A Deep Dive into Christopher Nolan’s Masterpiece Interstellar
The plot summary of Interstellar
2 hours 49 minutes of pure focus.
The Earth is dying: blight is destroying crops and threatening humanity
It’s 2067 and the Earth is dying — a global blight is killing off all the world’s crops, starting with wheat, then okra, and eventually infecting the remaining corn. The world has become a major dust bowl, just like the great depression of the 1930s, but far worse.
What caused the global blight is not explained, although we could infer it has something to do with global warming, bacterial or fungal infections, algae blooms, viruses on chloroplasts, modified genetic organisms (GMOs), or maybe even a recent world war that used biological weapons. An unmanned Indian drone flying around autonomously gives a rare glimpse into perhaps a recent world war that decimated the population tenfold.
What we do know is that humanity’s time on earth is coming to an end. As the older Professor Brand said to Cooper, “your daughter’s generation will be the last to survive on Earth.”
Engineers and scientists are no longer celebrated. In fact, mainstream propaganda dissuades people from becoming interested in new technology.
Corn farmers are the new saviors.
Do ghosts and paranormal activity exist? Exploring the gravitational anomaly in Murph’s bedroom
Murph is a precocious 10-year-old girl who’s into ghosts and the paranormal, to the chagrin of her former engineer father.
Little does Cooper know (as of yet) that the paranormal activity inside Murph’s room is caused by his gravitational anomalies inside the tesseract, which we’ll cover later.
Feeling exasperated trying to reason with his daughter that ghosts don’t exist, he tells Murph “You wanna talk science, don’t just tell me you’re scared of some ghost — record the facts, analyze, present your conclusions.” This advice later ends up saving humanity.
One day, Cooper takes his family to see a baseball game that’s abruptly ruined by an incoming dust storm. They race back home only to realize that Murph left her bedroom window open, exposing the room to dust.
But to Murph and Cooper’s surprise, the dust arranges itself in an unusual pattern, like a bar code, on Murph’s floor. It appears to be some sort of binary code. To understand the unusual placement of the dust, Cooper flips a coin in the air and watches as a strange gravitational pull drags it to the floor quickly, defying the laws of gravity. Could this be Murph’s ghost communicating with them?
Cooper converts the dust patterns into binary code to reveal GPS coordinates. He tells Murph that he’s going to investigate the coordinates alone. Of course, Murph ends up sneaking into his truck to join him in the adventure to the secret coordinates that take them to a field with a guarded fence.
NASA is alive and still operating secretly — and they’ve discovered a wormhole near Saturn
Once Cooper and Murph arrive at the secret location, they take out a pair of bolt cutters to trespass on the premises. No sooner than he gets to the fence a bright light and authoritative voice apprehend them both — it’s TARS, a militarized robot.
Inside the secret facility centrifuge, we realize the coordinates brought Murph and Cooper to a covert NASA base. To Cooper’s surprise, his old mentor and NASA pal Professor John Brand (Michael Caine) is there along with his daughter Dr. Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway).
In a conference room, a room of astronauts interrogate Cooper and Murph as to how they found their location. Murph blurts out, “It was gravity.” All of the astronauts’ eyes light up at this revelation.
Finally, NASA scientists admit that they too have discovered gravitational anomalies several years ago that led them to discover a wormhole placed near Saturn. Dr. Amelia Brand frequently refers to unknown cosmic beings known as “they” for being responsible for placing the wormhole near Saturn. (Cooper doesn’t understand what she means by “they” but later figures it out at the end of the movie).
More surprisingly, we learn that NASA has sent twelve astronauts through the wormhole ten years prior to explore twelve potentially habitable planets as part of a secret mission.
The mission is called “Lazarus” referring to the Bible story about a man who died and was resurrected by Jesus. Its title refers to the astronauts going to these planets and then going into a deep suspended animation sleep (hypersleep), hoping to be found and revived later by future astronauts.
In this mission, each astronaut was sent to their respective planet, and if they found the planet to be suitable for human life, they would send a thumbs-up beacon back notifying them the planet was worth exploring. If the planet was unsuitable, tough luck (hence the bravery), and those astronauts would go into a deep sleep, never to be awoken again, with Dylan Thomas’s poem “do not go gentle into that good night” giving them the courage to go into permanent suspended animation and eventually death when their sleep pod’s fuel runs out.
Of the twelve planets, only three planets sent a beacon back indicating the planet was suitable for human life.
