The Energy Department feels the need to defend itself against a popular sci-fi series on Netflix that depicts the agency as full of evil scientists who break into other dimensions to fight unthinkable monsters.
The series, called "Stranger Things," is set in a fictional 1980s Indiana town. A boy's mother, played by actress Winona Ryder, is led to the Department of Energy while searching for her lost son who mysteriously disappeared. A girl with supernatural powers leads Ryder's character to the agency, but not before traveling to another dimension and facing horrifying otherworldly beasts.
A real-life Energy Department communications specialist, who binged-watched the series, felt compelled to post a detailed blog this month that takes the series to task for its many misrepresentations and inaccuracies.
"And while I really enjoyed 'Stranger Things' as a mashup of 'Goonies' and 'X-Files' with some amazing '80s music mixed in, the show's portrayal of the Energy Department was a little less than accurate," quipped Paul Lester, digital content specialist with the agency's Office of Public Affairs, in an Aug. 5 blog post that people started picking up on this week.
First off, the Hawkins National Laboratory that is set "in the middle of a deep, dark forest" doesn't actually exist, he wrote.
A fair point, but why does it matter? Lester points out that it may be based on a real Energy Department facility in Chicago called Argonne National Laboratory, which is named after the Argonne Forest.
The Argonne lab was founded to work on nuclear power reactors, he said. But what he left out is that nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi started the lab after he and his team conducted secret tests in Chicago to develop the first atomic bomb.
Lester moves on to other issues, pointing out that the show's depiction of the lab experimenting with alternate dimensions is another falsehood.
"While the Energy Department doesn't chart parallel universes, it does help power the exploration of new worlds," he wrote. "We're talking outer space, not the bizarro cosmos in 'Stranger Things.'"
Moving right along, Lester goes after the monsters that the agency fights in the series.
"'Stranger Things' depicts the Energy Department as a federal agency confronting terrifying monsters lurking in different dimensions," he said. "We don't mess with monsters, but the Energy Department is in the business of detecting invisible dangers," underscoring the agency's role in detecting threats from would-be terrorists through the nation's ports.
"Energy Department scientists throughout the country create new technologies that help prevent terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear materials," the blog stated. "For example, Sandia National Laboratories developed a mobile scanner that can be used in shipping ports around the world to quickly detect radiological materials hidden inside massive cargo containers."
Also, actor Matthew Modine plays a scientist who works at the Hawkins lab, which Lester has a bone to pick with. Modine's character, Dr. Martin Brenner, is a "sinister" scientist "whose motives are questionable. However, actual National Laboratory scientists are among the brightest people in the world, working hard to solve the nation's toughest energy problems. And not all of them are men!"
Finally, Lester refutes the idea of Ryder's character communicating with her lost son through Christmas lights and energy derived from monsters. "Ok, this one isn't really Energy Department related but it does deal with electricity, which is one of the agency's major focus areas," he said.
"This probably isn't a shocker, but electric current actually powers Christmas lights, not monsters or other lifeforms."