Love and Gravity

Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” illustrates how modern science has changed the way we look at love, philosophy and religion.

Comments: 161

  1. You know nothing of quantum mechanics and so attempt to apply to phenomena upon which it has no bearing.

  2. And you, of course, know all. So much that you don't even have to tell us why we should believe you. Are you the "infinite incorporeal intelligence"?

    Sorry to be so harsh, but David Brooks is an intelligent non-scientist who is genuinely trying to understand some of this. It is almost certainly in your and my best interest for you to help him with constructive comments and some helpful details.

  3. Grindelwald, yeah, well, even we infinite incorporeal intelligences have bedtimes.

  4. Explain why it has no bearing. And also, explain how consciousness arises in brain tissue, and why you are certain that quantum mechanics absolutely has no bearing on the mechanism.

  5. This column takes us on a long, meandering journey through a couple of wormholes to arrive at a political singularity: social engineering projects (i.e., big government) = bad, while webs of loving and meaningful relationships (i.e., local volunteerism) = good.

    Mr. Brooks has expressed this point in dozens of different ways over the years. It's as though every one of his columns is entangled with every other one, both in the past and apparently in the future. But this one has a truly ethereal bent. Never has a wistful plea for states' rights been so cosmic.

    He's knee-deep in metaphors in this one. Metaphors can be compelling and often poetic but they're also dangerous, because they create the illusion of understanding. Newton's "clockwork" universe didn't imply that we were cogs in a vast bureaucratic machine any more than quantum entanglement has anything to do with societal interconnectedness or a symbiosis between science and faith. It doesn’t explain free will, or make your aura sparkle or justify trashing Obamacare. It might just as well explain how red states are net recipients of blue-state tax revenues, or how Republicans can expend so much political energy in order to do nothing.

    Nolan has made some fascinating movies, but Inception won't teach you much about dreaming, and Interstellar isn't going to enlighten you about quantum (or social) mechanics. But Brooks will babble. There's a metaphor that works.

  6. For goodness sake, politics and attacking Mr Brooks seem to be the recurring theme with a lot of "recommendations." Relax, folks, it is about a movie by a celebrated director and some great actors.

    What is next, Mr Brooks pours himself a cup of coffee and it is some right wing conspiracy?

  7. Well, I guess this answers my question of whether or not Democrats are still sore about losing the midterm elections.

  8. @Bos,
    If there's no point in looking behind the surface meaning of things, then "Interstellar" is just a sci-fi movie and Mr. Brooks has wasted a lot of time explaining its deeper meaning. Brooks is a conservative political pundit, and that's what he gets paid to do, just as Ross Douthat is paid to write screeds about uber-conservative Catholicism for a diverse NYTimes audience.

    Brooks hammers the same political points over and over again, using common everyday objects, such as movies, as excuses to pontificate. One of his favorite themes is the uselessness of Big Government, preferring instead the random and unregulated local volunteer efforts that he recommends take its place. If we all emulated Cosmo Kramer and each of us adopted a mile of Interstate highway, we wouldn't need massive infrastructure projects funded by a gasoline tax.

    He also thinks some people are inherently more moral and virtuous than others, and that we should use government to "encourage" the lesser sorts to improve themselves. It's just a matter of getting the voltage right. He thinks too that we should bow to authority and not make waves, such as in the unseemly occupation of Wall Street. Rich people deserve to be rich, just like poor people deserve to be poor.

    Well, he must be stopped--or at least slowed down a bit. When he's driving on my mile of Interstate, there are going to be speed bumps.

  9. Scientists may think that science is describing and analyzing something different from what faith, art, the humanities, and other languages have as their subject, but I think they're all ways of talking about the same thing.

    I wonder if it's a good idea to meet people with whom one is cosmically entangled. Sometimes I think it's a little like Psyche trying to get a glimpse of Cupid, or Pyramus trying to meet Thisbe, and something better left alone. Parallel lines, after all, don't meet. Curiosity or desire can be temptations we are being challenged to resist.

  10. Oh, but how much emotion, sweat, and tears have fallible human invested in trying to wrangle those parallel lines into intersecting anyway? (Sigh. The redhead, the blonde, chocolate on a diet, doing this instead of exercising...)

