Renowned theoretical physicist Kip Thorne consulted closely with the director and his screenwriter brother Jonathan Nolan, advising them on how they might use wormholes, black holes, and other spacetime phenomena to send astronauts (played by Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway) to far ends of the galaxy. Related: ‘Interstellar': Meet the Physicist Behind the Science of Christopher Nolan's Space Epic The end of the film, however, veers away from proven science into the realm of the very speculative.
McConaughey’s character, Cooper, ends up in a massive black hole, which holds a gigantic bookshelf that allows him to communicate, via Morse Code, with a past version of his daughter, Murph. It’s pretty wild, and a bit mind boggling for us non-scientists, so Yahoo Movies got in touch with Thorne’s colleague at Caltech, Dr. Sean Carroll, to discuss the science behind the end of the film. How much of the film was based on valid, solid science — and what went beyond the science we have today? The ideas of time dilation and visiting the vicinity of the black hole, and how that would sort of send you into the future, and the actual appearance of the black hole and of the wormhole — this was all very respectable, good science. The wormhole itself, the idea that there is a wormhole connecting our galaxy to another galaxy, is more speculative. It’s plausible, it’s something that is not ruled out by strong evidence that we have right now.
And then the stuff at the end, where they actually go inside a black hole and use some tesseract to visit and influence the past, and then somehow come out of the black hole once again was, I think, pretty far beyond anything we’d consider plausible science right now. But there’s enough we don’t know for sure that you can always say, Well, who knows? Related: 9 Modern Space Movies That Will Help Prepare You for 'Interstellar' Is there any science that could make the stuff at the end possible? I think that it was mostly magic. But I think that there were a few phrases thrown out, if I caught them correctly, that were supposed to indicate that this was not a naturally occurring phenomenon — that this was some set-up by a much more advanced species that lives in a higher dimensional spacetime, and has learned a lot about how to mess with the laws of nature. Remember, in the movie there was a brief discussion about how someone could really live in more dimensions, that they would see time as a place they could just visit, and go back and forth.
I take it that what we’re supposed to imagine is that’s what happened. It’s not simply that Matthew McConaughey fell into a black hole. But that we’re being manipulated a little bit by a species that knows a lot more than we do, so they can do things that we just don’t know how to accomplish. Was there any science in the bookshelf? I think that’s just completely speculative. Clearly, if he was going to see anything at all, the only place that that book shelf and that tesseract comes from is his own imagination and that’s not something you and I would see falling through a black hole. I think that needs to be an artificially constructed thing.
I think the big buy in the whole set-up is that not only are there some laws of physics that we don’t understand, which is certainly true, but that there is some hyper-advance species other than human beings that have learned to manipulate them and are helping our hero out a little bit here.