Saturday, November 21, 2015

Through the Wormhole - Interstellar

"Interstellar" is one of my favorite Sci-Fi movies in recent memory due to its great use of good physics. There are many theoretical concepts that go into this film, many of which are never portrayed correctly in Hollywood but "Interstellar" seems to be the exception to that trend.  Many of the concepts raise many questions but the two I would like to draw attention to are Miller's planet and Wormholes as these two plot points have drawn the most questions out of me.  I chose Miller's planet because of the oddities behind, seemingly covered in liquid water and massive waves but only with a few feet of water on the surface seems far fetched.  I went with the wormhole directly since it is the most fiction concept in the film due to the fact that it is not a natural occurrence.

Miller's planet is extremely interesting because of its composition and position relative to Gargantua.  It is the closest planet to Gargantua that was shown in the film and possibly the most unique, seemingly covered entirely with water it is a rare planet  and even has a substantial atmosphere but too extreme to live on.  Not just because it has 130% of Earth's gravity but it is so close to the horizon that it has extremely high levels of gravity acting on it that cause intense tidal gravity.  As seen in the film, massive waves that are 1.2 kilometers high travel over the surface leaving the water in the swells seemingly calm and shallow.  As stated in Kip Thorne's book The Science of Interstellar these gigantic waves can be caused by one of two things, the first being the rocking of the planet due to the amount of gravity being exerted on it by Gargantua.  This intense gravity causes the planet to rock back and forth or left and right causing the water on the surface to slosh around in an event similar to "tidal bores" here on Earth.  The second explanation for this phenomena still involves the rocking but not the surface water sloshing but, instead the mantle below moving around constantly causing hourly tsunamis on the water above.  Miller's planet is not ripped apart by this gravity because one side of the planet is always facing Gargantua, this also explains the extreme time dilation found on the planet.  It is estimated the planet orbits Gargantua once every 1.7 hours, that is a 1.7 hour year.  This means that Miller's planet must be rotating at an extremely high rate in order to keep one side of the planet constantly facing Gargantua, similar to how one side of the Moon is always facing Earth.  The planet would be going at ten revolutions per second and due to the deformed space around it, it would not feel any centrifugal forces, in fact it would seem normal.  
The wormhole in "Interstellar" is probably one of the most substantial plot points as there would be none if it did not exist.  In the film, the wormhole is suspected of being placed near Saturn by an super-advanced race of interstellar traveling beings or inter-dimensional beings.  As Romilly explains, space has been bent and poked through, creating a passageway across an incredible distance, allowing the crew to travel to another galaxy which would be impossible without the wormhole.  What would it take to create something like this and is it even theoretically possible?  The only way a wormhole can exist naturally is on a submicroscopic level, it is from here that Kip Thorne believes an advanced race could create a wormhole or, rather, exploit an already existing one.  They would have to expand the "quantum foam" to a massive size and be able to brace the bulk with some material that will not allow the wormhole to collapse upon entry.  In the film, the wormhole never collapses and the crew is able to pass through it without any trouble at all, showing that whoever put it there knew what they were doing.  The possibility of a wormhole is plausible but only in the hands of a race evolved well beyond our understanding, being that live in the bulk of the wormhole.  The human race could never accomplish something as magnificent as this as we are now but if the movie is correct and we do in face evolve into a higher race then maybe something as monumental as a wormhole would be simple to us.

1 comment:

  1. OK, I appreciate your attempt to tackle these difficult topics. It's clear you looked at the book and tried to make sense of what you read.