The Physics Behind Interstellar

Hey! I am going to try something new for this site.

Recently, I saw the movie, Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan. The movie was simply incredible, so I searched for interesting facts about how the movie was made. I discovered some compelling facts, facts that would change how we think about black holes and relativity. Before I start explaining these facts, I will warn you that there might some minor spoilers about the movie if you have not seen it yet (Go see it!).

First of all, the most interesting information I found out was about the black hole within Interstellar, called Gargantua (such a cool name). Apparently, the black hole is not some neat special effect; it is in fact a simulation of a real life black hole based on the equations of astrophysicists. Christopher Nolan hired these physicists to create a realistic black hole in the movie, and it sure looks awesome.

To process the numerous equations, the special effects team worked with physicist Kip Thorne days on end to render out Gargantua, which took up nearly 800 terabytes of digital space! This rendering was so accurate that Thorne discovered new things about gravitational lensing. Since the simulation of Gargantua is so accurate to the real life equations, aspiring physicists can turn their eyes onto this virtual black hole to understand the various phenomena that occurs near a black hole. Even Neil de Grasse Tyson approves of the science withing Interstellar, although he is not so keen on landing on a planet withing the accretion disk of the black hole. In the movie, Cooper (McConaughey) landed on this planet and experienced the devastating effects of relativity, a concept that Interstellar portrays effectively.

You may have heard about Eistein’s theory of relativity and his famous equation. Combining a whole theory into one equation may seem far-fetched, but it a theory that is very real. In fact, NASA has to adjust time for relativity in the spacecraft they launch. Objects orbiting faster than the rotation of the Earth are technically traveling into the future, as time relative to us on the ground travels much more slowly. Interstellar shows relativity in action in quite an extreme case. Upon landing on the first planet, due to the extreme gravitational pull of the black hole, Cooper knows he will see his children back on Earth grow up in mere minutes. On this planet, one hour was equivalent to about 7 years. Unfortunately, Cooper spent a little over 3 hours on this planet, but on Earth 23 years has passed. Basically, Cooper saw his children as teenagers grow up to have kids of their own in a couple of minutes of video logs.

Overall, this movie was mostly science fiction (or science that hasn’t been proved yet), but the concept of relativity and the first accurate visualization of a black hole makes this movie unique and deserving of numerous awards.

I hope you enjoyed this new type of post. I’ll be updating this site more frequently with these kinds of posts as well as personal updates like I did in the past.

Until next time

-RobVaivodiss 8)