The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Saturday, December 20, 2014
Art & Entertainment ... Outer Space ... Science ...

I’ve read a lot lately about the movie “Interstellar”. I haven’t seen it, and I probably won’t see it anytime soon. But it sounds pretty interesting given that it uses some very heavy ideas from modern physics and cosmology to cobble a science-fiction / outer-space / dark-future story together. I’ve read that the producers enlisted a world-class physicist, Kip Thorne, to help them “keep it real”. But in the end, Hollywood is Hollywood and entertainment comes before accuracy. From what I’ve read, the whole thing turns into a hot scientific mess, with the hero-astronaut falling down into a black hole past the event-horizon “point of no return”, and yet somehow getting out intact.

This is where the filmmakers obviously told Kip to stay away. (Although, Dr. Thorne is known for some pretty wacky ideas, including the very unlikely idea of using a portable wormhole as an escape hatch from the gravity time dilation effect, thus allowing a person subject to relativistic time slow-down to live in both his or her past, and in his or her present!) Under the laws of physics as we know them, you can’t venture past an event horizon and get out. There are various theories as to how the information about you or anything else that would fall through an event horizon can get out (although you wouldn’t know how to reconstruct and interpret it), and how eventually over many billions of years, perhaps everything in a black hole gets out via some sort of quantum evaporation process. But you can’t send a probe down get any sort of an immediate and usable signal back from it, not even a “gravity wave” signal (which currently cannot be detected anyway for being so faint).

And then there’s the spaghetti-ification factor, the fact that as you approach the core of the black hole, tidal gravitational forces would stretch you into a thin string of matter. Oh, and as if that’s not enough, now there’s the firewall paradox, the possibility that anything which passes under the event horizon is burned to a crisp by rogue energy released as quantum entanglements are transferred.

So, a plot that requires a hero (Cooper) to go down into a black hole as to get some info about it, then return safely with that info, is really pushing it. From what I’ve read, Interstellar tries to get around all these problems (I’m sure that Kip explained all of them) by introducing a fifth dimension. The otherwise trapped hero falls into a “tesseract”, a hyper-dimensional geometric thing set up by the aliens / humans of the future, and that does the trick!

Oh sure . . . introduce a new dimension and re-write the laws of physics. Makes perfect sense to anyone who doesn’t think about it, which obviously includes many viewers of Interstellar. And to mix you up even more, somehow early in the process, Cooper died. But hey, those future humans can go back in time and re-write the script, right? So no biggie here that the hero is dead one minute, and alive but heading on a suicide mission into a black hole the next, with a 5th dimension that even transcends time (so it exists simultaneously at ALL of these minutes!).

And then somehow Cooper gets out of that black hole to re-unite with his beloved daughter, who is now an old woman (Cooper has stayed young due to the time dilation effect from the extreme gravity environment of the black hole). The whole thing becomes a scientific melt-down, Kip Thorne or no Kip Thorne. String theory hints at the possibility of additional spatial dimensions, and Einstein’s relativity theories hint that worm-holes could theoretically exist (another key element in the Interstellar story). But as to additional time dimensions, which would allow you to go back and keep your mother from meeting your father so as to see if you would then disappear . . . sorry, but there’s nothing solid in science right now suggesting that time itself can be check-mated by some sort of “super-time”.

With all these scientific deus ex machinas, Interstellar sounds like a real head-scratcher, something to keep philosophy students up for many sleepless nights. But actually, they might just as well turn off the lights and get under the covers. Despite all the near-the-top and over-the-top physics, the ultimate meaning of Interstellar is really pretty simple after all. I came across a web site article that explains it quite elegantly. Here are the sentences that sums it all up:

Interstellar is the story of a daughter telling her widowed father to start dating again . . . the last line of Interstellar is basically: “Hey dad! I love you, but I’m fine. You don’t need to worry about me anymore. Maybe you should go meet up with your super smart, very attractive, currently single co-worker!”

Yup. Despite wormholes and black holes and tesseracts and trans-time dimensions, love eventually conquers all.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:02 pm      

  1. I saw the movie; found it very confusing, and didn’t like it. I often like sci-fi, but this was too complex for me to enjoy.

    Comment by Zreebs — December 24, 2014 @ 8:26 am

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