestyle of the rich and famous. These folks have done the math.
Oh, plenty of water, oxygen, chemicals, metals, everything we need. It’s all just floating around out there, all we have to do is scoop it up from the asteroid belt. Stay off of the planets actually. Those gravity wells and atmospheres are a pain to deal with.
Where Did Marvel Ideas Come From?
So where do the bad ideas of Thanos come from, and why? Or maybe the better answer is “When” do they come from. This site provides a timeline for the original Marvel comics that introduced Thanos. It seems that Thanos, and maybe some of his bad ideas, appeared in the late 1960’s as we were waking up to Global Climate Change and Population Growth issues.
But even the ideas of the Earth running out of space or food has been shown to be wrong. Back in 2015, Hans Rosling did a talk where he described pretty convincingly that the world population would not exceed about 11 billion and also showed data about the growth rate slowing and why.
So, apparently, Marvel was weaving a cautionary tale about Global Population Growth, and when it came time to do a movie almost 50 years later, they didn’t update the story to follow new facts.
What Could Our Future Be Like?
We aren’t in trouble here on Earth, at least as long as Climate Change doesn’t get us. And if we get off the Earth, there are plenty of resources and energy in the Solar System to grow for a long long time. And who knows, after that maybe we should colonize the entire Galaxy.
I have found that Isaac Arthur publishes a lot of interesting videos on his channel on these subjects. You may be interested too.
But this whole “Finger Snap” thing is just the stuff of misguided fantasy. Don’t you believe it.