Cooper and Dr. Amelia Brand’s mission, along with astronauts Doyle and Romilly and robots CASE and TARS, is to explore these planets as part of Plan B.
Plan A and B explained: (Plan A is a big lie)
Professor John Brand is the brainchild behind humanity’s last effort to save itself. He has come up with two contingency plans to save the earth — Plan A and Plan B.
In Plan A, Professor Brand hoped to solve the gravitational equation that would help him launch massive space stations off of Earth, thereby saving humans from the dying Earth.
In order to construct and launch space stations that would be large enough to contain hundreds or possibly thousands of people all over the world, he needed to figure out how to harness gravity to make such a liftoff possible. (Such a spaceship would be too heavy and require too much fuel to ever leave Earth’s atmosphere and gravitational pull.)
However, it turns out that Plan A was a giant sham. Professor Brand lied about his progress in solving the gravitational equation because he knew there was no way he could get the unobtainable data from inside the singularity of the black hole. (Black holes can receive information from the universe, but no information can escape a black hole. …or can it?)
Essentially, he created Plan A as a ruse to collect funding for NASA and give hope to hopeless people stuck on Earth — and to prompt Cooper into accepting this mission to save his daughter.
However, it was all just a big lie — he never thought Plan A was a possibility at all and needed to get the astronauts into space to complete Plan B — the real plan.
In Plan B, Cooper, Dr. Amelia Brand, and the team of astronauts will explore the three hospitable planets to find the right Earth surrogate planet.
Then, using 5000 frozen fertilized embryo zygotes, the astronauts would start a new human colony to continue mankind on another planet in another galaxy, while Earth and everybody who lived there, would die off.
Passing through the wormhole near Saturn into a new galaxy, far, far away
Cooper accepts his mission and his fate and tearfully says goodbye to Murph, his son, and his father-in-law. Murph is distraught and their goodbye is painful — Murph hates her father for leaving.
The mission to the wormhole near Saturn will take two years. Luckily, the astroanuts can enter a state of suspended animation (hypersleep) to save resources during their journey.
Two years later, their spaceship, the Endurance, reaches the wormhole.
As they enter the wormhole, things get wild for a bit — the spaceship’s lights turn off, strange particles knock against their spaceship, and Dr. Brand’s hand appears to be distorted, with her claiming that “they” have just shaken her hand. Who is “they?”
Exploring the film’s three habitable planets — Miller, Mann, and Edmund
Out of the twelve planets, only three have sent back a thumbs-up beacon claiming to be hospitable for human life. However, we’ll soon discover this may not be the truth after all.
Once the team has passed through the wormhole, they enter a new solar system that revolves around a supermassive black hole named Gargantua.
Because Gargantua is massive, around 50 billion times larger than our sun, its gravitational pull creates time dilation that seems relative to the astronauts, but actually causes them to age much, much slower than people on Earth. This makes time of the utmost importance in order to solve the gravitational equation for Plan A to be feasible in time before humanity dies out due to blight.
Their first pit stop is to investigate Miller’s Planet.
The first planet is Miller’s planet, named after Dr. Laura Miller, the astronaut who sent a “thumbs up” beacon indicating this life could be suitable for human life.
However, the gravity on Miller’s planet is brutal — about 130% of the gravity on Earth making movement slow and cumbersome. Hardly a planet for human survival.
The astronauts debate whether it’s even worth visiting Dr. Miller, given that one hour spent on this planet equals 7 years on Earth — Cooper doesn’t want to sacrifice the time for his family, especially Murph. However, Dr. Brand and the astronauts veto his decision, and they reluctantly go down to the surface. One astronaut, Dr. Romilly, stays behind orbiting the planet in the Endurance.
As their space pod reaches the surface of Miller’s planet, we see it’s a complete water world with huge, rising tidal waves.
The team anxiously lands in shallow water and begins searching for Dr. Laura Miller. Unfortunately, they see Dr. Miller’s wrecked ship’s remains and deduce she was likely killed only an hour before their arrival. (By the magic of time dilation, they somehow managed to get to the planet only minutes after her death and initial “thumbs up” beacon.)
The crew then encounters a giant tidal wave that renders their spaceship inoperable — for three hours.
Meanwhile, another one of their astronauts, Dr. Doyle, gets swept away in a wave and the crew is forced to abandon him to escape a giant tidal wave that will wipe them all out.
Beyond frustrated at the catastrophic loss of time, life, and fuel resources, Cooper and Brand argue and reunite with Dr. Romilly back on the Endurance — only to find out he’s been orbiting for 23 years during their three-hour stay on Miller’s planet below!
