Dark Matter: Is Pavia a Real Prize in Science?

Apple TV+’s ‘Dark Matter’ follows the mind-boggling misadventures of a certain Jason Dessen, whose life changes drastically when, one night, he is kidnapped by a mysterious man and, later, wakes up in a world that is not his. There are a lot of things different about this world, and the crux of the matter appears to be one decision that Jason made about fifteen years ago. In his world, Jason was a humble physics professor, and his friend won the prestigious Pavia Prize. But in this new world, it is Jason who has the Pavia Prize, and that has made all the difference to him. Considering how pivotal a role winning this prize plays in the story, the questions about its real-life inspiration arise.

The Pavia Prize in Dark Matter is Fictional

The Pavia Prize that Jason wins in one reality and his friend wins in the other is a completely made up thing. Though there is a real institution called the University of Pavia in the Lombardy region of Italy, it is not connected with the prize mentioned in the series based on Blake Crouch’s novel. The university was established in 1361 and is considered one of the most reputable universities in Europe. Several of its alumni went on to have great academic careers, receiving prestigious awards.

The university also awards several prizes “aimed at supporting especially brilliant students in their studies and at individuating students who have finished their studies, standing out for their capabilities and for the ingenuity of their work on specific topics.” The prize money, however, is limited to 1500€, which goes to “the best master thesis work in experimental physics.”

Comparing this with the Pavia Prize mentioned in ‘Dark Matter,’ it is clear that the prize offered by the real University of Pavia is not what Ryan Holder and Jason Dessen get. The prize in the TV series holds much more value, so much that it elevates not just the financial status (apparently by quite a lot) but also the reputation of the scientist who receives it. In fact, the Pavia Prize is much closer to the Nobel Prize, winning which is considered one of the most significant moments in the life of the person who receives it. The author most likely named it after Julian Pavia, the editor of the book that serves as the inspiration for the Apple TV+ series.

While the Pavia Prize is clearly a fictional creation, it has a significant impact on the life of the protagonist of ‘Dark Matter’. In the version in which Jason doesn’t receive it, or rather doesn’t qualify for it because he gives up on his research, life looks a lot different from what it’s like for the other Jason who gave up everything to have the career that would eventually get him the coveted Pavia Prize but removed value from his life. And that’s what makes all the difference.

Read More: Best Adult Shows on Apple TV+