The science behind the movie Interstellar


Interstellar is one of the most interesting and cerebral movies ever, and cemented Christopher Nolan’s status as one of the leading filmmakers in Hollywood. It also illustrated, once again, the popularity of intelligent films, and how people enjoy movies that make them think. The movie follows a group of astronauts who travel to space in search of a wormhole that might help them find a new planet for mankind to inhabit.

The movie has been praised for its epic scope and visual beauty, but also for its use of real-life science to tell the story. So, we’re going to look a little closer at the science used in the movie, what it is, and how accurate it is. In fact, Kip Thorne, an acclaimed theoretical physicist was actually hired to work on the movie, and pore over the scientific terms that were being used.

Wormhole travel

Wormhole travel is one of the key areas of the movie and something that the filmmakers needed to get right. In layman’s terms, a wormhole is a tunnel in space that allows travel from one distant point to another in a very short period of time. The interesting thing about this is that it has never been proven whether or not wormholes actually exist, though Einstein’s theory of relativity posits that they are certainly possible. However, the team who worked on Interstellar went to great lengths to ensure the depiction of a wormhole in the movie was accurate. They actually based the representation in Einstein’s equations, making it the most accurate depiction of a wormhole in a movie ever!

Supermassive black hole

As well as a wormhole, plenty of the movie revolves around a gigantic black hole, nicknamed Gargantua. Now, the visual effects team spent a great deal of time and effort working on making sure the black hole looked as impressive and accurate as possible. Indeed, the black hole looks incredible, and the team even designed it with the use of gravitational lensing as well – this is a phenomenon that sees huge objects in the foreground (such as black holes) warp and mutate the light from objects much farther away. Apparently, the black hole created for the movie was done so successfully that it is being studied in actual fields of science.

Some issues

In spite of the great accuracy in the movie, there are a few scientific gripes with the film – as you might imagine. In the movie, the crew spends a fair amount of time pretty close to the black hole, which, in reality, would probably kill them due to radiation – or they would be destroyed by the intense gravitational pull. Furthermore, the time discrepancy when they land on the planet (1 hour equates to 7 years on Earth) is too extreme. Time differences like this do occur, but there is no way they would be as extreme as they are in the movie. Also, a planet would not be able to exist that close to a black hole, it is impossible. These are a few of the issues with the movie, but, for the most part, they managed to get it right.

Interstellar was a blockbuster phenomenon, and the movie is rightly praised for its depiction of science and pace travel. Yes, there are a lot of complicated scenarios in the film, and, as we’ve seen, the movie does make a couple of errors. But, for the most part, Nolan and his team show a great respect for and understanding of the field of physics and space travel, and they end up getting most things spot on.