Art and Science … Again? Yes.

Visual effects in 'Interstellar' resulted in an astronomical discovery about black holes.

When it rains, it shines. Never mind. The variation fails the theme. Still, once again we find ourselves at a nexus of art and science.

Matt Williams of Universe Today explains:

Diagram by Kip Thorne, executive producer of the movie 'Interstellar', showing how a black hole distorts light.While he was working on the film Interstellar, executive producer Kip Thorne was tasked with creating the black hole that would be central to the plot. As a theoretical physicist, he also wanted to create something that was truly realistic and as close to the real thing as movie-goers would ever see.

On the other hand, Christopher Nolan – the film’s director – wanted to create something that would be a visually-mesmerizing experience. As you can see from the image above, they certainly succeeded as far as the aesthetics were concerned. But even more impressive was how the creation of this fictitious black hole led to an actual scientific discovery.

In short, in order to accurately create a visual for the story’s black hole, Kip Thorne produced an entirely new set of equations which guided the special effects team’s rendering software. The end result was a visual representation that accurately depicts what a wormhole/black hole would look like in space.

In truth, it is hard to imagine a better selling point for a science fiction film. Interstellar opens in American theaters November 7.


Williams, Matt. “The Physics Behind ‘Intellstellar’s’ Visual Effects Was So Good, it Led to a Scientific Discovery”. Universe Today. 23 October 2014.