We’re back in the car this week after finally getting the chance to see Christopher Nolan’s epic sci-fi drama Interstellar! Did it blow our minds straight out our pants? What makes you think we’re even wearing pants?! The Breakdown is rolling out!
The Drive Home Breakdown 017 – Interstellar
6 thoughts on “The Drive Home Breakdown 017 – Interstellar”
After listening to this episode I felt like something was missing from the discussion. I guess I expected you guys to talk about the deep ideas within the movie and its cinematic qualities in a bit more detail. It seemed like for some reason Interstellar did not really speak to you. In defense of the movie, I would like to respond to a few things that were said on the show:
– The black hole Gargantua is actually based on arguably the most realistic depiction of a black hole ever made in a movie. One of the gurus of general relativity, Kip Thorne (http://www.its.caltech.edu/~kip/scripts/publications.html), is actually an executive producer of the movie. The team used real physics when working on the Gargantua model and investigated in great detail the effects caused by gravitational warping recorded by a camera lens.
– As Kip Thorne also explains, the waves on the first exoplanet are actually tidal waves created by the complex interactions of gravitational fields within the Garguantua’s solar system. Frankly, they are probably a little underestimated …
– I am pretty sure that it is not implied in the movie that Dr. Mann was trained to pilot a ship identical to Endurance. In fact, I see no reason why we should realistically expect him to know the hatch would be pressurised due to imperfect docking. It’s not like NASA did not go through its own share of ridiculous mistakes (look up Gemini 9A).
– Docking a ship is in no way comparable to parking a car. The movement needs to be handled in three dimensions rather than two and with no resistance of the medium.
– The tesseract depiction of extra-dimensions corresponds to 4 dimensions rather than 5 (3 spatial dimensions and time) as tesseract is a hypercube. To my understanding, this would allow you to access any time frame of a single space-point by simply traversing space, essentially like sorting through live photographs taken over your entire life at one space point. Consequently, as one stands outside the arrow of time, there is no “changing the past” or “changing the future” as everything happens “now”.
– The movie does not explore physics of string theory but rather the inescapable consequences of the connection between space-time and gravitation as described by the general theory of relavity (e.g. time dilation due to gravitational fields)
– The way I understand it after seeing the movie twice, the plot is based on a “self-fulling prophecy” rather than pure deus ex machina. I agree however, that there are some dei ex machina in the movie, more on that later.
– To respond to Tony’s criticism about the actions and motivations of the crew, I personally did not have significant objections with what the characters were doing apart from Dr. Brand psychotic monologue when she wanted to choose the planet of her lover Edmunds instead of Mann’s. Her arguments deserved nothing but total rejection from Cooper and the crew, gladly that’s eactly what happened. I also agree that motivations of Cooper at the beginning of the movie and his introduction into the story could have been done better (somehow).
There are also a few things I would like to highlight, as they were not mentioned in the show:
– „In space, no one can hear you scream!“, i.e. there is no sound in space and film-makers should finally realise that. Thanks to Gravity and Interstellar, I hope this is finally gonna happen. When Dr. Mann opened that hatch, the pure silence following his death felt to me more powerful than any sound effect.
– Finally a science-fiction movie where it is actually humans by themselves who go into space.
– All the main protagonists are scientists not wearing white cloaks. Unbelievably, those scientists also have real feelings, real personality and are actually recognized as people.
– The idea that in order to survive, humanity might be required to abandon many of its preconceptions about survival (like the notion that the actions of individuals would need to be motivated by the needs of the species, i.e. plan B).
– As far as I know, this is the first movie to explore the relativistic effects of black holes and strong gravitational fields as a plot device.
– The graphical depiction of the wormhole space warping effect (Einstein-Rosen bridge)
– The way Endurance simulates gravitation through rotation of the ship (the only known way of simulating gravity)
– The soundtrack
What I personally would point out as problems in the movie are:
– Deus ex machina elements: 1) wormhole appearance at Saturn & 2) Murph’s realization: „You are my ghost!“. Here I completely agree with Brent, apart from the fact that the term is in Latin, not Greek.
– It is fairly unlikely to find habitable planets within the gravitational rift of a black hole (radiation, rapidly moving objects etc.). The accretion disk of the black hole would probably not suffice as a light source for any of the planets to support life (radiation goes as inverse square of the distance).
– The black hole is too big. A black hole can potentially form from a star with 1.44 masses of the Sun and for a Sun would be the size of about ~3 km.
