Sunday, 9 November 2014

Interstellar: Movie Review from a physicist's point of view

Copyright- Interstellar
Finally, I get to do the one cool thing I can do with my knowledge in Physics. A movie review. And why not, it's Nolan who deserves it all!

Yes, I am real kiddish when it comes to movies like The Prestige, Inception , Memento and The Dark Knight trilogy.

The film has a slow beginning with Cooper (Matthew McConnaughey) wandering in his farms with his kids Tom and Murph. Being a pilot and an engineer, the idea of farming bores him the most. Murph is always on the lookout for something unusual and mysterious and keeps asking questions to Cooper regarding Science and ghosts and the resemblance of her name to Murphy's Law (Anything that can go wrong, will.) to which he gives a very optimistic response.
They live in a world of drought and famine where military is non-existent. As humanity is facing extinction, they find a mysterious wormhole near Saturn from where they need to explore possibilities of human survival in other solar systems. 

The plot develops from this point on-wards and Coop is set for a space-time odyssey into the unknown where he is constantly at war with the ideas of returning back to his children as promised or keep searching for systems that can harbor humans.

Blackholes, wormholes, relativity!! Well, the movie describes them both theoretically and physically in a much more beautiful way than I could express or even the great Stephen Hawking could mention in his book "A Brief History of Time". The very fact that team Interstellar went to the lengths of publishing scientific papers for a physical description of a wormhole and a blackhole is astounding. One may imagine Christopher Nolan's dedication and sincerity in writing and directing a sci-fi movie when world renowned theorist and astro-physicist Kip Thorne is seen as an executive producer and scientific consultant for the movie! Initially, the script was written by Jonathan Nolan and Steven Spielberg was supposed to direct it, but he dropped out, only to our amusement of finding the movie in Chris's basket. There was no going back from then.

Nolan's favourite set of actors are to be seen, as always, in their best of-course. The wits and annotations of the eccentric Michael Caine (as Professor Brand) perfectly complement the background score of the ingenious Hans Zimmer (who provided music for Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Rush and so on). The Devil wears Prada famed actress Anne Hathaway does not disappoint at all for her first sci-fi movie and Matthew McConnaughey with all his brilliance totally justifies his previous Academy Award over Leonardo DiCaprio for the Dallas buyer's club with his immaculate and exceptional role as a son, a father, an astronaut in the movie. Human emotions and the knowledge of pragmatism are always  at war separated by a thin line without one clouding the other.

Nolan perfectly uses the concepts of wormholes (space-time warping), space travel (time dilation due to relativity) without compromising on any laws of Physics and exploits the mystery behind the black holes to give a wild dramatical twist to the plot, opening a gate for debate and cynicism. Some online news agencies and numbnuts may argue it is a long shot for the human race and a plain 3 hours long advertisement for the NASA for whom I have simply two words, "F Y".

In a nutshell, the 169 minutes long movie has much more to offer than the three trailers showed to you and is worth every penny you would spend in Dollars, Euros or Rupees. Rush to a Dolby-Digital theater near you ASAP and grab the complete package of a wild journey in space with creativity and emotions running amok!! And definitely this is not a movie where couples should go to satisfy their physical needs, because Nolan and Physics enthusiasts would not tolerate that!! 


Some basic notes and videos for those oblivious to the terms like singularity, relativity, wormholes, black-holes and higher dimensions:

Singularity is a theoretical concept where the general laws of nature (Newton's laws and relativity) and matter cease to exist. What happens inside is still unknown.

Apart from the three physical dimensions that human brain can perceive, time is considered a fourth dimension where 3-D objects like us move linearly. The curving of 4th dimension or moving non-linearly in time is taken to be fifth dimension which is the concept of a wormhole, where the space time is curved. Or simply imagine a 1-D wire that is bent to form a 2-D ring. That is just adding an dimension. Wormholes are actually 3-D holes (spheres) that connect different points in space-time. (Analogous to crossing a tunnel made in a mountain, serving as a shortcut, instead of going around the mountain or over it!) It is tough for us to digest this fact because our brain is limited to see and perceive three dimensions. But just because an ant can't fly or move in more than 2-dimensions at the same time, doesn't mean that birds cannot fly and move around in 3-dimensions.

Black hole is a region in space-time from which nothing can escape, even light! Therefore the name. It is the ultimate stage in the lifetime of a star having enormous mass and gravitational forces. Various scientists have given theoretical proofs of singularity in black holes but after all it's all on the paper. As it cannot be seen, the only way to detect a black hole in space is by it's gravitational effects. Stars revolving around a point mysteriously are considered revolving round a black hole.
Time dilation curve

Another non-trivial fact that one would need in comprehending space travel is time dilation. Time does not work at same pace for different points in space simultaneously. Time is relative after all. This can be understood by a equation from special theory of relativity as time in a reference frame moving at some velocity 'v' with respect to a fixed frame. In simple words, passage of time for a moving object slows down as it approaches the speed of light. 

Below I have added a video to understand the higher dimensions and the second one is about the scientific research undergone in making of the movie. Enjoy!


***I would recommend not reading the comments/discussions unless one has seen the movie***

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