Dr. Romilly has visibly aged and seems shell-shocked, not a surprise for somebody living in complete isolation for two decades, although he claims he did spend a couple of stretches inside the hypersleep suspended animation.
Because the Endurance has been orbiting for 23 years, they only have enough fuel to visit one more planet, not two like they originally planned.
To complicate matters, we find out Dr. Brand is in love with Dr. Wolf Edmunds, who has sent back a thumbs-up beacon that stopped beeping a long time ago.
Cooper, however, feeling no compassion, sympathy, or remorse, forcefully tells Brand they are visiting Dr. Mann’s planet (since the beacon is still beeping) and will have to forego rescuing Dr. Edmund on his planet. She’s beyond heartbroken, believing her true love was drawing her to Edmund’s planet for a reason. Cooper, however, isn’t having any of that and uses reason to pick Mann’s planet as their final destination.
The three remaining astronauts, Cooper, Brand, and Romilly, along with their AI sentient bots CASE and TARS land on Dr. Mann’s planet — humanity’s last chance for a new home in Plan B.
They find Dr. Mann’s (Matt Damon) hypersleep pod and wake him only to find him distraught, weeping, and extremely grateful that they rescued him. PTSD hit him hard!
Dr. Mann’s planet is covered in ice, with solid clouds forming in the sky that lightly scrapes their spaceship on its descent to the frozen tundra ground (don’t worry, the ship’s ok, it’s a light and magical ice cloud). And although the planet seems inhospitable and the air toxic, Dr. Mann claims that beneath the surface there’s a warm spot with enough CO2 and oxygen to sustain life — we later find out that this, too, was a giant ruse.
As Dr. Mann and Cooper are exploring the planet, Dr. Mann discusses the weaknesses of AI and machine learning claiming “A trip into the unknown requires improvisation. Machines can’t improve well because you can’t program a fear of death. The survival instinct is our single greatest source of inspiration.”
Later, as Dr. Mann is showing Cooper the crevasse that supposedly takes them to the hospitable part of the planet, Dr. Mann reveals the truth, “When I left Earth I felt fully prepared to die. But I just never faced the possibility that my planet wouldn’t be the one. None of this turned out the way it was supposed to.”
And there is it, the true revelation — Dr. Mann’s survival instinct and selfishness kicked in. Instead of sending a thumbs-down beacon as he was supposed to, he sent a thumbs-up beacon hoping that he would save himself. Meanwhile, he dismantled his AI robot KIPP to fuel his hypersleep pod beyond its normal limitation (around 35 years) in the hope it would buy him time before his rescue — it worked.
As they’re fighting in their space suits, Dr. Man(n) tells Dr. Cooper, with utmost sincerity and empathy, that he cannot allow Cooper to leave the planet. Dr. Mann feels truly sorry for this, but it’s clear he justified his decisions years ago — he has decided he will be the savior of mankind, and if he has to kill a few astronauts, so be it for the future of humanity.
Mann planned a mutiny to commandeer the Endurance to pilot it to Dr. Edmund’s planet, where has can help raise a new generation of humans.
As Dr. Mann makes this revelation, he rips off Cooper’s radio from his helmet and headbutts him, cracking Cooper’s visor shield, filling Cooper’s helmet with a noxious ammonia atmosphere that begins suffocating him.
As Cooper is slowly asphyxiating, Dr. Mann tries his best to console Cooper as he presumably lies dying. Dr. Mann thought he could stomach watching Cooper die, but he cannot. He ditches Cooper to steal the spaceship and escape the planet that he’s been marooned on for 35 years.
Cooper finds his radio transmitter and radios Dr. Brand for help. With CASE’s help, Brand finds and rescues Cooper before he suffocates.
Unfortunately for Dr. Romilly, he finds a dismantled KIPP at Dr. Mann’s station and tries to access its data, which Dr. Mann has purposely frudged to hide his big lie — oh yeah, and he booby-trapped it to explode if anybody tried to access it. Which it does, killing Dr. Romilly immediately.
CASE and Brand rescue Cooper, only to discover the truth — Dr. Mann lied about the planet so he could be rescued — and now he has stolen a ranger spacecraft to leave the planet and dock onto the Endurance, commandeering the ship to continue to the mission entirely by himself.
