Similar in premise to many other science fiction films, something sets Interstellar apart: Many of the images are--for the most part--scientifically accurate, based on lensing calculations produced by Cornell University and California Institute of Technology scientists that show what black holes or wormholes look like. At this point, the blockbuster movie has created such a stir that one would almost have to be inside a black hole not to know about it. And while the science fiction thriller may have taken some liberties with science to make its Hollywood plot work, the imagery comes straight from science--National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded science, in fact.

"Gravity bends the path that light follows in space," said Pedro Marronetti, an National Science Foundation program director for gravitational physics and Google Scholar. "The stronger the gravitation, the more dramatic its effect."

In the plot of Interstellar, Earth is dying; to save the human race, astronauts and scientists search for a new planet via a wormhole, essentially a shortcut through space to find a giant black hole at the other end. Interstellar producers sought to make visual representations of the wormhole as accurate as possible. They worked closely with Kip Thorne, a theoretical physicist at Caltech and the film's executive producer, who gave the special effects team the scientific equations to create a reasonable facsimile of a wormhole.

Thorne's involvement in this gravitational lensing project led him to talk with the three Cornell grad students and their Caltech collaborators. The research of Bohn, Hébert and Throwe "on visualizing colliding black holes by gravitational lensing is very interesting and important," Thorne said.

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