Thursday, December 04, 2014


In Between Things Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm 2014
Those of you are 'up with' current movies will know that interstellar, in this blog's title, is reference to the mega movie Interstellar  I saw it a few days ago and loved it. I had read various commentaries about the film, some expansive in praise and others critical of the science. Why the latter? Well. the criticism was to be expected because prior to the movie's release there was a lot of promotion about the science that informed much of the story and how it was depicted.
Well, in my opinion we should not get too up-tight about whether the film portrays science 100% realistically/accurately or not. Why? Because it's a movie created to entertain by telling a is not a documentary! The same kind of criticisms were levelled at the 2013 film Gravity And, as Gravity's director Alphonso Cuaron said, It is not a documentary. It is a piece of fiction.  Please read my previous post about the film Gravity Something About Space

Having said we should not get too up tight about the science in Interstellar, there are some very interesting links to science. The most fascinating, to me, is the collaboration with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne . Thorne, the directors, special effects people etc collaborated on creating a visual depiction of a black hole. The resulting simulation has apparently provided real scientific insight into these mysterious cosmic entities. You can read about the collaboration in's article Wrinkles In SpaceTime: The Warped Astrophysics Of Interstellar by Adam Rogers.

Various other aspects of the film have scientific links. Examples include theories about time travel, depictions of relativity, theories about worm holes, gravity and more.


I propose that the overarching scientific element of Interstellar is existential risk. The fear of humanity's demise drives the film, its story, the relationships between people and the introduction of plausible scientific theories, as well as those that may seem more fanciful. This fear is gaining attention from some very smart people who have, in fact, set up research centres to study existential risk. These centres include the Future of Humanity Institute  at Oxford University, The Centre For The Study Of Existential Risk at Cambridge University and the Future of Life Institute in the USA founded by the likes of Physicist Max Tegmark and Skype founder Jaan Tallinn, who is also a founder of the Centre For The Study Of Existential Risk at Cambridge University. The latter research centre proposes a new science of existential risk, to encompass a inter and cross disciplinary approach.

At the beginning of Interstellar the audience is introduced to the characters at some time in the future. It is apparent that feeding people is becoming increasingly problematic. This is due to eroded soils and diseased crops. These are obviously the outcomes of an abused environment and corrosive atmosphere. Both have passed the stage of redemption. Humanity has to leave Earth to survive.

The hero of the movie is introduced to us as a farmer. However, it soon becomes apparent that he is also an engineer and a former astronaut from a past period when space research was funded ie: he is a rare breed! So, we have the farmer figure who represents the provider of food [the last bastion of survival], the engineer who can make and fix things and the astronaut who can possibly save humanity...all rolled into one super hero! Ultimately he is a super... very practical hero!


It is the practical part, coupled with the existential risk, that interests me.

Steve Fuller [Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology Department of Sociology University of Warwick] made some interesting remarks in a podcast Significant Other Beings on Australia's Radio National's Philosopher's Zone. He commented that he thought potentially catastrophic events would not necessarily wipe out everybody or everything. He gave the example of the internet failing. Whilst some would suffer from multiple systems failure etc there would be others whose lives would not be affected at all or to a great degree. These, I imagine, would be those people living in less 'developed' countries and societies. Their practical skills of survival would be the envy of those whose practical dexterities had been eroded by a reliance on technology. So, the lesson is to ensure we are dextrous both technologically as well as in 'hands on' manner. Then, we could be super heros and heroines too...maybe?

In a previous post called Waiting For The Beeps I write about practical skills ie: a young driver backing a car she did not drive often into a wall because she was waiting for the warning beeps...but the car did not have a warning system. The fact that looking out the window did not occur to her is a sign of a worrying trend. There are also links to two other posts that discuss similar themes.

In Between Things Oil on linen 50 x 50 cm

So, to my new painting...another of my cosmic landscapes...the word interstellar means occurring or situated between the stars. So, when a space craft goes interstellar it leaves our solar system to travel beyond into the space of other travel or go in between things.

In between things could mean anything from travelling between objects of all sizes to the tantalising dimensions of time. And, that's what my painting is!


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