The Surprising Science Behind The Movie ‘Interstellar’

From wormhole highways to robotic space companions, scientific experts weigh in on Christopher Nolan's newest sci-fi blockbuster.
Syncopy/Paramont Pictures

Asking a team of journalists to rally around a science fiction movie might sound ludicrous. Yet some combination of boundless vision, relaxing of natural laws, and enthralling story can prompt even the most disciplined Popular Science employee to daydream at his or her desk. To us, science fiction is a lens through which we can explore our place and future in the universe.

So when we found out director Christopher Nolan was making Interstellar, we couldn’t resist. The film promises to pull habitable alien worlds into reach, bring far-out spaceflight technologies within grasp, and test humanity’s mettle in spectacular fashion. We wondered aloud: What if?

You won’t find any spoilers here; we have yet to see the movie, which stars Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey and debuts Nov. 7. But in geeking out with experts over the limited information we extracted from the movie’s trailers (Nolan’s team, including theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, refused all interview requests), we rounded up the latest knowledge about wormhole travel, robotic companions, habitable exoplanets, and, of course, starships.

Without further navel-gazing, we present the science of Interstellar.

    Update: We also reviewed the movie. Bookmark the page below and read when you emerge, bewildered, from the theater: