***SPOILER ALERT: This article contains plot spoilers for the movie “Interstellar.” If you would like to avoid the spoilers, skip the THREE paragraphs that are set off by asterisks. ***
Gargantua is the star of the new movie “Interstellar.” Sure, the human cast includes Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and other notable actors. But Gargantua, a huge, rapidly spinning black hole, is the astronomical centerpiece of the movie. In a movie that features plausible but fantastic ideas from modern physics, including wormholes, time travel, and extra dimensions, a spinning black hole is perhaps the easiest-to-accept cosmological element in the entire film.
****In the movie, astronauts attempt to save humans on an increasingly uninhabitable Earth by attempting to find another planet with livable conditions. With the assistance of what seems to be an advanced life form, they travel through an exotic tunnel known as a wormhole, to a planet-containing star system containing Gargantua.****
Black holes such as Gargantua are widely accepted as objects in our cosmos. But scarcely more than half a century ago, many physicists bitterly rejected the very existence of black holes. What helped turn the tide was a pivotal science meeting in Dallas in December, 1963, held despite the traumatic aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, according to Charles Misner, an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Maryland, in College Park, who was also my guest at a preview screening of “Interstellar.”
What’s that? You thought Interstellar’s smartass, knucklebone-looking robot, TARS, was definitely CGI? Roughly 80 percent of that robot was accomplished by creating physical models operated by hydraulic puppetry. They literally had TARS’s voice actor, Bill Irwin, standing behind the model and delivering his lines.