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During Avengers (2012), at the beginning of the movie before Loki activates the Tesseract, Nick Fury and Hawkeye have the following exchange:

Hawkeye: No one's come or gone. And Selvig's clean. No contacts, no I.M.'s. If there was any tampering, sir, it wasn't at this end.

Nick Fury: At this end?

H: Yeah, the cube is a doorway to the other end of space, right? The doors open from both sides.

The simple question is, how did Hawkeye know what the Tesseract actually did, especially given that Fury and SHIELD were trying to use it primarily as a power source for civilian energy needs and military "Phase 2" WMDs? For that matter, did anyone else in SHIELD know for a fact that the Tesseract could generate and sustain wormholes?

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    Probably something he gleaned from Dr. Selvig, who was actively studying it. – J Doe Nov 10 '17 at 22:58
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    My best guess is that since Loki was actively manipulating Dr. Selvig, somehow that information was conveyed enough for them to understand it's main function. – Derek Nov 11 '17 at 19:29
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We don't really know how much SHIELD did or didn't know pre-Avengers, but whatever they knew we can probably assume Hawkeye knew, since he was guarding the device and the researchers. So the question really boils down to, how did SHIELD know?

It's possible SHIELD found out from what happened at the end Captain America, though we never see it explained on-screen. (We'd have to assume Steve Rogers more communication with the SSR than was actually shown.)

Remember, the last thing the Tesseract did before it fell into the sea was open a portal and pull the Red Skull into it. It's possible (likely, even) that Rogers would have relayed this information to his superiors ASAP, but it was just skipped over in the movie to get to the more dramatic parts.

Beyond that, SHIELD had been in possession of the Tesseract for decades, studying it. Howard Stark's notes contain tons of information on the cube. It's also something that the Asgardians have brought to Earth, so Dr. Selvig may already have some inkling of it's power from studying Norse myths. They may have stumbled upon that ability themselves as part of their research. Given that Red Skull did so by accident, it doesn't seem too difficult to do.

  • Yes, Captain America did see the Tesseract in action at the end of The First Avenger but never communicated it back to SSR. All he says is "Peggy, Schmidt's dead". – Derek Nov 11 '17 at 19:26
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    During the extra scene at the end of Thor (2011), Selvig and Fury have an exchange which indicates they've figured out that the Tesseract can open portals. Between putting 2+2 together (Tesseract was 'jewel of Odin's vault' + SHIELD witnessing multiple Asgardian portals) and Cap telling Fury after he wakes from the ice (but before the events of Thor), I think that satisfies my answer. Accepting this. – Derek Feb 22 '18 at 22:28

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