Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains ‘Interstellar’ (Spoiler Alert!)

Neil deGrasse Tyson has already assessed the science in “Interstellar,” but since you’re probably still confused about the movie’s ending (as I am), here he is explaining things like time, space and how Coop (Matthew McConaughey) was able to enter the fifth dimension (that library tesseract thing) to contact his daughter in the past.

Mostly Tyson explains the overall mechanics of these concepts and how they relate to black holes, but it’s fairly simple to apply his explanations to Christopher Nolan’s complicated conclusion. He does emphasize that it’s all speculative since we don’t actually know what’s in a black hole or whether past events are amendable in higher dimensions.

Still, maybe the video will help you to wrap your head around the movie’s puzzle. If not, he pretty much says, “Oh, whatever!” at the end,  and what Neil deGrasse Tyson says goes.

Death by Black Hole

nustar_horz_editedBlack holes are without question some of the strangest places in the universe. So massive that they hideously deform space and time, so dense that their centers are called “points at infinity,” and pitch- black because not even light can escape them, it isn’t surprising that so many people wonder what it would be like to visit one.

It’s not exactly a restive vacation spot, as it turns out.

If you were to take a step into a black hole, your body would most closely resemble “toothpaste being extruded out of the tube,” as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it.

When an object crosses a black hole’s “event horizon”, its outer boundary or point of no return, the same physics that causes Earth’s ocean tides begins to take effect. Gravity’s strength decreases with distance, so the moon pulls on the side of the Earth closer to it a bit more vigorously than the side farther from it, and as a result, Earth elongates ever so slightly in the direction of the moon. The land is sturdy, so it doesn’t move much, but the water on Earth’s surface is fluid, so it flows along the elongated axis.

See Bill O’Reilly, we can explain that.

Near a black hole roughly the size of Earth, tidal forces are magnified off the scale. Swan-diving into one, the top of your head would feel so much more gravitational pull than the tips of your toes that you would be stretched, longer and longer. British astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees coined the term ‘spaghettification,’ which is a perfectly good way to put it. You eventually become a stream of subatomic particles that swirl into the black hole.

Since your brain would dissociate into its constituent atoms almost instantly, you’d have little opportunity to soak in the scenery at the threshold of an Earth-size black hole.

However, if you’re dead-set on visiting a space-time singularity, I recommend going big; bigger black holes have less extreme surfaces. If you had a black hole the size of our solar system, then the tidal forces at the event horizon would not be quite as strong, so you could actually maintain your structural integrity longer.

In that case, you would get to experience the effects of the curvature of space-time, predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, firsthand.

You would approach the speed of light as you fall into the black hole. And the faster you move through space, the slower you move through time. As you fall, there are things that have been falling in front of you that have experienced an even greater “time dilation” than you have. So if you’re able to look forward toward the black hole, you see every object that has fallen into it in the past. And if you look backwards, you’ll be able to see everything that will ever fall into the black hole behind you.

So the upshot is, you’ll get to see the entire history of that spot in the universe simultaneously from the Big Bang all the way into the distant future.

Not such a bad way to go, all things considered.

Bill Nye The POTUS Guy?

In a recent episode of  renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio, a listener asked substitute host Bill why he doesn’t run for public office? Nye then “announced” his intent to run along with Tyson and  discussed potential cabinet positions in the Nye/Tyson White House with guest hosts comedian Eugene Mirman and former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino,

Nye’s response was a joke unfortunately, it’s doubtful that there’s really a “Secretary Of Court Jesting” position (although that would be kind of awesome) to hand out to someone’s friends, but it makes you wonder what it would be like to have these two brilliant men as leaders of the Free World. Plus, it begs the question of why don’t more people from hard science and engineering backgrounds run for public office? Why do we keep electing business people and lawyers?

Slap your eyeballs on the video clip.