Interstellar

I do not write movie reviews. And this is not a movie review either. I was thinking of the science behind 'Interstellar' after watching the movie yesterday. But what triggered me is the fact that this gave an opening to discuss physics with the kids.

'Interstellar' has some cool physics strewn all around it. Wormholes, black holes, tesseracts and the all consuming gravity everywhere. It is easy to fall prey to the fascinating concepts versus the reality of how it is depicted. There is enough of that nitpicking going all around the net (sample here).

When we came out of the theater, Vanathy trashed the movie and said it would be better if  we've watched 'Big Hero 6' another time.

But she was curious about what has happened in the movie and she started by telling us (me and Sibi) the story of Isaac Newton seeing the apple falling down and realizing gravity in the midst. It gave the opening to start the discussion on how gravity works and how it affects time relatively.

Sibi has read a few things on it himself and so was interjecting with questions of his own on relativity and Einstein.

I read the 'Theory of Relativity' in an erstwhile Soviet hand book on an 'Introduction to Physics'. I don't remember understanding anything. It was full of discussion on Frames of reference, thought experiments, the moving trains and of course, gravity. It took a while but the 'Eureka' moment did happen in the middle of a biology class (taken by my beloved Jemima miss who was particularly fond of me to an extent that she usually sends me out of class when she comes in!). I was able to connect gravity, time and mass.

George Gamow did the incredible with his easy books on physics explaining the basic concepts of big things. I was scouring the old book stalls around the Meenakshi Amman temple for more reading on relativity and usually found something.

So it was that we started discussing relativity. Vanathy fell asleep fast but Sibi had a load of questions. I was just glad that I was able to answer them to a large extent possible. The multidimensional world is not something that you understand immediately as it is almost impossible to  visualize. So it was. While we could discuss the one-dimensional or the two-dimensional worls easily and he was able to understand and visualize a bit easily, the fourth dimension was a bit difficult to introduce. But I am sure he will have his 'Eureka' moment sometime in the coming days. By the time we went to bed, we've been discussing time travel, worm holes and a lot more.

So it was that though I've a mixed liking to the movie itself, one thing it did inspire is to start a discussion around Physics which I think is more than what is expected out of a movie anyway. For that, a big thanks to Nolan.

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