I have mixed feelings about this movie. It has some great physics in it, things no film has tried to portray this accurately before. But it also has some far-fetched aspects and Hollywood touches that detract from the overall experience for me.
Assignment: This week I want you to pick a physics topic from the movie to analyze. There are plenty of things to choose from, including space travel, black holes, wormholes, exotic planets, higher dimensions, extreme time dilation, and many others. To help you in this task, you are required to choose a topic that has a corresponding chapter in the book, “The Science of Interstellar.” You can then use that chapter as a guide to help, but NOT limit, you in writing your blog.
Please post on your blog by Sunday, 1 Dec.
Ch. 14-16 of The Science of Interstellar
I really like this movie; it’s the closest any feature presentation has come to showing what the life of an astronomer is really like. That’s probably because the movie is based on a novel written by the eminent astrophysicist Carl Sagan, and some of the characters in the story are based loosely on real life astronomers (Jodie Foster’s character is supposedly based loosely on the life experiences of an astronomer named Jill Tartar, and there really is a blind astronomer named Kent Cullers who worked for SETI). Besides that, though, I think “Contact” presents some compelling plot lines, most crucially the question of what really would happen to our society if we made contact with an alien civilization. It also addresses what many see as a conflict between science and religion.
Anyway, the movie is also great because it really tries to get as much of the physics right as possible. The opening sequence has a problem with the scale of objects and distances, but it at least has everything in the right place. The idea that another intelligent civilization may discover our existence by capturing stray radio transmissions from Earth is also sound. That’s how we’re hoping to discover them after all! And wormholes (if they’re real) are one of our best hopes for accomplishing interstellar travel in a single lifetime.
Blog post: Despite the many successes of the movie, the portrayal of the “Twin Paradox” at the end of the movie is incorrect. Explain what is wrong with the portrayal and describe how you would have to revise the movie script in order to gets this point right.
Please post on your blog by Sunday, 17 Nov.
Assignment: After reading Ch. 24 of “Bad Astronomy” by Philip Plait, write a blog review of tonight’s feature film commenting specifically, citing scenes and examples, on how this movie stacks up against Plait’s “Top Ten Examples of Bad Astronomy in Major Motion Pictures.” Some of his examples may not apply to this movie; if so, please make note of this in your blog. Finish your post by rating this movie using the ISMP scale.
Please post your blog by Sunday, 10 Nov.
pp. 225-230 Don’t Try This at Home; Ch. 5 of Hollywood Science
Problem #7 in Don’t Try this…
Due: Nov. 1
There is plenty of bad physics in this movie, enough that we could make an assignment of just trying to find as many examples as we can. However, there is a deeper issue in the movie – that of global warming. Clearly this is a controversial issue, at least among the public and politicians; scientists are mostly in agreement about the problem, although not necessarily about the potential impact or how to solve it. One of the problems seems to be that, although the bulk of the reliable scientific evidence points toward the reality of global warming and man’s role in it, there are occasionally studies released that appear to contradict this conclusion or scientists who are willing to speak out against this conclusion. However, none of these counter-claims has ever been able to produce as compelling and large a body of evidence against global warming as that in support of it. The naysayers rely on only a few small anecdotal pieces of evidence that seem to point the other way. For unscrupulous politicians and others who have vested interests in the status quo, this is usually all they need. People (particularly non-scientists) are willing to discard mountains of evidence that go against their opinions in favor of a much smaller body of evidence that support them. This is a very illogical way to make decisions, but it happens all the time.
Assignment: Go search the web and find at least one piece of what you think is reliable evidence pertaining to the issue of global warming and discuss it. I want you to provide a link to the evidence in your blog, or at least provide enough information that a reader can go find it. Discuss why you think the evidence you found is important, and what you base your trust in that evidence on.
Please post your blog by Sunday, 27 Oct.
pp. 130-143 Don’t Try this…; Ch. 17 ISMP