Interstellar: A Journey into Knowledge


Entertainment is the main purpose of movies; however, some movies do not only entertain people, they also educate them. Although Interstellar is a science-fiction movie, it does not depart from reality entirely; it introduces people to Theoretical Physics. The scientific theories in the movie have not been tested, but they are based on an “educated guess”.

  1. I’m not afraid of death. I’m an old physicist; I’m afraid of time.

What is time? Is it the same for everyone? Why do people sometimes feel that it passes very slowly while at other times they feel that it passes very quickly? Is it just a feeling or does time actually differ? In Interstellar, time plays a significant role; it was a character in its own right, controlling the characters and shaping their lives.

In the past, time and space were viewed as independent entities. However, Einstein changed our understanding of time; he believed that time and space are related. According to him, time and space are one entity; he refers to them as space-time. So what is it that makes time tick slowly for some people and faster for others?

Surprisingly, gravity has an effect on time; it flows slowly when there is more gravity. For example, the clocks in Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites are different from those on Earth because they are in different gravitational fields

In short, space, as well as motion, affects time; it passes faster when people move around and slower when they do not, so it is not just a feeling.

  1. Today is my birthday. It is a special one because you once told me that when you came back, we might be the same age.

The Twin Paradox is one of Einstein’s interesting ideas; it explains how time differs according to different speeds and locations. Imagine we have a pair of twins; one stays on Earth, while the other travels at the speed of light. Time moves slowly for the one who travels at the speed of light; he/she does not feel it, but everything around him/her slows down including his/her own body. When he/she comes back, not so much older, he/she will find that his/her twin who stayed on Earth has become an old man/woman.

  1. Gargantua

Is it possible to travel into space and return safe and sound, or is it a risky adventure? One of the possible dangers is being sucked by a gigantic black hole. In the movie, they call the black hole they are near to Gargantua. You can read more on black holes in this article.

Interstellar is full of interesting ideas that are not yet applicable – if we exclude from this the first-ever recorded image of a black hole revealed on 10 April 2019, by the National Science Foundation and the Event Horizon Telescope group – but the beauty lies in the possibility. The movie, supported by real science, claims that interstellar travel is not an unlikely dream. The Universe is a dark, mysterious place and scientists like Einstein light candles into it.

Movie makers like Christopher Nolan—Director of Interstellar—take difficult theories and introduce them in a remarkable way. A great movie is not a movie that provides people with all answers; it is a movie that urges them to search for answers themselves.


*The original article was published in SCIplanet, Education (Spring 2015) issue.

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