Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Well, I've finally gotten around to watching the movie "Interstellar", as well as reading most of the book The Science of Interstellar.  On the whole, I found it disappointing, in no small part because I had had such high expectations for it.  Here are a few of the things in the movie that disappointed me most.  Needless to say -- SPOILER ALERT!

1.  It may well be the case that those involved in writing and producing the movie have no religion, but the fact that they completely left religion out of the film is a serious indication that they don't understand humanity at all.  Some people in fact never pray; some never tell jokes; some never sing; some never explore or investigate out of pure curiosity.  Normal people do all of these these things, the first no less than the fourth.  Now I believe that there is one religion that is in fact true, but that is not the point.  Maybe in the face of starvation and possible extinction people would worship Anubis or the Aztec corn god, but you can bet there would be some sort of religious boom. 

2.  For a movie that so noticeably lacks religion, it is particularly frustrating to see characters become prophets of the writers.  Cooper's unsubstantiated speculations while in Gargantua really do represent the intentions of the writers, but if we are really to take the serious scientific viewpoint that Kip Thorne thinks this movie promotes, they are still just groundless speculations.

3.  Kip Thorne should not have let them treat an equation in physics the same way Walt Disney treated "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" -- as a magical invocation that automatically creates the desired practical effect.  Let's face it:  even if the Professor had a complete understanding of how gravity is united with the strong nuclear force and the electroweak force, with only bamboo, vines, and coconuts he would still be no closer to getting off Gilligan's Island.  Perhaps more seriously, we have known for decades how nuclear fusion occurs in the sun, and that the deuterium in the oceans represents an essentially unlimited supply of cheap energy, but we have yet to engineer a practical fusion energy plant.

4.  If we take Cooper's unsupported speculations as gospel truth, it is still meaningless to talk about humans "evolving" into 5-dimensional beings with bodies made of something other than normal matter.  Evolution is not magic.  For that matter, it is not at all clear in what sense such beings, even if they were created by our descendants, could really be our descendants, and they certainly would no more be "us" than amoebas are "us".

5.  If we take Cooper's unsupported speculations as gospel truth, there is a closed causal loop in our descendants preventing the extinction of the human species that gave rise to them.  Those are always unsettling, but they are not obviously impossible.  (It is doubtful, though, that they are consistent with Free Will, which is a strong argument against them.)  Maybe the ugliness of a closed causal loop is the "explanation" as to why our distant descendants, who are clearly messing very seriously with their own past, used such an indirect and inefficient way to communicate the quantum data to Murph Cooper.  Maybe.  If not, that's something that needs an explanation. 

6.  While Cooper was in his tesseract, he was able to "see" Murph's room and "push" the books.  Both of these involve electromagnetic interactions, except that when the books in Murph's room actually move, it is supposedly due to gravity, and Cooper was never visible to anyone in the room.  This pretty strongly implies that he was actually in some sort of virtual reality that only interacted indirectly with the room.  Or, more likely, everything that happens after he crosses the event horizon is his dying delusion, like "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge".   Murph, however, in "prophet mode" detected a person behind the strange occurrences in her room.  All this in a movie that has no room for God.

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