Sunday, November 16, 2014

INTERSTELLAR

"It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species”--Stephen Hawking.

What happens when Hollywood visual effects wizards brainstorm with a legendary physics wiz? Well, in the case of Interstellar , the result is a groundbreaking new look at our universe. Director Christopher Nolan (Inception reviewed by F2F) and famed scientist Kip Thorne wanted a realistic representation of how black holes and wormholes behave, requiring complex computer models (that ate up hundreds of hours of rendering time). Thorne delivered a slew of  theoretical equations to the Vis FX team at Double Negative, who transformed them into accurate computer simulations.    Subsequently, the images became valuable new tools for physicists to study.  Thorne also wrote two new scientific papers: one for the astrophysics community and one for the computer graphics community.  Fiction assisted fact and vice versa. 
Nolan (left)  and Thorne (right) discuss big science ideas
Thorne's depiction of how black hole distorts light
What's interesting is how Nolan, screenwriter brother Johnathon Nolan, the production team, and the actors went to great lengths to present a realistic depiction of how NASA might tackle a way to save a dying Earth. The actors gained insight from real astronauts. In particular, Anne Hathaway (an admitted science nerd) conferred with retired astronaut Marsha Ivens, who completed five missions and logged over a thousand hours in orbit, delivering supplies to the Russian Mir station and the International Space Station.  Michael Caine (who plays Professor Brand) was asked to model his character on Kip Thorne. Also, since the plot involves blight and dust storms plaguing Earth, director Nolan got permission from famed documentarian Ken Burns to include interviews with actual Dust Bowl survivors in the movie.  The production team also mimiced real dust storms of the 1930's that blew through farmlands, caused by severe drought.
Dust storm circa 1935


But the crux of the saga depends on viewers to believe Mankind might find salvation through incredibly lengthy journeys through a wormhole  --shortcuts to other galaxies-- that stem from Einstein's theory of relativity.  Some critics believe it would be impossible for humans to travel through them if they existed.  F2F wanted to learn more and discovered several websites that attempt to explain much of this science behind the fiction. But quite frankly, we don't have Phd's, so we'll reference a neat video here (thanks to qa-nature.com. ) and another site here.

Black Hole in Interstellar
Side note: Wormholes appear in other sci-fi films and TV fare, most notably "Star Trek". (F2F's author once interviewed science consultant Andre Bormanis about wormholes and other space phenomena for special documentaries available on DVD releases of Star Trek: Voyager). 
Wormhole in Interstellar


Other films featuring wormholes and black holes:
Thor
The Avengers
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Stargate 
The Black Hole




More info on Interstellar here and here.