How deep is a wormhole

"Interstellar": The crux of the matter is the character of the black hole

content

Read on one side

The new science fiction film has been running for almost two weeks Interstellar by Christopher Nolan in theaters - and there is still a lot of arguing about him online. The reason: For the space epic about saving mankind, the film crew used the laws of physics for decisive twists in the plot - and with a rare demand for realism.

The fact that Nolan and Kip Thorne, a former professor at the renowned California Institute of Technology, had involved a legend of theoretical physics as a consultant was effectively spread in the media in the course of the application for the Hollywood flick. Thorne was involved early on in the development of the script and as a research assistant until the film was finally produced. He tried to theoretically back up the tricks of the plot around wormholes, black holes and time travel as far as possible. It goes without saying that with such an array of hard science, the critics on the Internet take a particularly strict look at the result.

The framework of Interstellar is quickly told: The world is on the brink. A corn epidemic only spared the maize, which still grows all over the fields, but also soon threatens to rot. It's good that a rump troop is keeping Nasa, which was actually disbanded years ago, alive in order to forge a plan to save our civilization.

Matthew McConaughey plays an engineer and "the best pilot NASA has ever had". He is now a farmer and the starving civilization of the future no longer needs engineers. He is chosen to leave his farm and family behind on the dying earth and look around in space for a new place to live for the people. To do this, he has to steer a team of researchers in a spaceship through a wormhole in order to scout out some promising planets on the other side, which are, however, located near a black hole.

Yet how realistic is science in Interstellar because now shown?

Newsletter

SIGN UP HERE FOR FREE

Be there live online when our podcasts are created and meet your favorite hosts at the first ZEIT ONLINE podcast festival on Sunday, June 20, 2021.

With your registration you take note of the data protection regulations.

Many Thanks! We have sent you an email.

Check your mailbox and confirm the newsletter subscription.

Some of the ingredients of the blockbuster didn't taste good to the commentators on the net. While the journey through the wormhole - a tunnel through space-time that allows jumps to the other end of the universe - was generally positively received and even praised for the realistic representation, the critics see big problems afterwards at the latest. The astronomer and blogger Phil Plait was one of the first to express his displeasure:

On Slate he carried out what exactly displeased him. (And from now on, spoilers can hardly be avoided.) There is the scene on the first planet that McConaughey and his team visit. It is covered knee-high with water, has 130 percent of the earth's gravity and dances on the edge of a black hole. Plait now states that the equations of general relativity dictate that a stable orbit around a black hole must have at least three times the circumference of the hole. The water planet could not circle around the black throat as closely as shown.

Astrophysicists complain about scenes - spoiler alert!

in the Guardian the astrophysicist Roberto Trotta of Imperial College London complains that a planet so close to a black hole has to be torn into lumps by the tidal forces that trigger its gravitation. In addition, the X-rays emanating from the disk of dust and gas around a black hole are so powerful that no one would survive them. The dust disc itself would already have such a high temperature that everything in its vicinity would have to evaporate. "Interstellar had a touch of science, but the core of the film wasn't as coherent as he assumed it to be, "says Trotta.

But the two did the math without Kip Thorne. The old man wrote a book in which he neatly sheds light on the science behind the film. Thorne assigns a plausibility between "true" and "well-founded conjecture" to "speculative" to each of his sub-chapters - from grain dying to wormholes. "Much of the science in the film is not easily accessible if you haven't read the book," the physicist told the website Inside Science to consider.