    Resist? We were supposed to resist? Why didn't people tell me this?

  11. very true! there are taboos only THE CHOSEN can cross over

  12. C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces...

  13. Most people are still unaware
    Of Science, their cupboards are bare,
    Quantum notions are
    More baffling by far,
    And of their import most don't care.

    Since the Bible does matter
    Evolution's pure chatter,
    Climate change? A fraud!
    By Rush Limbaugh awed,
    Inequality? Pure patter.

  14. If Mr Brooks had been labeled a liberal instead of a conservative, the people who now assail him would be praising him. His views are rather more to
    the left than the other way around, a circumstance that causes many of us to wish that this paper might someday add an authentic conservative to its stable.

  15. There are some missions for which we select only people who are already without family and emotional obligations. There are always a few.

    This movie "works" around the basic wrong of abandoning one set of obligations in favor of another, Sophie's Choice-like.

    The real lesson is they would have sent someone else, not a single father with obligations to young children.

  16. I haven't seen the movie, but I can tell you from my experience that there may be a cultural context which assumes widows and widowers will not put their children first. I have encountered it many times, especially in personal private contexts but also in the public, business sector. It has struck me that just when your kids need you more, everybody is pressuring you to be there less. It can even include the expectation that you will now have more time for others since you don't have a spousal relationship to tend to. In my context, there is also the added factor of people saying something to the effect of, "Well, they aren't really your kids anyway" (adoption), or something else to disparage the relationship and my orientation towards it or just to disparage my kids, period. It's a pretty good filter for separating people with compassion from people who can't find theirs. Which is a long way around to tell you that your interpretation of the real lesson of the movie rings true for me.

  17. Ah, but then who could have brought him back into earth?

  18. "But in the era of quantum entanglement and relativity, everything looks emergent and interconnected. Life looks less like a machine and more like endlessly complex patterns of waves and particles."

    This is only true if you ignore scale. One invokes quantum mechanics to explain why an electron doesn't give up energy and fall into the nucleus of an atom. But, when determining the outcomes of heating gas molecules or the outcome of herding cats, using magnitude of energy and direction is the better tool.

    However, it doesn't follow that, "Vast social engineering projects look less promising, because of the complexity, but webs of loving and meaningful relationships can do amazing good."

    Plato noted love starts with friendship, advances to trust, and then to the emotional entwining that is love. Not quantifiable and a very local effect.

    Large social engineering projects do lend themselves to math analysis, prediction, and control. Within the project, math forms the project-wide thread for decision making. For example, as Charles Eastman explained in his autobiographical, "Indian Boyhood," (1902), Indians knew settlers determined much food to store for winter and had the ability to store it, whereas Indians had to follow migrating food. The difference was ag science and math - the ability to quantify - and thus project needed future quantities.

    You sought reality in a sci-fi movie. I finished my system that sends me a text message every time my cat visits his water bowl.

  19. Vast social engineering projects like Stalinism or the Great Leap Forward or the remaking of man in the French Revolution look less promising, but in return we see that each of us and all of mankind are carried along by processes we are only beginning to understand and which are impossible and absurd when viewed through common sense.

    Our planet and its processes are carried along in a dynamic equilibrium so that things change in patterns that are understandable and predictable through experience and science. Sometimes these patterns take us places we do not want to go, as a couple of recent tsunamis have reminded us. As we understand these patterns we also understand that we can and are affecting them, and pushing them to places where we cannot survive and will go the way of the dinosaurs.

    Knowing these things attaches us to the past and the future of the human race. Believing that the universe began a few thousand years ago and is due to end, or radically change, in the near future, detaches us from any understanding of past, future, or ourselves. So does believing that processes involving money and success in money games are the most worthy of our attention and efforts, and the world is just the stadium in which these games are played.

    Part of the strange truth beneath the everyday is the idea that each and all of us are part of the adventures of the universe and masters of very little. We are children playing with the stove. 

  20. For awe, emotional connection with the universe, and understanding the workings of the world, the sciences do it for me. Ancient texts are fascinating as part of human heritage and there is considerable wisdom in them, more than I could even pretend to grasp, but just as there is junk science, the ancient texts have junk amid the rubies, too.

