It would have been an incredible experience journeying through Christopher Nolan’s mind during his time co-writing, co-producing and directing the Hollywood blockbuster Interstellar, which eventually made its way to the movie screens in 2014. What could prompt such detailed imagination? Well the origins of the screenplay can be traced back to a script that Jonathan Nolan, Christopher’s brother wrote back in 2007. The script was inspired by the work of Kip Thorne, a theoretical physicist with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Kip Thorne also had a seat as the Executive Director of the movie. Interstellar, like Evacuating Earth highlights certain calamities that could bring our planet to the brink of extinction and prompt humanity’s search for a home somewhere else within our universe.
Interstellar’s predictions of a 21st century food crisis capable of plunging our human existence into oblivion seem rather far-fetched. A 21st century exodus to another planet is also in stark contrast to the Stephen Hawking view that it might take humans another 999 years to find a new planet to colonize. According to Hawking, to make such a discovery (of a planet capable of colonization), humans would have to face and overcome three key threats to our existence: the rise of artificial intelligence, threats arising from nuclear terrorism (likely to surface in the 22nd century), and the debilitating effects of climate change. Interstellar, places greater hope on our human capabilities to find, and visit, habitable planets in distant galaxies within the present century.
Yet, amidst the blabber about how the factors that prompt an exodus in Interstellar contrasts with the realities of today’s Earth, there are some similarities. Climate change is capable of creating a farm crisis such as that which is witnessed in Interstellar. Should the effects of climate change compound unhindered, there is every likelihood that an ever expanding desert, a fast depleting rainforest and heightening temperatures, will push the human race to the brink of extinction and prompt extraordinary measures to secure the existence of our race in a manner similar to Interstellar.
Yet is such a journey plausible today or within this century? In response to the first ambit of the question, “presently, no.” To the second arm of this question, one really cannot tell. But if we are to take a holistic look at the requirements for such an exodus: a sophisticated spaceship capable of traveling at the speed of light, experienced pilots with expertise in navigating various planets, and advanced technology for the sustained existence (feeding and other incidental needs) of the human race for decades or more, on a strange planet.
Despite advancements in today’s technology, it will still take our spaceships at least 9½ years to get to Pluto, let alone, make its way to another galaxy, and into a look-alike planet. The absence of technical expertise versed in such travel only adds to the mythological nature of this movie. However, the possibility of a sudden appearance of a wormhole capable opening the channel to other galaxies within the universe is remotely plausible. In layman’s terms, the universe is constantly expanding with particles colliding and galaxies shifting positions. So the hypothetical wormhole otherwise known as the Einstein-Rosen bridge, especially traversable wormholes, is a genuinely possible occurrence. This possibility remains despite the fact that physicists are yet to find any natural process that is capable of forming a wormhole naturally within the context of general relativity. Therefore, though the journey may make sense on the movie screen it is still a scientific impossibility and likely to remain so for the rest of the 21st century.
Interstellar, however, arose some interesting possibilities. The prospect that propulsion may allow a mass exodus of humans from one planet to another is one of the most fascinating aspects of this thriller. Second is the possibility that the preservation of human embryos may be the best way to safeguard our existence should the time to evacuate Earth approach.
Interstellar could honestly be said to be well beyond the average thriller, raising questions that only science is capable of answering, in years to come. It still falls short of a theory – rather akin to a bundle of unproven hypothesis – awaiting possible confirmation.