– The film realistically depicts how difficult it is to leave the Earth’s gravitational pull, yet later on all space-craft have no problem repeatedly landing and leaving planets
– It takes months to reach Saturn with fully functional Endurance, but it takes minutes to reach Gargantua later on in the film.
– The film does not explain the relation between the black hole and the wormhole in any way. It is true, that it is practically impossible to exit a black hole (apart from the case of adrift virtual particles, i.e. Hawking radiation) within 3+1 dimensions. It is also impossible to survive the approach towards the event horizon due to “spaghettification”. It might however be possible that other trajectories inside and outside black holes exist, provided we can traverse through other dimensions. Sadly, the film does not explore this further.
– While I understand the appeal of the phrase “quantum data” recorded from “inside the black hole”, in scientific terms it is simply ridiculous. One cannot expect to be able to ascertain the basis of a scientific theory from one observation of physical phenomena. Finding the Higgs boson took years of study of carefully recorded physics events within a > 1 PB data set. I wonder how long it would take to transmit these data through the movement of a clock hand …
– It is fairly unlikely that the hibernation technology will work in this manner. While estabilished within science-fiction, it is still pure fiction.
– I do not particularly like how the most accessible point the movie makes is “love transcends time and space”. This notion is inherent to the human condition as Brent mentioned, but within the universe is even less valuable than wishful thiking.
As a thank you for reading this far, I am gonna finish this with with words from Carl Sagan:
“Every surviving civilization is obliged to become space-faring – not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive.”
I almost completely agree with N4M3Z in all his/her Points and actually was about to bring up all the same stuff. One thing that I would add is the Spaghettification (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghettification) effect. The spaghettification Point can lie inside the event horizon if the Black hole is massive enough. On the opposite, it can lay outside the event horizon if the black hole is small.
Regarding the Movie itself I found it beatuiful, had an Amazing soundtrack and very cool realization of the future (the robots for instance) BUT it didn’t made me feel anything. I couldn’t buy in to the emotions and some emotional outrage from Dr Brand. I couldn’t symphatize with her at all. And the fact that she was passive agressive afterwards annoyed me because I would like to Think that people in that situation would be far more professional.
And I didn’t buy the reason for Cooper to leave his family. Especially not that quickly (in a matter of hours). As having a family I would be very very hesitant to leave them behind, especially if the mother is dead. So him leaving his family on a whim almost didn’t resonate with me at all.
Also, the fact that they knew that time passed far slower on the planet should trigger a warning in the back of their head that the one whom Went there Before them should have just have landed and thus they shouldn’t trust the results coming from there. And in any case they would probably not be able to survive there with such a strong gravitational pull.
Nolan is overall pretty bad at portraying emotions and I Think that is because of the personality he himself has. If you look at interviews and behind the scenes stuff from other Movies he is almost completely void in expressing emotions and very correct, factual and so on. His whole apperance seems very strict and unemotional and I Think that reflects in his Movies and thus he can’t really get the emotions across for my part in any of his film even though they are really entertaining and very good overall. Had a more emotionall director like Darren Aronofsky made this film it would probably have worked better for me.
Also, one thing that was a missed oppertunity was the black guys struggle on the space station when they were down on the planet. I Think the Movie would have had more of an emotional weight if we focused on him for 5 – 10 minutes because he must have been really pushed to the edge of his limits being alone for 20+ years.
Overall I liked the film but didn’t found it aw-inspiring. Also, I managed to figure out the basic plot about 1/3 – 1/2 through the Movie so the final of the Movie didn’t really climax for me. I will probably buy the Movie when it’s released to get hold of all Behind the scenes work though.
Nice episode. This show almost makes me wish I had a longer drive to my movie theater.
As for Interstellar, I really liked it, but in a different way then I was expeting. For some reason I enjoyed it on a more macrospective level. The visuals and the soundtrack paited such a large picture that it gave me a more thematic view, where the epicness of the universe was the stage of a human drama that held the future of mankind. The lengths humans go to to survive, self sacrifice, selfishness, the frailty of the human condition when faced with overwhelming circumstances and how that triggers the fight-or-flight response in us all.
The movie has many flaws, but I am not really bothered by them since they seem small in contrast to the canvas they were played out on. Had the movie taken place in a small town or even a big city I am sure I would have liked it less, but because it took place in the grandest place ever, the faults seem tiny. In many ways it is the biggest Shakespearean space opera ever made.
Please give us a new episode.
Love your podcasts.
I want to thank you guys for recommending Drive. That movie was amazing!
If anyone is interested, here is a fairly simplified article about the black hole rendering: http://phys.org/news/2015-02-interstellar-technology-black-holes.html