Murphy’s Law

I keep it no secret that Christopher Nolan is my favourite director. The combination of beautiful cinematics and thought-provoking storytelling causes each of his films to earn my wholehearted attention from the second it begins. Interstellar is no exception to this, dragging the audience through the infinite universe in the search for a new habitable planet. The visual graphics are not only beautiful, but are groundbreaking as well – the film’s visualisation of a black hole is the first and only of its kind. But what truly left me stunned was the story. This is the first of a three-part post discussing the different themes introduced by the movie .

The movie introduces a paradox when a future, evolved human race creates a wormhole providing an opportunity for the protagonist of the story to reach a series of planets with the potential to act as a replacement for, the now unlivable, Earth. In order for the future generation of humans to create the wormhole, the present day human race must complete their mission. It’s the classic case of “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” Whilst the movie does not directly answer this paradox, it does make a suggestion introduced in the form of Murphy’s Law,”Whatever can happen, will happen.” If each event relies on the other in order take place, then it comes down to circumstance. That is, if there came a time that the wormhole could be reached, guaranteeing the mission’s success, then the wormhole would come into existence.

The question is, does Murphy’s Law hold any scientific value, or is it simply a rational approach to the unpredictable? How can we define something that can happen? Perhaps an event that can happen is simply an event that does happen, everything else is the impossible – everything that happens has a 100% possibility. I flip a coin and it lands on heads, because tails has a 0% possibility. The coin was always going to land the way it did, because of each variable that is effecting the flip – the weight of the coin, the air conditions, my personal mental and physical state, etc. And each of these variables are predetermined by earlier variables, and those earlier variables by even earlier variables and so on. This does not mean that odds and possibility do not exist, but simply there is no such thing as random. This is evident in the practice of computing a random number generator. Computers are deterministic, meaning they can only have one definitive right answer to the same question. Any “pseudo-random number” that can be generated comes through coding a pattern so complex, it’s impossible to predict. Similarly, randomness in its real-life application is not unpredictable, but incredibly complex. In order to accurately predict a coin flip, the flipper of the coin would have to be analysed completely – achieving a scientific understanding of every aspect of their character and physical state.

Furthermore, I’m a strong believer in the infinite. The idea of something with no end comes across as alien to the majority, which is bizarre, as beginnings and ends are completely human creations. Any time something appears to come into existence, matter is not created – simply rearranged into a new form. We base our assumption that time and space is finite on the idea that everything we experience has these so-called “beginnings and ends.” When we wonder what happened at the beginning of time, we are wasting our time, because it has and will always exist.

Nietzsche illustrated the philosophy of the Eternal Return, a concept that suggests that time is circular. For time to be infinite, that would mean that every event that could possibly happen, every possible reality, would occur – no more and no less. The grand scale of this time does not just limit these events to the reality that we know. The mass that makes up the universe that we know, could rearrange entirely to form an endless amount of realities, some of which may be similar to our own existence. Every reality that could exist, would exist – Murphy’s Law.

One of the things that I love about the film, Interstellar, is how it questions the themes that the majority accept as fact and encourages the audience to dwell on ideas that are normally exclusive to educated theoretical physicists. Film has the ability to effortlessly bring complex and enlightening themes to the masses through an entertaining medium, something that is far more difficult to achieve through literature.


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