Written by Hudson Hongo for io9.com
“Venom—Sony’s recently released tale of the world’s worst journalist and his head-chomping pet alien parasite—poses a number of interesting questions, such as “Is this movie bad or perfect dumb fun?” “Where do the heads go when Venom eats them?” and “What kind of accent, exactly, is Tom Hardy trying to do here?” Leaving the theater on Saturday, however, one thought in particular stuck with me: “What would happen if you crammed Venom in an e-cigarette and vaped it?”
At its most basic level, the Spider-Man adjacent buddy comedy operates as a story about scientific hubris. After recovering some sludge-like alien parasites from a comet, a villainous Elon Musk type begins a series of deadly human experiments to find them suitable hosts. Eventually, one of these “symbiotes” bonds with Tom Hardy’s character, transforming the two of them into the toothy anti-hero Venom.
Watching the symbiotes slither across the screen, my inner mad scientist took over. Soon, I was wondering if they—like Tide Pods and Carolina Reaper peppers before them—had potential as an e-juice substitute. Surely, I’m not alone. As a movie which prominently features an Eminem song in the year 2018, e-cigarette enthusiasts are presumably a major part of Venom’s audience.
To help answer my question, I talked to Dr. Shane Campbell-Staton, an assistant professor of biology at UCLA. He’s also the host of The Biology of Superheroes Podcast, where he regularly applies his expertise to fantasy worlds like the one depicted in Venom. According to Dr. Campbell-Staton, the premise wasn’t totally unfeasible (by comic book standards), but the results would not be pretty.
Dr. Campbell-Staton said the “key biological question” was whether the Venom symbiote could survive the vaporizing process, which would convert the alien life form from a semifluid into an inhalable aerosol.”