The film “Interstellar” relies on real science for many of its stunning visuals.
Physicist Kip Thorne, an expert on black holes and wormholes, provided the math that the special effects artists turned into movie magic.
The spaceship Endurance’s destination is Gargantua, a fictional supermassive black hole with a mass 100 million times that of the sun. It lies 10 billion light-years from Earth and is orbited by several planets. Gargantua rotates at an astounding 99.8 percent of the speed of light.
Gargantua’s accretion disc contains gas and dust with the temperature of the surface of the sun. The disc provides light and heat to Gargantua’s planets.
The black hole’s complex appearance in the film is due to the image of the accretion disc being warped by gravitational lensing into two images: one looping over the black hole and the other under it.
One feature of Einstein’s equations is that time passes slower in higher gravity fields. So on a planet orbiting close to a black hole, a clock ticks much more slowly than on a spaceship orbiting farther away.
Our three-dimensional universe can be thought of as a flat membrane (or “brane”) floating in a four-dimensional void called the “Bulk.” The presence of mass distorts the membrane as if it were a rubber sheet.
If enough mass is concentrated at a point, a singularity is formed. Objects approaching the singularity pass through an event horizon from which they can never return. If two singularities in far-apart locations could be merged, a wormhole tunnel through the Bulk could be formed. Such wormholes cannot form naturally, however.
Beings able to control gravity and travel through the Bulk could create wormholes and cross space much faster than light.
In two-dimensional diagrams, the wormhole mouth is shown as a circle. Seen in person, a wormhole would be a sphere. A gravitationally distorted view of space on the other side can be seen on the sphere’s surface.
The film’s wormhole is 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) in diameter and 10 billion light-years long