Unfortunately for Dr. Mann, he’s unfamiliar with the proper docking protocol for connecting his space pod to one of the docks in the spiraling, circle-shaped Endurance spaceship, and makes an improper docking connection. He winds up accidentally blowing himself up because of a bad vacuum seal, and kills himself while hurling the Endurance into an accelerated death spiral because of the giant explosion!
However, through the magic of Cooper’s piloting skills (and Hans Zimmer’s epic soundtrack, which has spawned countless centrifugal memes) Cooper is able to connect and dock the ranger onto the Endurance.
The slingshot around the black hole Gargantua
With not enough fuel to get to their destination, Cooper comes up with one last solution to launch them to Edmund’s planet — a slingshot around the black hole Gargantua, using their last remaining fuel reserves to escape Gargantua’s gravitational pull and put them on a straight course to Edmund’s planet.
This slingshot maneuver ends up adding 51 more years to the mission’s Earth time, however, it was their only opportunity to manually propel and pilot Endurance to Dr. Edmund’s planet.
At the last minute, Cooper surprises Dr. Brand by telling her that he’s leaving her and CASE behind, and going into the black hole with TARS to figure out the quantum data to execute Plan A to save his family. She’s distraught and doesn’t want him to go, but he leaves anyway telling her “less weight, or something. Find this quote”.
Cooper and TARS fall into the event horizon of the black hole Gargantua
Cooper, in his spaceship, and TARS in its separate spaceship, depart from the Endurance and get pulled into Gargantua’s event horizon — the point of no return.
As they enter the black hole, we see a view of the outside universe gradually shrink to the size of a pinhole as they look up and out of the black hole— they are being pulled deeper into the black hole’s singularity where light can enter, but never escape. Things get funky from here.
(This also means that Cooper and TARS can still receive Dr. Brand’s radio information, but she cannot receive theirs. Again, nothing escapes a black hole. …or can it?)
As Cooper’s ranger falls into the black hole particles of hail and matter inside the black hole begin to cause massive turbulence that eventually splits his spaceship into two. Now, completely exposed in nothing but his spacesuit, Cooper continues falling into the black hole, awaiting his certain demise.
But wait. Something stops him from entering the black hole’s deepest singularity — a four-dimensional tesseract.
Saved by a fourth-dimensional tesseract
Instead of getting spaghettified and killed by entering the black hole, Cooper miraculously survives and falls into some kind of engineered tesseract — a beautiful, interlocking, four-dimensional Rubik’s cube of space fabric and time that allows Cooper to view and travel through the fourth dimension — time itself! Shocking, I know!
Luckily, Cooper and TARS are in communication with each other the entire time via radio and Cooper realizes that “they” must have built this tesseract for them to fall into. TARS doesn’t understand who “they” are.
Cooper explains that “they” are “us” — humans (and presumably machines?).
“They” are descendants of humans who have evolved into a higher dimensional plane (from Plan A and Plan B) and were able to construct this tesseract with machines, which would allow Cooper to send messages back in time to his daughter Murph to save humanity.
Out of the entire world, these two people were chosen because of their intellect, bravery, and most importantly — their connection through love.
Cooper finds himself in a labyrinth of time inside the tesseract, which seems to focus solely on Murph’s childhood bedroom in their old farmhouse.
Floating through the fourth-dimensional cube, Cooper finds Murph’s bedroom as it was when she was 10 years old. He finally spots his young daughter Murph again through the tesseract’s endless hallways of time!
Trying to get her attention before she leaves the room, Cooper knocks on the walls of the tesseract, sending a gravitational wave out of the tesseract across the universe (and back through time) to knock over books on her bookshelf. He sends her Morse code that says “S-T-A-Y.” Cooper was the ghost the whole time!
Sending back quantum data through binary code by manipulating gravitational anomalies in Murph’s watch hand
Cooper sends gravitational waves into Murph’s room to spell out binary code that sends them to NASA, creating a time paradox. (How could he have sent the message to himself in the first place?)
Inside the tesseract, stares at Murph’s bedroom from behind the bookshelf. He is the ghost! The poltergeist that’s been plaguing Murph’s bedroom the whole time!
Cooper has TARS calculate the quantum data inside the black hole (now that it’s finally obtainable) and converts it into binary code for Cooper to send back to Murph, via gravitational anomalies. To generate a gravitational anomaly he taps or pounds on the columns with his firsts to send shock waves through the fabric of space and time, traveling beyond the black hole and back through time itself.
Through his gravitational morse code, he can send messages to Murph in time to save humanity before the blight wipes everyone out.
