Sometimes NASA Learns From Science Fiction Movies (Correction)

Keith's note: I got this response from NASA GSFC PAO with regard to my initial posting last night. This is what happens when a biologist (me) thinks they are a know-it-all. I stand thoroughly corrected. My initial post follows below this correction.

Hi, Keith. You write:

"Anyone who saw the film Interstellar would recognize the similarity between the NASA and film images of a black hole. Oddly there is no mention by NASA of the fact that the initial work on the core aspect of this visualization was done by a team formed by Nobel laureate Kip Thorne who was working on."

The initial work on the core aspect of this visualization is much older than you suggest. It was first calculated to produce in a "simulated photograph" published by Jean-Pierre Luminet in 1979 (Image of a Spherical Black Hole with Thin Accretion Disk, Astronomy & Astrophysics 75, 228-235), where he specifically linked it to the possible appearance of the supermassive black hole in M87 (his image can be seen here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Pierre_Luminet#/media/File:Luminet's_Simulation_of_a_Black_Hole_Accretion_Disk.jpg); the results have been replicated in many visualizations since, including the one shown in Interstellar. One aspect shown by Luminet and the visualization we released (and that Interstellar chose not to, apparently because the director thought it would confuse the audience) is the asymmetric emission across the disk. We also released numerous extra graphics that show the simulation from perspectives not seen in the movie.

Jeremy has been working on his black hole rendering code since his graduate work in the early 2000s. You may be interested in Jeremy's talk, "The Science of Interstellar: Life on Planets Around Black Holes," on the Library of Congress website (https://www.loc.gov/item/webcast-7344). We have also issued a couple of other videos around Jeremy's work: "Turning Black Holes into Dark Matter Labs" (2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_HlPxZUkIo) and "Peer into a Simulated Stellar-mass Black Hole" (2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rhJOLzwraA). Links to the stories can be found in the descriptions.

Best regards,

Frank"

Keith's original note: Usually when a science fiction film with a space theme comes out all of the space people dive in on the film's inaccuracies. Some times, however, a sci fi flick can break new ground and actually contribute to scientific knowledge. Such was the case with the 2014 film "Interstellar".

NASA GSFC recently posted "NASA Visualization Shows a Black Hole's Warped World" which shows some NASA pictures of what a black hole looks like. The posting has a link to another page with many more pictures and animations.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/interstellarbh.jpg

Anyone who saw the film "Interstellar" would recognize the similarity between the NASA and film images of a black hole. Oddly there is no mention by NASA of the fact that the initial work on the core aspect of this visualization was done by a team formed by Nobel laureate Kip Thorne who was working on. Director Christopher Nolan wanted the most accurate depiction of a black hole possible. So Thorne got a team together and modeled theoretical factors into language that a special effects team could use to generate the imagery that Nolan wanted. They even published a scientific paper on the process.

Its not like NASA is unaware of this since one of the key researchers behind NASA's black hole visualizations gave a lecture on "The Science of Interstellar" in 2016 which includes the same NASA-generated imagery based on Thorne's.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/blkhole.jpg

Given the tortured relationship between science fiction and science fact one would think that these occasions where a productive synergy emerges that it would be openly welcomed. One would think a little common courtesy would be exercised and that the film "Interstellar" and Kip Thorne would be mentioned by NASA in situations such as this. Just sayin'

Reference: "Gravitational Lensing by Spinning Black Holes in Astrophysics, and in the Movie Interstellar", Oliver James, Eugenie von Tunzelmann, Paul Franklin, Kip S. Thorne, Classical and Quantum Gravity 32 (2015) 065001 (larger image)

  • submit to reddit


Loading



ICES 2020, July 12-16, 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal






Monthly Archives

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on September 26, 2019 12:00 PM.

Did NASA Ames Achieve Quantum Supremacy? (Update) was the previous entry in this blog.

The Army Is Closing A Library That NASA Paid For is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.