Interstellar and the great void

All right – first I need to tell you, don’t complain if you haven’t seen the movie yet. While I am not giving out anything about the plot, it has been out there in the universe for long enough. So I don’t have to shout spoiler alert!

There are movies and then there are those pieces that really stand out. Admittedly even Interstellar, made under the watch of an actual astrophysicist and showcased by a good director has factual errors, improbabilities galore and raises more questions that its plot warrants. But the premise is brilliant; it is seeded in good science and even throws in long dialogues between actors to explain some of the more esoteric and arcane science.

 But that’s not really the movie’s strong point. Yes, the space sequences are finally what makes it ‘interstellar’ but put that aside for a moment and explore the premise that the movie offers – a world that is slowly dying, with governments spending so much money on keeping their populations alive that they no longer spend on things we take for granted like a space program or an army for that matter.

Even a thinker and futurist like Isaac Asimov didn’t believe that Earth could sustain a population of over 4 billion people. When we lurched into the Great War of 1914 there were barely a billion, so it isn’t difficult to empathise with him. It is only because science and technology have kept ahead of the population curve that the Earth is able to sustain 7 plus billion and may even creak along at 10. However that same technology will have to find some answers to reducing the population as well, whether it is by population control or shipping out millions to new colonies in deep space.

The argument postulated was that until that great mind-bending feat of the main protagonist moving back through four-dimensional space using gravitational anomalies (along with the unbelievable binary transmission of what should have been gigabytes of data at the very least) science was way behind the curve. It didn’t have the answers; in fact it didn’t even have the questions right.

As the year comes to an end and we go past a century from the onset of the First World War, you have to look back on a technological path that has evolved and been empowered by the very destruction we humans bring upon ourselves. While we go about killing ourselves, we become more efficient, find new ways of transportation and delivery and discover new ways to treat ourselves, live longer and ultimately evolve to a higher order. Aeroplanes became more efficient and were now able to carry bombs, people used chemical weapons and learnt how to survive them and finally even penicillin came into its own by the Second World War.

This war brought us closer to understanding the virtues of Nuclear Fission and Fusion as well as introduced us to their horrors and the early predecessors of the Interstellar rockets finally made their way into western warfare a thousand years after the Chinese first used them.

If you bother to borrow a dialogue from the evergreen space action movie Armageddon, they acknowledge that even our wars have helped give us the means to save ourselves as a race.

The biggest issue we have here is actually one of doing it right. It’s easy to sit back as a viewer and either agree or otherwise about a plot outlined in a movie. The problem, even for world leaders is to take decisions that don’t seem outlandish today while steering the course of world events on a trajectory that keeps us running as a going concern way into the future. Who knows, the decision may be a grand one, like banning deforestation of any sort, enforcing population curbs or actually meeting carbon emission targets.

Or it could be small decisions done in bulk – like all of us deciding to save electricity, save water, walk instead of taking the car or just not buying anything we absolutely don’t require. Multiply that by 7 or 10 billion and that should mean a lot.

In any case both the premise and the result will be far more believable than that offered by Interstellar. And that’s because we already have the science to back us up on this.

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