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Interstellar: 8 Burning questions you’ll have after watching

I’m sure I’m not the only one who was champing at the bit to watch Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Interstellar. Space travel? Planet exploration? Saving humanity from imminent doom? Honestly, they might as well have taken my money after I saw the first preview. But after watching this movie, I have questions — a lot of them.

I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this article, you’ve seen the movie and have questions, too. If I’m wrong about that, I should probably warn you about spoilers. Obviously, this article has a lot of them.

Let’s dive in.

1. Why didn’t NASA know about him?

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Matthew McConaughey’s character, Cooper, is introduced as a farmer who is also an engineer, a pilot and an astronaut. Conveniently, he lives within driving distance of NASA’s secret hideout, yet no one at NASA knows this until his daughter’s mysterious room “ghost” leads him to their door. For such a desperate time, it seems strange that NASA didn’t recruit him for this mission on their own, especially since he was already trained and happened to live so close.

2. Why didn’t Cooper listen when Murph’s “ghost” spelled out “STAY”?

Considering this “ghost” had just given him the coordinates to NASA’s hidden facility, you’d think Cooper would have listened when it warned him not to go on this dangerous mission… but, no.

3. Who the hell are “They,” and why do they care about us?

In the film, NASA has detected a mysterious wormhole near Saturn that is believed to have been put there by an advanced civilization that the characters refer to as “They.” But who are “They,” exactly?

For the answer to this question, I turned directly to a producer of the film, theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. In his book The Science of Interstellar, he explains, “‘They’ are actually Us. They are future descendants of the human race that have evolved beyond our 4-dimensional universe (3 space dimensions, and 1 time dimension), into the 5-dimensional universe ‘They’ occupy.”

But wait… that leads to my next question.

4. Isn’t there a time paradox in here somewhere?

If “They” are us, and we are “Them,” then would we really have been in this situation to begin with? I mean, isn’t that basically saying we already figured out how to survive this major catastrophe on our own, without “Them” helping us?

5. Where did that tsunami come from?

Once the crew begins exploring space, almost everything you see seems make-believe, but most of it is actually backed by some incredible science.

Thorne explains that the massive waves you see when the crew visits Miller’s planet are caused by the tidal pull of Gargantua (the black hole), as well as the position and speed of the planet’s orbit, how it rotates, its centrifugal force and even its deformed egg-like shape. Pretty much everything that could be factored in, was. And, according to the math, these tsunamis would rock this planet approximately once per hour.

6. What’s that you say? An ice cloud?

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Yes. According to Thorne, the clouds you see in the atmosphere of Mann’s planet are presumably frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice. He imagined this planet had an extremely elliptical orbit around Gargantua, which caused it to move a great distance away (freezing the CO2 in the atmosphere), then pass extremely close to the black hole when it came back around. As the planet heated, the frozen CO2 would then vaporize.

What I couldn’t find, however, was an explanation for what kept those huge chunks of ice in the air when the planet wasn’t warm.

7. How could Cooper survive falling into a black hole?

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Thorne claims that Gargantua’s mass was 100 million times bigger than the mass of our sun, but that recent science has discovered that not all black holes contain the extreme singularity that we often associate with them. Some actually have what he calls a “gentle singularity” and because of that, he says that it’s possible that Cooper could have survived this.

Personally, I’m calling BS. You can’t say a “gentle” lion is the same thing as a kitten, and you can’t say a “gentle” black hole won’t kill a human. You just can’t.

Thankfully, Thorne also presents the explanation that “They” rescued Cooper from his almost certain death. Which brings me to my next question.

8. What the hell happened in that black hole? My head is spinning

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Inside the black hole, rather than being turned into human spaghetti, Cooper finds himself in what the film calls the “tesseract.” The tesseract is a 3-dimensional representation of space created by “Them,” the 5th dimensional beings. In it, Cooper’s place in space-time is “docked” to the bookcase in Murph’s room, across an infinite period of time, which gives him access to every slice of time that took place in that room.

Weird? Yes. A little creepy? I think so. But the main point that is ultimately revealed is that Cooper was, in fact, Murph’s ghost. This in itself generates hundreds of questions, but my primary question is this: Rather than spelling out the message “S-T-A-Y,” why didn’t Cooper just send the quantum data back to himself through Morse code? Couldn’t he have then taken that information to Professor Brand back on Earth and solved the entire dilemma?

Even though watching this film left me with so many questions, that was exactly what I loved about it. Even more, it’s precisely the reason I will be watching this film again.

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