Christopher Nolan Responds To Critics Of Interstellar’s Science

Senior Editor
11.10.14 30 Comments
Quick, Chris Nolan! Draw some equations on a window! No one trusts your science until you draw equations on a window!

Getty/Columbia Pictures

Quick, Chris Nolan! Draw some equations on a window! No one trusts your science until you draw equations on a window!

It seemed like you couldn’t go two pages on the internet this past Friday without tripping over some scientist’s guest post on the bunk science in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (our review). Personally, if I wanted to see something 100% scientifically accurate I’d watch The Human Centipede, but if you’re seriously invested in picking Interstellar‘s nits, Christopher Nolan will be your huckleberry. He spoke to the Daily Beast about it, the TL;DR version of it is “much of it is, of course, speculation.”

NOLAN: My films are always held to a weirdly high standard for those issues that isn’t applied to everybody else’s films—which I’m fine with. People are always accusing my films of having plot holes, and I’m very aware of the plot holes in my films and very aware of when people spot them, but they generally don’t. But what were some science issues people had with the film? That was Kip [Thorne]’s domain.

BEAST: One thing I see being brought up is the time dilation on the planet that they land, where one hour equals seven years (or a factor of 60,000), and to get that time dilation you’d have to be literally skimming the surface of the black hole.

NOLAN: Like “a basketball on the rim,” which is a phrase we use! That’s completely accurate, so there’s no hole there at all. Those issues are all buttoned-up, and Kip has a book on the science of the film about what’s real, and what’s speculation—because much of it is, of course, speculation. There have been a bunch of knee-jerk tweets by people who’ve only seen the film once, but to really take on the science of the film, you’re going to need to sit down with the film for a bit and probably also read Kip’s book. I know where we cheated in the way you have to cheat in movies, and I’ve made Kip aware of those things.

That’s right, Christopher Nolan co-authored a book with Caltech physicist Kip Thorne, his scientific adviser, called The Science of Interstellar (brilliantly released the same week as the film). Which is probably why people hold him to a higher standard than, say, M. Night Shyamalan. I read a few of the criticisms of Interstellar‘s science, and with few exceptions, they seemed to be more critical of the fiction than of the science. Here’s a snip from The Guardian‘s:

Later on, the script suggests the equations don’t work because scientists don’t understand how gravity and quantum mechanics work together, and that’s fair enough. But the film resolves this by sending a robot down into a black hole to send back “quantum data” – that doesn’t really make any sense. It sounds like something they just made up as a plot device with no physics behind it.

I know, right? It’s like they just imagined what it would be like to shoot a robot into a black hole. There are a mountain of legitimate complaints to be made about Interstellar, just in that scene where Anne Hathaway explains the science of love alone, but the robot data from the black hole didn’t bother me. For what it’s worth, I think Neil Tyson already had the last word on this one:

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