The trailer shows Matthew McConaughey deciding to save the world at the risk of never seeing his family again. And in this case saving the world means traveling through space to find another planet for humanity. It sounds pretty fantastical. But because the movie is based on the theories of renowned physicist Kip Thorne, Interstellar also looks more science-based than any space movie in recent memory.
Here’s the science we gleaned from the trailer:
It looks like climate change is forcing us off Earth, and causing extreme weather like drought and dust bowls. Losing the one habitable planet we have, McConaughey joins a crew to find another planet in another galaxy. To get there, judging by the way the starlight stretches by the spacecraft, they use some kind of warp drive to get to this far off galaxy. A warp drive is something that we don’t have in science fact just yet, although a warp drive would get around some of the troubles with time slowing down and speeding up. If the film’s “Endurance” spacecraft is not using a warp drive — and is instead simply moving near light-speed — that would explain how McConaughey appears the same age while his daughter becomes a woman.
There’s been a lot of talk about what kind of technologies we might need to travel at speed approaching the speed of light, but for the moment we’re still using traditional chemical propulsion.
The team looks like it lands on a few possible planets, using a propulsive landing system to do so. This also is something we haven’t seen in practice yet, but it’s less futuristic than a warp drive. SpaceX is working on a propulsive landing system for its new Dragon spacecraft with the Grasshopper test vehicle.
Some shots in the trailer hint at where in the universe McConaughey might be. One of the planets they land on looks like it might be a water world, like if Jupiter’s moon Europa somehow thawed out, allowing the water locked under the surface ice to slosh all over the moon creating massive tidal waves.
On another icy world it looks like McConaughey is walking around the new planet followed by a robot (Perhaps the team is looking for a planet to terraform?). Helper robots aren’t really science fiction, though the robot in the trailer does looks more futuristic than anything we currently have. Astronauts have been using robotic helpers in space for decades, technologies like the Canadarm.
At one point, McConaughey’s daughter looks to age significantly while her father remains the same age, which would happen if McConaughey went to a distant galaxy and returned to Earth. This could be due to relativity, and specifically the idea of time dilation. The two individuals, in this case McConaughey and his daughter, each have an accurate clock and are moving relative to one another. Time for each would progress normally, but the nature of space-time makes it such that the relative time between them would be different. Traveling close to light-speed, McConaughey’s trip would seem much shorter on his clock than it would on his daughter’s.
Oh, and we’ve finally figured out what that amazing circular mass is that you see in every trailer — it’s a black hole! Will the team travel around the black hole to take advantage of how its massive gravity warps time, or is that how they travel to another galaxy, finding some kind of wormhole at the center (as the interactive game suggests)? <Inception bwaaaa>WE MUST KNOW NOLAN</Inception bwaaaa>
Interstellar comes out in theaters on November 7, so we only have a month more to wait before seeing what other technologies make up the movie’s science fiction. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.