Way of X #1 is finally here, and it’s a doozy. If you thought writer Simon Spurrier was going to tiptoe around emotional ideas in a story about ordained priest Nightcrawler trying to start a mutant religion, you clearly haven’t followed his career up until now. But about halfway through, we’re reintroduced to someone equally as obsessed with the material world. **SPOILERS AHEAD!**
Strangely sans surgical mask during a pandemic (always the contrarian), Dr. Nemesis reveals himself as the creator of Krakoa’s miracle drugs. You know, the ones that benefit humanity so much they’ve finally agreed to leave mutants the f*ck alone. Which might seem kind of strange, considering he’s primarily a medical doctor, not a supreme geneticist and biotech expert.
But that’s the way of the Marvel Universe, isn’t it? Jack of one scientific trade, master of them all. Same way biochemist Beast can figure out time travel, and physicist Hank Pym invents artificial intelligence. Both of those things turned out just swell.
Clearly comics’ biggest brains still need to figure out what we did well over a hundred years ago — when science starts to get too complex, different fields need to have specialists.
Back in the eponymous time period and the centuries that followed, it wasn’t so bad to have “Renaissance men” who dabbled in multiple areas of study. Heralded as “the father of modern chemistry,” Antoine Lavoisier’s degree was actually in law. James Hutton, labeled with a similar appellation for the field of geology, also ran a farm and experimented in animal husbandry.
And of course the prototypical Renaissance man, Leonard da Vinci, was a painter, engineer, and founder of the the spy organization called SHIELD. What a talent.
Even by the mid-1800s, a wealthy “gentleman naturalist” like Charles Darwin could still make penetrating insights governing an entire field on what was basically his vacation. But as we learned more and more about the world, it became harder and harder for a tourist to grasp it all. In the 19th century, experts went from being general “natural philosophers,” to drilling down on specific things and giving themselves names like “biologist” and “physicist” for the first time.
Now think about how far we’ve come since then. Isaac Newton revolutionized our knowledge of the universe by realizing that the force that dropped the apple on his head was the same one that hurls the planets around the Sun. Add electromagnetism, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, relativity, and particle physics on top of that, and you can see why it takes eight years and an 80,000-word thesis on minutiae to get a PhD.
Bottom line, while a brilliant biologist might one day figure out how to stop the aging process, that same person isn’t also going to pioneer the physics that lets you meet your past self and tell them not to worry about that extra slice of pie. That’s why you need interdisciplinary studies.
Sure, physicist Richard Feynman famously said that biology inspired the law of conservation of energy, but today biologists are using their expertise in dealing with the “messiness” of living organisms to help understand the “emergent phenomenon” of superconductivity. Einstein’s Brownian motion of particles is applied to financial markets. Sociologists work with climatologists to try to predict the human impacts of global warming.
And the craziest bit? Things have gotten so specialized that you can go full circle by combining everything again to become one of the world’s few experts on agrophysics, quantum cosmology, or biogeochemistry.
In the Marvel Universe, being a scientist is kind of a superpower in itself. Tony Stark can solve any problem with an engineering degree, but in the real world, you need to assemble a group of remarkable people, to see if they can become something more.
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