“Interstellar,” 21st Century Art and Science at the Edge

In Laboratory on February 9, 2015 at 9:51 PM

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…”

In the 20th century, he brought us “the Dust Bowl” years. And in 2014, he brought us “Interstellar” by Christopher Nolan and Kip Thorne, probably the best movie you will discover since “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Unfortunately, the film was not widely promoted in the U.S. according to my knowledge. The film is popular abroad in China and other countries.

Why is the movie so great? For me the movie forces across what Yo-Yo Ma and ecologists refer to as an “edge effect,” or creation from previously separated disciplines, namely physics and filmography here. “Interstellar” blends the best of natural science and art while exploiting the 21st century at the edge of what’s possible.

Habitable zones, black hole “spheres” and beyond are pushed to the forefront. The audience is not taken for being slow. Ken Burns, NASA and crickets leave their fingerprints all over the Hubble telescope lens with which Nolan and Thorne develop and perfect this film with all its care and mastery. The big “Sputnik moment”-inspiring plotlines of this film make the threats of Earth’s manmade ruin and peril from climate change more “personal” and hopefully “on the public’s doorstep,” as Matthew McConaughey puts in one interview.

However, where there is symphony and agreement in the halls of power more and more on the margin today (see the recent U.S.-China plan to cut carbon emissions beyond 2020), there still remains cacophony and popularization of bad science, like a bad play. From Shakespeare, King Lear thundered, “Blow, winds!” while losing his mind and his kingdom. His Fool cautioned, “here’s a night pities neither wise man nor fool.” All a reminder of man’s self-aggrandizement, anger and failed attempts to “crack the sky,” i.e., a reminder of the suffering of the many that results when the general will is ignored and clouded by pursuit of bad profit and “filthy lucre.” From Matthew, we are reminded, “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

I believe Carl Sagan, E.O. Wilson and Neil Tyson would all welcome this film’s imagination and ends. May many more like it bear fruit and multiply in the future under Kip Thorne’s practical directive constraint. Xenophon, Adam Smith and Stephen Hawking would be in agreement with that broader end. Archimedes, Euclid and Albert Einstein would rejoice from their graves. That is, they all would welcome the world getting along without stultifying and retaining Earth in all its habitable glory.

Ken Arrow, James Hansen and other elder policymakers continue to welcome actionable measures against Earth’s threat of ruination as relates to climate change. May we seize the day and honor their worthy proposals.

May we once again take, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

For auld lang syne,

James Breedlove


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