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During Ant-Man and the Wasp we saw how Scott, Hank and Hope rescued Janet van Dyne from the Quantum Realm. For her, time passed exactly the same that for them, so she got old the same way than everybody else.

However, in Avengers: Endgame, Scott returns exactly the same, and for him only 5 hours had passed. He actually tells Captain America and Black Widow that the "rules are different in the Quantum Realm". So, is there any scene in the MCU where they explain this in a very convincing way?

The only thing I could find was the end credits scene of Ant-Man and the Wasp when Janet says to Scott "avoid the time loops". Should I believe then that she spent 25 years or so in the Quantum Realm without hitting any of those, but for Scott it was different when he actually was far less time there?

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    "Should I believe then that she spent 25 years or so in the Quantum Realm without hitting any of those, but for Scott it was different" — well, it's Scott, so yeah he probably hit one immediately then looped for 5 years before Ratman sorted him out. – Paul D. Waite Sep 24 at 9:11
  • What makes you think you don't have it backwards -- perhaps Janet benefitted from many centuries of time looping, training and honing her current ability to navigate and manipulate the quantum realm. And I do agree with @PaulD.Waite : Scott probably immediately bumped into the one thing that would inobviously transport him 5 years into the future without his knowledge. – Eric Towers Sep 24 at 23:43
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    Because no matter how hard they tried with makeup they could not get paul rudd to look a day over 38. :) – John Meacham Sep 25 at 0:30
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Because the Quantum Realm is unpredictable. One can summarise many different things about whether or not it was because one of the two got stuck in a time vortex or not but the reality is that it's like a hyped up version of Sakaar.

Scott Lang: Have either of you guys ever studied quantum physics?

Natasha Romanoff: Only to make conversation.

Scott Lang: Well, five years ago, just before this Thanos guy... I went into a place called the Quantum Realm. It’s like its own microscopic universe. You can only get there if you’re incredibly small. Hope, she’s my... she was supposed to pull me out. But then Thanos happened. And I was stuck in there.

Natasha Romanoff: I’m sorry. It must’ve been a long five years.

Scott Lang: Okay, but that’s the thing. It wasn’t. For me, it was only five hours. The rules in the Quantum Realm aren’t like out here. They’re completely unpredictable. Is anybody gonna eat that sandwich?

Steve Rogers: Scott, what are you talking about?

Scott Lang: Time works differently in the Quantum Realm. Problem is, right now, it’s chaos, there’s no way to navigate it. But what if we could figure out a way to enter the Quantum Realm at a certain point in time...and come out in another. Like, before Thanos.

Avengers: Endgame

This is similar to what Hank tells Scott when he first mentions the Quantum Realm to him in Ant-Man.

Hank Pym: It means that you would enter a quantum realm.

Scott Lang: What does that mean?

Hank Pym: It means that you would enter a reality where all concepts of time and space become irrelevant as you shrink for all eternity. Everything that you know, and love, gone forever.

Ant-Man

So, time passes differently for them both because of how time works in the Quantum Realm. For all we know Janet may have had some parts where 5 Quantum Realm hours = 5 Earth years and some where 5 Quantum Realm years = 5 Earth hours but it just happened to even out by the time she was rescued. It seems that Janet's plan for her rescue actually hinged on the probability fields lining up correctly, that might mean time also aligns at that point as well.

Janet van Dyne (through Scott): You have to meet me in these exact coordinates. In the wasteland, beyond the quantum void. It's very dangerous, especially on the human mind. So be careful. Time and space work very differently down here. You have two hours. After that, the probability fields will shift, and it'll be another century before they'll align like this again.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Out of universe, however, this was done to make the reunion in Ant-Man and the Wasp more emotional. Presumably, what they did with Scott was for two reasons: make the Snap more impactful and to further the plot along so Scott could have the time machine idea.

"Ultimately you wanna have an emotional reunion with Michael Douglas, an emotional reunion with Evangeline Lily and our first instinct had always been specifically now Michelle Pfeiffer from that first movie. It felt like it should be somebody who’s the right age. As opposed to Michael Douglas with somebody who has not aged. Or Evangeline Lilly connecting with somebody who’s not aged. That just adds another layer of sort of sci-fi weirdness."

ScreenRant, Kevin Feige Explains How Time Works In The Quantum Realm

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  • thank you for the deep explanation. It was strange for me to accept how that did happen, probably because of my scientific mind, but it does fit well with the narrative and the idea of having a family reunion which makes sense from a emotional perspective – Roberto Hernandez Sep 24 at 11:46
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TheLethalCarrot already has the perfect answer for this. I'm posting here just to nerd things up a notch.

There is some incompatibility between quantum physics and relativity, which has been haunting theoretical physicists for about a century now. As I recall Einstein was trying to make sense of it during his last years but he wasn't able to.

One of the most famous attempts to far to integrate quantum and relativity into a unified theory, a "Theory of Everything" (or Quantum Gravity as it is being called now), is the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. All the science for that is in the link, but in very lay terms: some scientists tried to model spacetime while unifying quantum physics and relativity, and in their equations time disappears. It doesn't exist nor have the same role it has in either quantum physics or relativity.

In some interpretations, this means that at its most fundamental states the universe is timeless. Time would be just a dimension you can move on in both directions - at least as long as you are operating at a quantum level.


That is all theoretical, and unless you are a researcher in the field it probably goes way over your head. It goes way over mine too, as I struggle with plain regular newtonian physics. But the whole scientific mumbo-jumbo above may as well have been the inspiration for the science fiction in the Avengers: Endgame movie. And as Stan Lee said in his autobiography, narrative is more important than scientific correctness; Things just have to sound science-y.

Supposing the movie did take inspiration from the work of John Wheeler and Bruce DeWitt, then the reason time passed differently for Scott and Janet is that they were in different places of the Quantum Realm and/or moving in different directions in it.

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