“Rick and Morty,” a critically acclaimed animated television series, has stood out due to its unique blend of science fiction, comedy, and philosophical musings.
Season 4’s “Rattlestar Ricklactica,” revolves around an adventure where sentient snakes invent time travel: or are they given it?
Rick tells Morty, “That book has everything they need to create snake time travel” set to a backdrop containing markings reminiscent of odd hieroglyphics on a chalkboard. These markings are actually redrawn from diagrammatic equations appearing in my book, Quantum Tensor Networks.
For reasons described in the book, certain classes of equations admit a formal diagramatic calculus. The equations appearing on the board prove what is known as the snake equation.
I think someone searched for the term ‘snake-math’ as the term appeared in the episode a few times.
I owned the internet for a day due to this:
In the world of quantum physics, the snake equation relates inputs and outputs of tensor network diagrams. It dates back at least to the late 1960s in the work by Penrose:
It no ceases to be important to make a distinction between upper and lower indices.Roger Penrose, 1971
Applications of Negative Dimensional Tensors
Combinatorial Mathematics and its Applications, 221-244 (1971)
Published by Academic Press, New York
Also in Roger Penrose: Collected Works, Oxford University Press (2008)
I was actually interviewed about this:
So what if they copied the equations down wrong, Rick and Morty is the best thing to happen to the world since the Simpsons.
And finally, here is the now famous chalk board appearing in Rattlestar Ricklactica:
The original diagrams that inspired the chalkboard etchings in “Rattlestar Ricklactica” can be found in my book, specifically on page 24, Equations (4.5) and (4.6). However, these diagrams first appeared in an earlier research paper titled “Tensor Networks and Graphical Calculus for Open Quantum Systems” I wrote with Chris Wood and David Cory.
Quantum Tensor Networks: a pathway to modern diagrammatic reasoning
Book in review, 178 pages (2020). Overleaf Read-Only Link
The diagrams first appeared in
Tensor Networks and Graphical Calculus for Open Quantum Systems
Chris Wood, Jacob Biamonte and David Cory
Quantum Information and Computation 15, 0579 (2015) arXiv.1111.6950
And here is the specific bit that inspired the blackboard: