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The Actual Department of Energy Spoils 'Stranger Things'

But the new Netflix show will probably still have more fans.
Stranger Things. Image: YouTube

If you're about to watch the Netflix series "Stranger Things," you might want to stop reading this article now. The show depicts the Hawkins National Laboratory discovering an alternate universe called "The Upside Down." But in a recent blog post, the United States Department of Energy clapped back— hoping to debunk many of the false "facts" the show's plot rests upon.

For starters, the Energy Department helps power solar system exploration through plutonium-238, which it develops for deep space missions. After 30 years of research, a "small, but significant" amount of plutonium-238, a special radioisotope fuel, was developed in the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Funded by NASA, plutonium-238 helps ensure that space power technology is available for electricity and heat for solar system explorations now and many years into the future.


However, set in 1980s Hawkins, Indiana, "Stranger Things" leaves out facts like this because, well, it's a fictional TV show. In the show, a boy named Will Byers mysteriously disappears, while his mother Joyce and the Hawkins police chief investigate where he might have gone. When a girl with supernatural capabilities appears to help find Will, she leads them to an alternate dimension, "The Upside Down", as well as to the energy department.

Obviously, the Hawkins National Laboratory doesn't actually exist. Nor does the actual energy department actually explore parallel universes, or combat monsters, as the show portrays. And while the series makes national laboratory scientists appear evil, Paul Lester, a digital content specialist with the agency argues that they're actually very nice and intelligent.

"We're talking outer space, not the bizarro cosmos in 'Stranger Things,'" Lester writes. And plutonium-238 is what helps them do that. The Department of Energy makes "Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators" in the form of nuclear batteries that convert heat that comes from the decay of plutonium-238 into electric power for NASA deep space missions.

And instead of protecting against monsters in other dimensions, the Energy Department does in fact develop technologies to prevent terrorists in this dimension from using nuclear materials.

The real-life dimension might not be as captivating as "The Upside Down," but Lester wants you to know that what the Department of Energy does is pretty fascinating in its own right.