An Interstellar Trailer

This past weekend I went to see Godzilla with my good friend Sam. Before the movie came on we were sitting the the theater joking around, and talking about my imaginary brother Dave, until the previews came on. The first one was for this newfangled Christopher Nolan movie called “Interstellar”. And the first thing that Sam said to me after watching that trailer was, “Hey, you like space.” One awful segway later here we are. So as your resident expert on space and the like, here are my impressions. (I hope you’re ready for the long haul)

(Also why is Anne Hathaway the screenshot for this trailer if she’s not even in it?)

Things begin as you would expect. Matthew Mcconaughey is driving around being all Mcconaughey-y. And then we hear the wonderfully mis-guided expeditionary dialogue “The world doesn’t need anymore engineers. We didn’t run out of planes and television sets. We ran out of food.” Ahem. As an engineer(ing student) let me just say that engineering is all about solving problems, so maybe if the world had more engineers then you would have been able to solve that food problem of yours (although maybe the point of that statement was for it to be proven wrong). Anyways moving on. It’s clear from this that the world is in some kind of apocalyptic, or at the very least near-apocalyptic scenario. If I had to guess (which is pretty much all I’m going to do for the rest of this post jfyi) I’d say that there is a global famine, wars and conflict are erupting all over the place, and society is on the verge of collapse.

Alright, fun times. Cue british guy with a solution. None other than Michael Caine (aka Alfred Pennyworth) with a plan to turn Mcconaughey’s cowboy character into a Space Cowboy (also known as the best kind of cowboy). Mr. Caine then explains “we’re not meant to save the world, were meant to leave it”

I hope that's an assembly building, because building an office 5 feet from a rocket launch is a terrible idea
I hope that’s an assembly building, because putting an office 5 feet from a rocket launch is a terrible idea

So it would appear that Mcconaughey is leading (always put the Space Cowboy in charge) a team of astronauts who are to travel to some distant planet in the hopes of restarting human civilization somewhere other than Earth, and somewhere outside our solar system. Suddenly the name “Interstellar” is starting to make sense.

So blah blah blah more stuff happens the little girl, Murphy, says something about coming back (honestly don’t know what though it was all muffled and crap). Finally we get to the good part. ROCKT LAUNCH!

They put a corn field there because he's a Cowboy, also AMERICA
They put a corn field there because he’s a Cowboy, also AMERICA

Finally, we’re in space. Let’s be honest, the trifles of humanity pale in comparison to the awesomeness of the cosmos. Now we can finally begin to dissect their plan. So they do some space stuff, they float around, there’s that weird metal thing, but then the crew (which for the record, has been awfully vacant from this entire video) goes into some sort of cryo-sleep.

Given that this is Hollywood, I bet you that he dies first, probably in some kind of sacrificial manner.
Given that this is Hollywood, I bet you that he dies first, probably in some kind of sacrificial manner.

This is good, because if they plan on traveling to any distant stars it is going to take a long ass time. Next we see the ship they’re flying in.

NASA would never build this it's not phallic enough
NASA would never build this it’s not phallic enough

The circular shape is good, and if you notice in the video it’s spinning. That means that Christopher Nolan has done his homework. Making this kind of spinning spacecraft has been a dream among space-farers for decades, because the centripetal force caused by the spinning spacecraft would allow you to create pseudo-gravity. Because as it turns out, zero-gravity is really bad for your health.

So we have a spacecraft, but how are our intrepid heroes actually going to get to their destination. I don’t see any kind of propulsion system on that thing, and I’m going to assume that these people haven’t magically invented any kind of warp drive. Now the most learned amongst you could argue that they will use gravity assist to reach their target, which is not a bad idea. If you don’t know what gravity assist is, it’s when you fly in towards a large body, say a planet in such a way, that the gravitational pull of that object accelerates you forwards. It’s what they did in Armageddon (although I wouldn’t recommend getting your science from that movie), and it’s what a lot of NASA spacecraft use. The only problem is it still won’t speed you up fast enough to get where you’re going in anywhere near a reasonable amount of time. Both Voyager 1 and 2 used Gravity Assist and it took them more than 30 years, just to leave the solar system, and it’ll probably take them another 300 years (don’t quote me on that number) to reach the nearest star.
Which brings us to the last few seconds of the trailer.

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Ah yes. Now I assume that this is a black hole. If this is so well then I have a long list of problems with the ensuing scene. First off, black holes are black, not dark and reflective, black. You cannot see a wormhole, because it emanates not light, by very definition it absorbs all light. Secondly how did they find this black hole. We’ve found black holes before, but that’s because they’ve had stuff orbiting around them, or they’ve been actively eating nearby stars (which is badass by the way look it up). This one is off by it’s lonesome. Not eating anything (and therefore not emitting radiation). By what magic hath you found this dreaded creature!? Nextly, how were they planning on entering this black hole?


Luckily this black hole does not appear to be eating anything, so there isn’t millions of degrees of heat to deal with. But we do have the pressing issue of tidal forces. You see as you fall towards a black hole one side of you will be closer to the black hole than the other, just as your feet are closer to the ground than your head. The problem is the gravity of a black hole is so strong that even over the minuscule distance of the length of your body, the difference in force is enormous. As this happens your body will be pulled apart stretched longer and long as you slowly descend into the event horizon (which may or may not exist). To use Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s term, you will be spaghetti-fied (to find out more, pick up a copy of “Death by Black Hole” by astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, host of Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey). But you may say, oh maybe their spaceship is super strong. Except that it doesn’t matter. Near a black hole the gravity is so strong that it pulls apart the very atoms that you are made of. Even if the spaceship was made of adamantium it would be pulled apart and spaghetti-fied at the atomic level. Add to that the fact that you can’t escape a black hole. Sorry Matthew Mcconughey isn’t coming back Murph.

But that face though
But that face though

Now as to their objective flying into a black hole I see two options. Either A) They intend to use the intense gravity and the time dilation caused by it to wait for a long time until they can return to earth and repopulate it. Or B) It’s a wormhole, nothing I just said applies (which makes me wonder why I bothered saying any of it) aaaaannnnd yeah it’s totally a wormhole.

Now there are a couple of things to consider when talking about wormholes. First off no one has ever seen one. In fact we don’t even know if they exist, we theorize they do, because there’s a loophole in the math that says it’s possible. The problem is, we don’t know of any cosmic process that can create them, so (as far as we know) there aren’t any wild wormholes roaming around. The next problem is stability. As I understand it, Wormholes are essentially black holes with two openings. The problem is that inside of the wormhole is a singularity, basically a point of infinite density. It’s the thing that’s causing the wormhole in the first place. The problem is, you can’t exactly pass through a point of infinite density, and in a wormhole there’s no going around. Now in theory you could solve this problem by inserting some kind of “exotic matter” as they call it, that would have some kind of anti-gravity that would push on the singularity and create an opening, thus making a traversable wormhole. The problem is we barely understand exotic matter enough to make it let alone, create a wormhole with it. If your head hurts right now (I know mine does) don’t worry, that’s natural, not even the people who study this stuff fully understand it.


Now this is a movie, and some suspension of disbelief is to be expected. Mayhaps Michael Caine has found a way to create a traversable wormhole, maybe Mcconaghey (that is so annoying to spell) really will save humanity. All I know is it can’t be worse than Armageddon.