Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Science of Interstellar: Miller's world.

The first of the three planets that the main characters of Interstellar visited, Miller's planet rotates close to the massive black hole "Gargantua." Suffering 1.3 times earth's gravity, the planet is covered with liquid and suffers from extreme tides and a reduced time flow, one hour on the surface equaling seven years to the people on earth. Upon looking at different sources, the planet is shaped like a football, one end constantly pointing at the massive black hole, and the massive tidal waves that plague the planet are actually remaining in place, while the planet rotates under them. Personally, I enjoyed the point that was pointed out after they fled the planet. The all clear signal was constant, just stretched out through time from the time dilation of the planet. The scientists had only left earth for two years before a second mission was sent to observe the planets reveals that in reality, Miller had only been on the planet for 17 minutes before Cooper's mission arrived on the planet. (if 60 minutes on Miller's planet is seven years on earth, then two years on earth is 17.1 minutes on Miller's planet). And since the waves only come every half an hour or so (since it took forty five minutes to drain the ship's engines, and the wave came early, so I'm rounding a bit), the wave that killed Miller must have been the receding wave that Cooper saw after landing.

But the more I thought about the physics of this planet, I wanted to bring some knowledge from one of my other classes to the mater: geology, and the science of waves. On earth, the size of waves is generated by wind strength, duration of the wind blowing in a direction, and distance over which the wind blows. In this planet, it was only the gravity generating their waves. It is also worth mentioning that below half the wavelength, there is little to no movement under the water. Once a wave reaches depth that is less than half a wavelength, the wave slows, and the height of the wave increases (which is what happened on Miller's world.) But when the wave becomes too steep, it breaks and crashes in on it'self in the surf zone, which did not happen, even though the wavelength was so low that the wave should have collapsed on itself. So crazy gravity be damned, this is not happening. Especially if it's only 1.3 times earth's gravity!

1 comment:

  1. Remember, the "waves" on Miller's planets aren't waves in the sense of what we have on Earth. They are actually tidal bulges, just extremely large ones. But I agree with you that they should not have been so narrow/steep.

    I would have liked to have seen more of what you got out of the book about the movie.