If you haven’t heard, November is National Novel Writing Month which I couln’t help but participate in. I have long been world-building for this project, a young-reader hard science fiction about teenagers in space. I mention it because this weekend we saw Interstellar, and I was moved and inspired.

I may have liked the movie because of my new daughter and the very emotional narrative of the father-daughter relationship central to the film. I may have been that the film includes a jab at moon-landing deniers and the Texas textbook debacle. It may have been that with a background in astronautical engineering, I loved how they featured some pretty advanced concepts such as a counter intuitive Oberth Maneuver. Explosions made no sound in space, the robots were hilarious, and the visual effects for the movie made use of black-hole lensing research from Cornell grad students. Let’s not leave out that the chief advisor on the project was renowned physicist Kip Thorne.

As science communicators, we cannot fall into the pedantry trap that befalls most scientists, most of whom were inspired into science careers by Star Wars and Star Trek. A primary role of scientific skepticism is to point out faulty pop culture concepts that people latch on to. However, it is also our role to celebrate successes in science communication.

interstellar_black_hole

It’s a GOOD THING that scientists aren’t filmmakers (James Cameron exempted). The question shouldn’t be “does the movie get all the science right?”, it should be “does the movie inspire people towards science?”

Making astrophysics the literal star of a blockbuster movie is a big win for science. I shouldn’t have to avoid reviews for fear that they will ruin a film, but I’m glad I did. Go see Interstellar with a little suspension of belief, and I hope you’ll find it just as moving.

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