Interstellar: the power of an unlikely collaboration yields scientific discovery

interstellar wormhole

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is a fantastic movie, science and fantasy will entertain you. Go watch it!

But this blog isn’t about the movie per se, it is about how they made both the worm hole and black hole models realistic. This is the classic case of a happy accident where none of the collaborators knew what was going to happen when they brought their collective talents together.

To me, what is interesting is that in collaborating with well known Astor-physicist Kip Thorne, the special effects team made a fascinating discovery about black holes:

The visualizations are stunning and are being hailed as some of the most accurate simulations of wormholes and black holes in film. As Mr. Thorpe explains in the above video, black holes have never been realistically depicted in any sci-fi film.

So stunning that when the black hole first appears on scene, I heard a collective “wow! what is that?” from people in the theater.

From the beginning the production team’s focus was to make a movie as realistic as possible, so they started from the fundamentals of science: Einstein’s general relativity equations.

The visual effects team created visual representations of what a black hole is meant to look like using Mr. Thorpe’s mathematical data. The collaboration between an astrophysicist and visual effects specialists produced visualizations of what a black hole would realistically look like.

I bet you this won’t be the last time we see a sci-fi film with black holes that look like the one in Interstellar; it’s that good.

The lesson

Innovation is consistently the result of collaboration between people from different domains. These unlikely interactions, such as an astrophysicist and a special effects team, may yield insights that collaboration between people from the same domain might never come up with.

To poke holes in the status quo and shift your perspective, make a list of 10 potential collaborators you’d never ever think of reaching out to. Now, ask yourself: if we collaborated with ___________, what might we learn/find/discover about __________.