Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” is at the center of a hot debate emerging in the scientific community. The film is a science-fiction action/mystery that revolves around a perilous journey for human salvation through space and across dimensions. It received widespread praise from the film critic community, taking number 17 on IMDb’s top 250. On the other hand, members of the scientific community accuse Nolan of twisting science to make the film more appealing.
There were several moments during the film in which characters like Cooper and Brand talked about ideas that even casual moviegoers found ridiculous, especially concepts related to the crux of the film: dimensional physics. Flaws like these undermined the accuracy of the rest of the movie.
“The idea that love is the fifth dimension made absolutely no sense, and I don’t understand how a species can ‘evolve across dimensions’,” junior Greg Eum said. “As soon as Anne Hathaway started talking about dimensional love, I lost a lot of my respect for the movie. It seemed like they ruined a profound movie by being cheesy.”
Like many confused audience members, the astrophysics community began to closely examine “Interstellar” and established different viewpoints about the film’s scientific legitimacy.
Astronomer Phil Plait wrote a scathing review of “Interstellar,” raising several different concerns. First among his concerns was Miller, the first potential planet for human inhabitation that the Endurance visited. Miller was key to the plot of the movie because of the 23 years that passed in the few hours the crew was on the surface due to a proven scientific effect called time dilation. However, in order for the time dilation to be as strong as it was on Miller —close to 60,000x acceleration — Miller would have to be so close to Gargantua, a supermassive black hole, that it would be instantaneously ripped apart.
Plait also points out an inaccuracy that occurs when Cooper has to “fall into” the black hole. The ship comes dangerously close to the black hole, and Cooper ejects himself. Cooper is seen falling into the accretion disk, which is a disk of incredibly hot, radioactive material moving at incredibly high speed. In reality, this disk would have torn Cooper and his ship into a series of subatomic particles. However, the disk is conveniently seen at rest in the movie, allowing Cooper to cross the horizon — something that is physically impossible.
On the other end of the spectrum, astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson has high praise for the film, although he does not claim that it is entirely accurate.
One of the least believable parts of the movie for a lot of moviegoers was the tesseract scene. Cooper discovers that it was he himself who had been sending warnings from the fourth dimension — an attempt to be meta that’s reminiscent of Nolan’s past work, Inception.
“If you can poke through a tesseract and touch books, why not just write a note and pass it through?” Tyson said. This is one of the examples of scientific liberties Nolan is accused of having taken to increase cinematic appeal.
“Interstellar” seems to be riddled with inconsistencies on a scientific level, despite that one of the film’s executive producers, Kip Thorne, is renowned for his work in gravitational physics and astrophysics. In fact, Thorne has released a book, The Science of “Interstellar,” discussing the plausibility of the various scientific phenomena utilized in the film.
Critics of “Interstellar” claim that although the book proves several plot points possible, a lot of them remain extremely improbable.
However, the genre of science fiction is inteded to be exactly that — fiction. Many moviegoers enjoyed the film regardless of its possible inaccuracies.
“The science concepts were cool, and I didn’t care if they were accurate or not,” junior Nathan Kau said.
The high ratings by movie critics have indicated that the success of “Interstellar” isn’t necessarily contingent on whether its use of black holes is impeccable.
“To ‘earn’ the right to be criticized on a scientific level is a high compliment indeed,” Tyson said in his review of “Interstellar.”