Later, we see Cooper inside Murph’s bedroom, but now she’s an adult coming to save her pocket watch before a crop fire takes the house. At this moment, Cooper realizes he can manipulate the second hand of the watch he gave her as a child.
Sensing the love and connection to his daughter, he rightfully assumes that she will save the childhood watch from destruction. Once she picks up the watch, she sees the minute hand jumping around in binary code. She rightfully deduces it’s her father sending her a message from the beyond.
Over countless years spent inside the tesseract (which time has brought to a sudden halt because of its immense gravity) Cooper has all the time in the world (or universe) to send Murph the quantum data.
Over time, which is visualized in the walls of the tesseract through beautiful, optical space fabric weavings, we see Murph, who’s now a NASA scientist and mathematician, transcribing the binary code and using the data to solve Dr. Brand’s gravitational equation.
Eureka! Murph solves Dr. Brand’s gravitational equation to enable a new mass exodus off Earth with very large spaceships and colonies
Prior to this point, Murph has figured out from Professor Brand that Plan A was a giant ruse — he told her so on his deathbed.
However, by transcribing the quantum data being sent to the minute hand of her watch, she’s able to solve Professor Brand’s unsolvable gravitational equation that will be used to engineer a revolutionary propulsion system.
With this gravitational equation figured out, humanity can launch several massive spaceships into orbit without a problem — saving humanity, but leaving the dying Earth behind.
The tesseract collapses, and Cooper shakes Dr. Brand’s hand while traveling back through the wormhole near Saturn (Plan A is complete)
Once Murph solves the equation, Cooper knows he has succeeded but feels fearful as TARS tells him the “they” have begun closing the tesseract.
Watching the tesseract close in and unfold itself, you can hear the fear in Cooper’s voice when he asks TARS “What happens now?”
As the tesseract collapses, we see Cooper’s body enter a cosmic haze as he passes through the wormhole back into our solar system. It turns out he’s passing through the wormhole simultaneously as the Endurance crew is passing through the wormhole. It’s Cooper who was “they” who shook Brand’s hand!
Cooper is discovered floating near Saturn
With no spaceship and having passed through the wormhole (for the second time), Cooper is floating lifelessly outside of Saturn unconscious. It seems like this is his end.
However, we see two lights from spaceships in the far distance approach him and ultimately rescue him and TARS moments before his oxygen depleted. The spaceships are from a new space colony near Saturn, which we later learn is called “Cooper Station” not after him, but Murphy Cooper, the savior of mankind.
Cooper and Murph reunited 84 years later while Cooper has only aged two years
Cooper awakens in a hospital room on Cooper Station, a new space colony named after Murph, not him.
Cooper Station resembles an O’Neill cylinder, a massive tube that has its own gravitational pull keeping people down on all sides inside the cylinder space station.
He later finds out that Murph is still alive and that she’ll be transferred to Cooper Station to visit him in a few days.
As Cooper tour the station, he finds he finds their farm house has been restored as part of a historical exhibit, and he later finds out that TARS has been rescued as well.
The big day finally arrives — Cooper and Murph are reunited. However, now Murph is a 94-year-old woman on her deathbed.
Cooper arrives in the hospital room to see his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren surrounding Murph.
He walks up to her with tears in his eyes, seeing how old she is, and jokes with her “You told them I like farming?” based on the exhibit at their farmhouse.
Cooper finally tells her “Murph, it was me. I was your ghost.”
“I know!” she says with tears in her eyes.
He asks Murph how she knew he’d return. She said, “Because my Dad promised me.”
Cooper has tears in his eyes at the sweetness of his daughter, who is now much older and wiser than him.
She tells him, “No parent should have to watch their child die. My kids are here for me now. Go.”
“Where?” Cooper says.
“Brand” Murph says. “She’s out there.”
Their parental dynamic has clearly shifted — she is now his senior and superior, and he is now in the subservient, child-like role. He takes her grandmotherly advice and departs Cooper Station to allow her to share her final moments with her own family.
Cooper steals off with a spaceship to reunite with Dr. Brand for Plan B
Cooper leaves the hospital room, watching his descendants surround Murph on her deathbed. She has been in hypersleep for the past two years waiting for him, and now that they’ve reunited, she knows he has no time to spare to get back to Dr. Brand to continue Plan B.
With TARS’s help, Cooper sneaks into the spaceship hanger and steals a spaceship, presumably to pass through the wormhole and go to Edmund’s planet.