    I don't know a thing about quantum mechanics, but I have a feeling that even if I did, I would not find the lesson about vast social programs that David sees. We can agree on love, however, as long as it doesn't include completely turning away from the rest of the world. When I can hardly bear to look at the news, which is pretty often these days, it's love of family, friends, and work, and wonder at it all, that keep my glad to be alive.

  21. Even in talking about science, Brooks is very unscientific. He brings a preconception to the table, finds something in science that resonates with his beliefs and determines that there must be a connection.

  22. More meanderings in order to make a social/philosophical point of dubious validity! The quantum entanglement behavior of sub-atomic particles extrapolated to human behavior and experience is just Hollywood movie salesmanship. The objective of the producers and directors of this movie is, like all the others, to get bums in seats. The silly extrapolations from a Hollywood plot, via a metaphor, to human behavior is just, well, a metaphor. This column fills space and little else.

  23. This column fills space but has no mass. It's an anti-blackhole! Haha!

  24. Alas, Jack, it not just fills space, but time as well. If we took the amount of each thus expended or consumed, entangled them quantumly and bent them back on themselves, would they then be reusable, relatively speaking? Use the force, Jack!

  25. Too bad a vast majority of the American public is so scientifically deficient and don't understand the physics in the first place or worse, are anti science of any kind.

  26. Yes, we should love our grandchildren more! This country needs to pay heed to interconnectedness. We need the energy policies that the rest of the world is adopting that reinforces the lateral and cooperative nature of humanity producing individually generated energy sources, like the Third Industrial Revolution concepts promulgate. These concepts are being implement globally right now, while we Americans fight endless wars for fossil fuels. The EU is way ahead of us. Germany's progress is startling. All around the world, agreements have been reached that involve partners one would never suspect could agree on anything..left and right, communist and capitalist…THe NYTimes should report on this if it wants to relevant and helpful.

  27. "I suspect “Interstellar” will leave many people with a radical openness to strange truth just below and above the realm of the everyday."

    I suspect people who take the time to read and attempt to understand "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow will more likely experience a "radical openness." "The Grand Design" does not depend on cinematic pyrotechnics to achieve this effect on readers.

  28. After reading this piece twice I still can't figure out what Mr. Brooks is trying to say.

  29. Quantum Entanglement, despite Einstein's contempt of the concept, if proven real basically says that there is a way that we can travel intergalactic distances instantaneously. What would be left would be the science to explain it and the engineering to build engines wrapped with vessels that could do it.

    That notion popularized would be worth the price of admission to "Interstellar", because it might enthuse enough people to agitate for trotting our space program out of storage where we placed it after deciding that we could no longer afford to do great things and still feed our people and provide their health care into perpetuity.

    I haven't seen "Interstellar", but I'd be interested in the proposition that after a climatic disaster that leaves much of the species living at subsistence farming levels we're still able to send into space a complex group of individuals with frozen embryos to assure the perpetuation of the species -- when Quantum Entanglement would allow instantaneous evacuation of all humans eventually to habitable planets that the apostles found.

    But David and Christian Wiman wax unnecessarily emotional about the implications of discovering that Quantum Entanglement exists in the physical world, as opposed to merely in the rarified equations of quantum physics. If it happened, it would merely demonstrate that space is not precisely what we thought it was; and not that the world is "alive and communicating". Talk about dying of a surfeit of Kumbaya.

  30. Wouldn't it be strange if quantum entanglement, which involves presently involves only quantum particles, actually involved the whole Earth as one great particle, with a sister planet at the edge of Universe (yes, I know the Universe has no edge - it's only a metaphor) acting and reacting in tandem with us?

  31. Quantum entanglement exists on such minute scales it would not support human travel. Unless we can "beam up" our disassociated particles on a plank scale, we're staying put in our solar system.

  32. "...the implications of discovering that Quantum Entanglement exists in the physical world, as opposed to merely in the rarified equations of quantum physics."
    Er, Richard, perhaps QE does exist and the "rarified equations" are in fact their concise, precise language.

  33. This movie is an awesome experience (at no point did I have a problem hearing the dialogue). I suspect, fifteen years from now, we'll be hearing a lot of young astrophysicists, when asked what inspired them to get into the field, say, "I saw Interstellar."

