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One would have an easier time getting a bear to explain why it likes honey than getting director Christopher Nolan to completely explain the ideas behind his films. (All bears are like Winnie the Pooh, correct?) Luckily, his storytelling tends to be imbued with already explainable data, whether it involves wormholes or Wayne Enterprises. The pop culture-steeped astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently shared a science-based explanation behind the ending to Nolan’s big and bulky Interstellar, and how it fits into the nature of humanity. Spoilers of the theoretical kind, for those who haven’t seen the movie yet.
Tyson wisely sticks to the science side of things without attempting to puts words to the motivations behind Nolan’s characters, because those are most definitely only explainable by Nolan and his co-screenwriting brother Jonathan Nolan. Also, Tyson doesn’t really get into the specifics behind a robot traveling through a black hole or the concept of gravity being a universal form of communication. I think he would just be inviting more criticism than is necessary if he did any of that.
Instead, he basically gives people a less bookshelf-friendly explanation behind the four-dimensional tesseract that guides our daily lives and schedules. We live using two horizontal axes and one vertical axis as a way of self-location, and then there’s time as a fourth dimension to lock us in fully. If we happen to be caught up in this concept from the inside, it appears as if everything happens at once, and has always been happening. For instance, this angle means Neil deGrasse Tyson has always been interesting and raw Brussels sprouts have always been terrible, even though we’re only experiencing the respective interest and terror from one particular point in time. Or something. I apologize to anyone hoping Tyson or anyone else in the world could justify all the Morse code and “ghost” stuff.
Soon after Interstellar hit theaters, Tyson took to Twitter to share his feelings about the film, eschewing explanations for more general examples of praise and bewilderment, saying that no other film has taken on time relativity in such a way, and that while reading physicist Kip Thorne’s tie-in book, Science of Interstellar, can tell you about the technical stuff, no book out there can explain this story point by point. Shucks.
Jonathan Nolan is adapting Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series for HBO. Maybe we can look forward to Tyson explaining some of that away next year.