Interstellar movie should be shown to physics students – astrophysicist

23 Jun 2015

While certainly dividing opinion, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar was widely praised for its attempts to accurately portray astrophysics as close to reality as possible, and now one physicist is calling for it to be shown to physics students in classrooms.

The director went to extreme lengths, as far as Hollywood directors tend to, to make sure his film following Matthew McConaughey travelling through a black hole to distant planets was as close to our current understanding of science as possible.

To do this, Nolan recruited theoretical physicist Kip Thorn to outline what a black hole might look like, among other areas of space.

Speaking to soon after the film, one of Ireland’s best-known astrophysicists, Dr Joseph Roche, offered his thoughts on the film from an astrophysics perspective, describing it as being “in the higher echelons of accurate science-fiction movies”.

Now, it seems, a scientific paper written by a Dr David Jackson published in the American Journal of Physics and in Classical and Quantum Gravity, confirms the film’s accuracy, and calls for it to be played to students as an educational tool, describing the idea as a ‘no-brainer’.

Ability to inspire another generation

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Jackson said: “The physics has been very carefully reviewed by experts and found to be accurate. The publication will encourage physics teachers to show the film in their classes to get across ideas about general relativity.”

Unsurprisingly, Nolan has spoken of his appreciation for Dr Jackson’s call to arms, believing these papers published online to be something “very important” for the development of scientific minds in schools.

“Right from the beginning we all really believed it’s time to inspire another generation to really look outwards and to look to the stars again,” Nolan said to the BBC.

“We hoped that by dramatising science and making it something that could be entertaining for kids we might inspire some of the astronauts of tomorrow – that would be the ultimate goal of the project.”

To add credence to Nolan’s detail, when putting together the film, the production team that put together the special effects for Interstellar inadvertently discovered two scientific properties of wormholes that were considered so significant that they were entered into scientific papers.

Black hole illustration via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic