The superheroes’ scientist: Meet the British physicist turned Hollywood advisor who told Marvel what Thor should have in his hammer
- Clifford Johnson, 52, explains scientific theories to franchise’s movie directors
- Born in London, the physicist graduated in 1989 and moved to California in 2003
- The university professor has worked on Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame
- He also provided science behind a supercold liquid for TV series Agent Carter
A British physicist turned Hollywood advisor has revealed how he told Marvel what material Thor should have in his hammer and the science behind wormholes.
Clifford Johnson, 52, is entrusted with explaining to the franchise’s film directors how they can accurately depict scientific theories in their movies.
The Theoretical Physics Professor at the University of Southern California has worked on Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, alongside TV series such as Agent Carter, Ms Marvel and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Clifford Johnson (pictured above), 52, is entrusted with explaining to the franchise’s film directors how they can accurately depict scientific theories in their movies
Professor Johnson told The Times: ‘The key is to get film-makers to realise that the more they let me help them with the science, the more cool their story can be; the deeper dive they do, the more fun elements they can bring up.’
Born in London, the theoretical physicist graduated in 1989 and moved to Los Angeles in 2003 before becoming a professor in astronomy and physics.
Professor Johnson once wrote on Imperial College London’s website: ‘Probably the most useful courses were ones that, at the time, seemed less immediately interesting or unified to me, on my goal to learn more about the things I loved.
‘For examples, courses on various models of solids, liquids, and gases, or effective models of nuclear physics etc., which we all grumbled about.
The physicist encouraged movie creators to make Thor’s hammer, which is made of the fictional metal Uru, from the core of a neutron star (pictured: Chris Hemsworth as Thor)
Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter in the TV series Agent Carter. Professor Johnson impacted the storyline by providing the science behind a supercold liquid
What advice has Professor Johnson given to film-makers?
Avengers: Endgame: Physicist helped to provide dialogue and ideas for time travel in the movie.
Thor: Ragnarok: He advised Thor’s hammer should be made from the core of a neutron star and wrote some discourse on wormholes.
Agent Carter: Professor Johnson helped provide the science behind a supercold liquid and wrote some algebra to go on a blackboard relating to characters travelling through objects.
‘I began to learn later on that those actually taught me about how to develop physics intuition about genuinely difficult, messy systems.’
He spent his childhood with his parents in the Caribbean and came back to Britain while he was a teenager, living in Lancashire.
Directors noticed his work after he started writing a blog on how to portray science in films.
He started working with Marvel after joining a scheme set up by the National Academies of Sciences, which has a list of scientists who help advise film-makers.
Professor Johnson, whose work focuses on quantum gravity and unified theories, impacted Agent Carter’s storyline by providing the science behind a supercold liquid and writing some algebra to go on a blackboard in the series.
The physicist also encouraged movie creators to make Thor’s hammer, which is made of the fictional metal Uru, from the core of a neutron star and steer clear of letting the Iron Man, Tony Stark, know everything.
Referring to a scientific problem being resolved by a female superhero, Shuri, in Avengers: Endgame, he said: ‘I was really pleased as it shows a real thing, which is that certain kinds of expertise you hand over to a colleague.
‘It means you get to see different kinds of scientists and different kinds of people doing science.’