Edmund’s planet (the very end of the film)
Edmund’s planet ends up being the perfect planet to execute Plan B — Dr. Brand’s love and intuition guided her to the right planet. Unfortunately, Dr. Edmund’s spaceship has been wrecked, killing him. At the end of the movie, we see a makeshift gravesite, while CASE helps pick up the pieces of the crash site.
Distraught, but filled with hope, we see Dr. Brand’s colony in its infancy — large, lighted incubation tents built on a somewhat rocky, earth- like terrain.
Staring at her colony with her helmet off, she’s breathes the air, possibly before entering hypersleep to await the incubation of the new generation of humans.
Meanwhile, we see Dr. Brand on Edmund’s planet, with CASE collecting Dr. Wolf Edmund’s remains (he didn’t survive the crash impact) as she gazes upon her newly developed space colony with her helmet off, breathing easily.
Dr. Brand hopefully, (perhaps intuitively) awaits for Cooper to reunite with her to continue Plan B.
Kip Thorne’s “The Science of Interstellar” — a scientific analysis behind the movie’s guiding principals
Dr. Kip Thorne is a theoretical physicist at Caltech who consulted Jonathan and Christopher Nolan during the writing and production of Interstellar. He also helped contribute to Carl Sagan’s screenplay Contact with his producer friend, Lynda Obst — who was the main producer and mastermind behind the initial idea of Interstellar.
After the movie, Thorne published the physics book “The Science of Interstellar” which goes through all of the scientific principles that guided the film’s plot, from wormholes, and blackholes, to explain what the heck the tesseract could have been. His book has been indispensable for helping me write this blog post and understand the movie on a deeper order of magnitude.
Christopher Nolan was adamant about writing a realistic, science fiction that was guided by real physical principles — meaning he wanted everything in the movie to be as scientifically accurate as possible. Thorne acted as a technical advisor, telling Nolan things like “Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light” or “survival a fall into a black hole may be possible.”
Thorne was also responsible for performing the equations that would later be rendered to visualize the awesome Gargantua black hole in the movie — showing the gravitational mirroring and the glow of the appreciation disc, which sort of resembles Saturn’s rings. (It was Gargantua’s accretion disc that glowed hot and bright enough to sustain life in its solar system.)
Thorne is best known for tributing to the theory of gravitational waves and co-founding the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which detected the first gravitational waves in 2015.
Naturally, he was the perfect person to consult the Nolans while they crafted the perfect allegory that explains gravity’s effect on time — time dilation.
What is time dilation?
Time dilation can be described as this — the faster an object moves, the slower it perceives time or ages.
What the heck does that mean?
Well, as you’ll recall in the movie Gargantua, the black hole in the center of the new solar system, has a mass of roughly 50 billion suns! This means the planets in that solar system are traveling extremely fast in its orbit — so fast that spending one hour on Miller’s planet would take seven years on our slow-moving Earth.
But why don’t the astronauts age then? Relatively. The general theory of relativity. The astronauts, they’re only on Miller’s planet for 3 hours in their time. (Yes, I don’t fully understand it either. It’s just kind of a magical concept, just like gravity or electromagnetism. That’s just the way the universe works)
Well, gravity has an effect on time — the more gravity there is, the less time there is. This is why Cooper basically experiences freezing of time inside the Tesseract. Its gravity is so massive that time comes to a standstill.
What are the hypersleep pods in Interstellar?
Placing people in a state of “suspended animation” has been in the ether since H.G. Well’s 1895 novel “The Sleeper Awakes,” in which the protagonist falls into a deep sleep only to wake up 200 years later in a completely different world — kind of like Futurama, or Idiocracy.
The idea behind suspended animation is that humans can go into a restful, deep sleep for extended periods of time to save resources on a long flight— mainly oxygen and food, sometimes for years or even centuries. It’s also the central plot element to 1968’s “Planet of the Apes” where Charlton Heston’s character and his team of astronauts enter the deep rest before crashing landing on the planet.
In Interstellar, hypersleep pods put the astronauts into suspended animation for two years while Endurance travels to Saturn’s wormhole. It’s also the device used in the Lazarus missions to put the astronauts in their deep slumbers — either to await being rescued
, suspended animation, and Dr. Mann’s misguided survival instinct
The main themes of Interstellar
In this order
Love transcends all dimensions
Gravitational waves can send ripples back through time
An allegory for time dilation and relativity
Explaining the General Theory of Relativity is very confusing to put into practical terms we can understand.
