Morgan Freeman recalls that time he got into a fight with a physicist
Through the Wormhole
- TV Show
Through the Wormhole, the Science Channel series Morgan Freeman hosts and exec produces, returns for a fifth season June 4 with an episode asking the question, “Is poverty genetic?” You’ll have to wait until the July 2 episode, “Is Gravity an Illusion?”, for the hour that features him on helium — a clip that has more than a million views on EW.com alone.
“Things go viral on the Internet. You don’t know what will happen. It’s just one of those things, like rainfall,” the Oscar winner says. (No, the bit wasn’t his idea; yes, it was his first time sucking helium from a balloon.) Here, Freeman talks about other upcoming episodes that will have you talking — including one about a potential zombie apocalypse and one that involves the ocean possibly killing us with a metaphorical fart (his word).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: As I sat down to watch the June 25 episode, “Is a Zombie Apocalypse Possible?,” I got genuinely nervous. If Morgan Freeman tells me the answer is “yes,” I’ll believe him and I’ll never sleep again. Are you afraid of a zombie apocalypse?
MORGAN FREEMAN: No, no, no. Not at all. This whole thing with zombies is BS, for the most part. However, there is another side to that one coin: There are zombies, at least in the insect world. You saw the segment, so you know about the ant and the fungus that grows out of its brain.
I had to rewind that, because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
That’s a fact. But let’s define “zombie.” What is a zombie?
Your mind is being controlled by something else.
Okay. Now, where is your phone?
In my pocket.
Here’s mine. It’s hard to find anybody walking the streets, from the homeless all the way to the Wall Street guy, who doesn’t have this attachment. We don’t function well if we don’t have it. I once left my house driving, drove three miles, realized I didn’t have my phone, turned around, and went back and got it. Nobody was gonna call me. I wasn’t gonna call anybody. I didn’t need to check the dates or anything. I just needed that in case. That’s zombieism in our modern world. An apocalypse? Maybe it is upon us. Maybe it is.
Has there ever been a question that you had to ask yourself, “Do I really want to hear the answer to this?”
If we ask the question, I’m very curious about the answer, really. Some questions we ask are questions you’d answer for yourself, actually — particularly questions about God. Did we invent God? We had a segment on that. We’ll probably have another one, ’cause it’s a good subject to ask about. You can get into trouble talking about it, but we talk to theologians as well as scientists, so it’s not like we say, [slaps table] “Here’s the answer to that question.” We say, “Here are some of the responses to that question and make up your own mind.”
Have you ever gotten into any interesting arguments with people?
I got into an argument once with a physicist. I said, “There’s a difference between the universe and space.” They said, “No, there can’t be.” I said, “Okay, you say the universe is expanding.” They go, “Yes.” I said, “Well then, what is it expanding into? Is it not expanding into anything?” They said, “Look, try to think of a balloon.” “Fine, what about a balloon?” “Well, when you blow up the balloon, the balloon expands and everything on the surface of the balloon expands away from everything.” I said, “Yeah, but the balloon is expanding into what? There’s space around the f—in’ balloon! So you’re gonna tell me there’s no such thing as space, and I say there is. So it’s your word against mine.”
[Laughs] “It’s your word against mine.”
But it’s true. They say just before the Big Bang, there was what they call a singularity. Nobody’s ever quite explained singularity, but that was what it was. I say, “Okay, so where did this singularity exist?” “Well, there was no existence. There wasn’t anything.” “No, it had to exist in something, it had to be something for it to do anything. I mean, it had to come from somewhere to be somewhere. It’s in space, it’s in space.” They say, “No, no, space and time all started at the same time. Space-time started with the Big Bang.” I go, “All right, that’s your theory, I got mine.” [Laughs]
Another episode that sounds mildly frightening is June 11’s “How to Collapse a Superpower.”
Now that one is scary. Do you know that if you change the clocks two seconds, everything stops? Everything stops. Everything that’s on the Internet runs by time, by a clock. If you look at your iPhone right now, you’ve got universal time. My Blackberry changes the time when I change locales. It just automatically says, “We’re in a different time zone, and this is the time in this zone.” If you wanted to shut down a superpower, you could do it as easily as changing the clocks. You could.
Then there’s June 18’s “Does the Ocean Think?”
This is scientific fact that the ocean, at least five times in the past, has wiped out almost all life on the planet. The ocean’s done it with, like, a gas that it just… farts. Did it do that on purpose? Let’s you and I assume that it does have a sense of itself as a part of life. What does it think of us? I could imagine that it would begin to see us as a problem, like a rash or a fungus, or something that’s hard to control and you need to do something about it. There’s 7 billion people on the planet, and you know how population growth is, it’s exponential. You’ve got two people having babies, in no time, you’ve got eight, 16… That’s the way it goes. So if we have 7 billion today, in very short time, it’s gonna be eight and then 10. The planet has a finite amount of resources. What happens when it runs out? What do we do? My feeling is that the planet is the intelligence. We go around saying, “Intelligent beings.” Are we intelligent? If we are intelligent, why are people saying, “Climate change has nothing to do with human activity”?
The July 16 hour is “Is There A Shadow Universe?” Tell me about that.
Cosmologists are all into these theories. You can imagine a shadow universe? Maybe. There may be universes within universes. In other words, think of, for lack of a better term, god blowing soap bubbles. Each bubble is a universe. But you only know about the one you’re in. Right? Do you know the molecules that make up you are separate entities. They’re made up of other things, that are made up of other things, that are made up of other things. You get smaller, smaller, smaller, smaller. But they are living things. You could take that in the other direction: We may be the smallest part of the small. What we think of as the universe might be just part of some entity. All of these things — parallel universes, string theory — they’re all running through somebody’s very large mind. Not mine.
Who would you like to have a conversation with that you haven’t?
I’ve never met Michio Kaku, and I’d love to sit down with him. That’s a very sharp, sharp guy. Neil deGrasse Tyson I know. We’re kinda binary in the sense that I find his subject matter, his thinking process, his career fascinating. Being a child of the movies, what fascinates me probably more than anything else is, though I know it’s impossible, the idea of space travel. I say impossible, I mean interstellar space travel. We’re traveling in space: Someone says, “We’re all spacemen,” because we are traveling in space — everything is in motion, everything moves, so you’re not in the same place today as you were yesterday. However, the idea of leaving this system and traveling to another star system — can’t see it happening. Even if we develop a space drive. The most effective space drive that we might develop is an ion drive, but it takes so long for ion drive to accelerate that it’s all up in the air in terms of how long we could last for the trip. Unless, we develop cryogenic preservation so we can put you in a capsule, lower your temperature down to where your heart beats maybe once every five minutes, have monitors controlled via computer, and then wake you up when necessary. That might do it.
Through the Wormhole