Christopher Nolan, Director
Paramount Pictures, 2014.
on planets in another galaxy, and baseball
seems to be the sport of choice even in orbital colonies. This is all the more surprising because the movie itself is a result of an
Although Interstellar does not have the
philosophical sophistication of 2001: A
Space Odyssey, it is still a unique and ambitious film that does not shy away from
complex sociological and scientific ideas.
Despite its grim premise, the film’s message
is ultimately one of faith in science and human ingenuity. As agricultural insecurity
and resource scarcity become realities in
our own 21st-century world, I can’t help but
hope that the film’s main character is right
when he states, “We are going to find the
way—we always have.”
1. M.S.Morris,K. Thorne, Am. J. Phys.56,395(1988).
2. M.S.Morris,K.S. Thorne, U.Yurtsever, Phys. Rev. Lett.
61, 1446 (1988).
A Ten-Year Journey Through
Our Endangered Polar Region
By Camille Seaman
Princeton Architectural Press, 2014, 160 pp.
CAMILLE SEAMAN TRAVELED to the Arctic for the first
time in 1999 on a whim. Captivated by its stark beauty
and inspired by her Native American heritage, she went
on to become an expedition photographer aboard a
number of scientific vessels and commercial ships, visiting both the Arctic and Antarctic regions for months at
a time over the next decade. Seaman’s new book documents the changing polar landscape and the creatures
that call these regions home in a series of compelling
photographs. The book also features a number of short
essays that describe her personal journey as a photographer and advocate for the environment.
and simulations that helped inspire the im-
ages will serve as data in one or more forth-
coming technical papers.
One of the best features of the book is its
coding system for chapters and subsections
into “T” for truth, “EG” for educated guess,
and “S” for speculation. For example, much
of Gargantua’s anatomy is based on broadly
accepted theories in physics and, as such,
this section is labeled with a “T.” The visu-
alization of what one might see inside the
black hole, however, is firmly speculative
and labeled with an “S.”
Clearly, the movie is based in good sci-
ence; however, it is not without its issues.
For example, it decidedly lacks a sense of
wonder and curiosity that one would expect
to see in a story about exploring new worlds.
Similarly, in the imagined future of the film,
there seems to be a noticeable lack of inter-
nationalism. American flags are fluttering
to a supermassive black hole that was rotat-
ing close to the maximum speed allowed by
physics. Whether moving humanity to this
world is a good idea or not is a separate
question, but science allows the possibility
for such a planet to exist.
Although wormholes are still in the realm
of theory and speculation, supermassive
black holes do exist and are often found at
the centers of galaxies. In chapters 8 and 9,
Thorne describes the science that inspired
the visual depiction of the black hole in
the film. Recalling the first time he saw the
film’s black hole—Gargantua—he writes,
“What a joy it was when I first saw these images! For the first time ever, in a Hollywood
movie, a black hole and its disk depicted as
we humans will really see them when we’ve
mastered interstellar travel.” The results
are spectacular to behold in the movie, and
Thorne informs the reader that the models
INSIGHTS | BOOKS
BOOKS IN BRIEF
The Science of Interstellar