What does it mean to travel at the speed of light? Why wouldn’t a person age quickly while traveling at the speed of light?
I recall hearing about how scientists studied if people living in the same skyscraper experienced time dilation because of Earth’s gravity. And yes, they did — the person living in the basement experienced time at a slightly slower pace than the people in the penthouse.
However, the difference was almost negligible — fractions upon fractions of seconds. But still, it proves a point — more gravity equals slower time.
Gargantua, the supermassive black hole that hosts the new solar system for mankind, is equivalent to 50 billion suns! The gravitational pull on these planets would be immense, causing the planets to revolve around Gargantua at an exceedingly fast rate that people on Earth couldn’t comprehend.
Explaining and visualizing black holes for the first time
Humanity’s last chance for survival
Man(n)’s deception and the survival instinct
Celebrating and defending space exploration and the engineers behind it
The ethics of Dr. Brand’s interstellar mission: does the end justify the means?
The creative choices and unspoken rules that guided Interstellar
The characters cannot travel back in time.
Gravitational waves can travel back through time.
The music of Interstellar: Exploring the depths of the universe through Hans Zimmer’s score
Unanswered and unexplained mysteries of Interstellar: FAQs and non-FAQS
Are the bulk beings the descendants of humans in timelines A or B? Are they descended from humans at all?
Did the bulk beings destroy themselves when creating the tesseract to save mankind?
One theory proposes a SOME KIND OF LOOP that had two timelines — timeline A and timeline B. In timeline A, the last remaining humans died out, and their machines continued to evolve to eventually save mankind. In this timeline, machines created the wormhole and tesseract to save mankind, but ended up destroying itself.
What happened to the Earth after Murph controlled gravitational anomalies to launch large spaceships off the earth?
It was proposed in Kip Thorne’s book “The Science of Interstellar” that Murph must have used the gravitational equation to create technology that could harness the power of gravity.
In the original script, the technology created using Murph’s equation could momentarily reduce the Earth’s gravity, of Gs, from 1 G (the typical gravity force we feel on Earth) and reduce it to nothing, so that we could simply lift off and basically jump into outer space.
Of course, this explanation is kind of depressing, because it proves that humans are willing to completely destroy their planet to continue their own species.
Apparently, the Earth might rock back, creating dystopic volcanic eruptions that destroy the planet — however, the Earth might still recover, but any remaining life on Earth is going to be fucked for a while.
Did Cooper actually send himself the coordinates to NASA, or did the bulk beings send it first before the time paradox?
From what I’ve read and understand, this story only has one timeline — and it’s a closed loop, like a snake eating its own tail.
Cooper received the NASA coordinates from himself and then sent the coordinates to himself while inside the tesseract.
Why doesn’t Cooper remember the ghost while he’s inside the tesseract?
Did Cooper age while inside the black hole?
Did bio war kill off the plants and cause the blight? And who’s controlling the propaganda against space exploration?
It’s understood in Interstellar that the global population has been reduced by ten-fold — as indicated by the disappointing turnout for the baseball game earlier in the movie. Keep in mind the team was the Yankees in the movie and they, as John Withgow referred to them as “bums.”
There’s no explanation for what killed off the planets and caused the blight. In Kip Thorne’s “Science of Interstellar” he spoke with Caltech biologists to come up with realistic scenarios that could cause the blight — mainly algae blooms and plant viruses that attack chloroplasts in plants, reducing the oxygen supply on Earth.
Because the Interstellar world is a dystopian one, it makes sense that with a limited population with limited resources, misinformation about space exploration would be easier to spread, even if there was legitimate proof for the Moon landing. At this point, it’s 2067, which is almost 100 years after the moon landing.
How will Cooper find Dr. Brand’s planet? Is the wormhole near Saturn still intact and open or did it close?
Did Cooper need to leave Murph so quickly?
Likely to make the ending more dramatic, however, it’s hard to say what’s considered “real time” especially in one of Christopher Nolan’s film.
Was their conversation really only two minutes long? Perhaps not, this is an edited version to make a great, and well paced movie. But it’s possible that Cooper’s information had already been relayed to Murph before her meeting — like the tesseract, the black hole, and the planets he visited. I’m sure she was informed before he visited. So perhaps this really did keep their interactions brief, especially if she was literally on her death bed and time was limited.
Will Brand and Cooper be the same age when he finally arrives on Edmund’s planet due to time dilation and the black hole’s singularity?
This depends on how much time Cooper spent inside the tesseract, which was located directly above the singularity of the black hole.
Remember, Cooper was found with just a few minutes left in his oxygen tank when he was floating near Saturn. Modern oxygen tanks in spacesuits can last up to 24 hours. So it’s possible he spent 24 hours, or perhaps 12 hours in the tesseract. Or it may have only been an hour, and he was floating in space near Saturn for a few hours.
Inside the black hole, time slows down almost to a halt, but from Cooper’s perspective, time is still flowing normally. But to the outside world, and especially people on Earth, how much time goes by inside the black hole?
Miller’s planet, for example, was 7 years for just one hour. This leads me to believe that perhaps Cooper was only in the tesseract for like 20 minutes and out.
He couldn’t have been in it long enough, or else Murph and all of humanity would have been wiped out long, long, looooong, ago.
Imagine how much time goes by on Earth for one person spent inside a black hole? I have no idea what that would be, but it could be thousands of years perhaps.
Is Cooper Station getting ready to enter the wormhole to travel to Edmund’s planet?
It seems so. This is why Cooper Station was located so close to the wormhole near Saturn. But it’s implied that there’s a whole system of interconnected O’Neill cylinder stations (Cooper Stations) throughout the Saturn region, potentially the entire solar system, thanks to Murph’s new propulsion technology.
Do Plan A and Plan B merge to have all humans eventually travel to Edmund’s planet to evolve into fifth-dimensional beings?
I think so. This is because Cooper Station, and likely the other stations, are located so close to the wormhole. What other purpose could there be to be located right next to Saturn?
What real question is, what will it be like when the Plan A humans meet the Plan B humans on Edmund’s planet? And how evolved and old will they be when they arrive? Probably not very much actually.
How did the closing tesseract transport Cooper out of the Gargantua black hole and back through the original wormhole back to our solar system while shaking hands with Dr. Brand?
I have no idea. The original wormhole was far away from Gargantua’s singularity, which is basically where the tesseract was. This seems like a plothole.
When Cooper tells TARS that “they” are “us” is he referring to humans and computers together?
Yes, this is understood, but not explicitly stated. It makes sense, Cooper (a human) is talking to TARS (a machine) and saying it’s “us.”
TARS was intuitive enough to recognize “they” built the tesseract, probably because it used a form of technology to do so — that was likely engineered by the evolved humans and machines, together. It’s possible for even some transhumanism in there, implying that at some point, Plan A and B humans eventually merged with their robotic sentient beings to truly transverse our dimension into a higher dimension. (This is speculative.)
Interesting bits you probably missed:
Cooper’s opening crash scene happened in real and it was caused by a gravitational analogy that caused his ship to crash. It was “they” grounding him on earth so he could raise a family and conceive Murph.
Dr. Mann’s full name is “Hugh Mann” yep. Human. Not that it wasn’t obvious enough with the name “Mann.” Christopher Nolan thought he fooled ya with that extra N in Mann.
Similarities to the movie Signs
Both Interstellar and Signs have many similarities:
Both protagonists are fathers who have lost their wives
Both feature farmer fathers who used to be another professional before turning to farming (Astronaut and Preacher)
Both are dystopian, science fiction movies that take place in the middle of corn fields (always an ominous sight)
Both movies have many “coincidences” or “signs” that inevitably lead the protagonist to realize the “signs” just in time to save the day. For Mel Gibson’s character, he recognized his daughter’s aversion to dirty water glasses and his wife’s last words were “swing away, Merrol” which eventually led him to realize water hurts the aliens, so Merrol (Joaquin Phoenix) starts swinging his baseball bat at the water glasses, splashing water on the aliens and hurting them/killing them (kind of a silly concept, though. What about humidity in the air?).
In Interstellar, one of the “signs” we might have missed was “they” who created a gravitational anomaly that grounded Cooper from ever exiting the stratosphere (the dream crash at the beginning of the movie.) Remember the crash at the beginning of the movie that Cooper dreams? It’s a replaying of his fateful day when his ranger crashed and failed to leave the Earth’s atmosphere. We learn from Dr. Romilley that this was caused by a gravitational anomaly.
This seems to point to “they” creating this anomaly on purpose so Cooper would stay on Earth and raise the savior of mankind — Murph.
Also, while inside the Tesseract, Cooper realizes he’s been Murph’s ghost the whole time, so he figures out how to communicate with her throughout her life, finally reaching sophistication and maturity to understand how to convert binary code and apply it to mathematics and physics to create her new propulsion program.