    In terms of its impact on the broader culture, it'll probably be minimal. But one hopes people will find it electrifying, uplifting, and emotionally and intellectually stirring. At a time when Hollywood is obsessed with feeding us pre-masticated garbage, this was a film that made me think of 2001 (RIP, Stanley Kubrick)...

    I really enjoyed it -- by far my favorite Nolan flick to date.

  34. I think it was Richard Pryor who said "Wherever you go - there you are." This movie, just like "2001" posits the mind-bending concept that in some strange, mystical and wonderful way mankind is at the heart of creation. Travel through a black hole, witness creation at the quantum level and we find love - human love - woven into the very fabric of reality. This is not a scientifically acceptable idea. And in no standard religions is there any mention of black holes, time dilation or gravitational flux. So it is no surprise that those with a "pragmatic" slant will find this a preposterous movie. And folks who like their "divine being" wrapped up in a neat package will not understand how gravity can possibly be a carrier wave for love.
    If you attempt to mix and join together faith and science you're bound to get an explosion of wildly differing views - as witness the comments to David's column. These views are all over the place.
    An equally amazing movie about this very topic is "Contact" a 1993 movie starring Jodie Foster.

  35. This seemed like a movie review...and then Brooks mentions liberal social experiments don't work? After glossing over the fact that an environmental catastrophe occurs? Oh David.

  36. Somehow, in Mr. Brooks' mind, Interstellar and quantum physics validate the capitalist system.

  37. If "Interstellar" makes more boffo box office, it will most certainly validate the capitalist system.

  38. and?

    I read this and I have no idea why it was written. It seems to be a paraphrase of a plot for a film.

    Have I missed some great insightful truth?

  39. Dylan Thomas's poem, 'Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day...', made an apt suggestion into the mystic moments that love for living, whether between a daughter and a father, living itself and longing for it with the greatest of passion is the driving force behind everything that we do. The tragedy of our times is that we have only small moments spared for close encounters of this subtle realization, while the whole life itself is an endless pursuit of wants that do not satiate anything meaningful.

  40. I call it serendipity-- BUT I sometimes wonder what is going on-- like i have not spoken to my daughter in 1 month and I bring up her name and twenty seconds she calls.
    Whales, elephant seals, butterflies, birds migrate-- to the same exact location again and again-- do we really know what their navigation system is all about? Dogs sense cancer, low or high blood sugar, a bear or a coyote a quarter of mile away-- sure it is all smell- but is there something else?
    The movie opens the door for wonder and exploration --as does David in appropriately bringing marvel to our attention in this NY column.

  41. If your daughter had not called on that occasion, is it likely you would have been at least thinking of her when she did call? And though we don't know everything about animal navigation systems, we know they are using navigational tools developed through evolution. And yes, dogs, bears, and coyotes have a supremely better sense of smell than humans do, not to mention a functioning, mammal brain.

  42. Call it synchronicity. --C. Jung

  43. It is true that these principles of physics impinge on ordinary life. When I brought my car in to the shop they were uncertain about which of two parts was bad, so they replaced both. Based on the hours of labor they charged for, it's apparent that time moves more quickly for them.

    Oh no! I've hired quantum mechanics! I'm never bringing my cat there.

    Thanks, David, for this discourse. Much more fun than listening to you claim, falsely, that President Obama's immigration action is unconstitutional.

  44. Time according to modern physics?

    There is no time--no single thing "Time". Time does not change speed depending on gravity or near approach to light speed but rather such physical effects alter the materials (biological, inorganic) "within" them, which means there are multiple times rather than one time. Furthermore apparently there is "play" within a time system where something can exist longer than something else ( biological lifespan difference, lifespans of different types of inorganic matter). There is no time flowing but rather things growing, existing within different gravitation/speed fields (eddies of time but no apparent overall liquid called time).

    This of course means humans would have a serious problem if attempting light speed or entering a powerful gravitational field such as a wormhole--something of entering different time system (age paradox of course). Which of course makes us ask if it would not be more useful to first contemplate transmitting or receiving messages across time systems. But what would be the most likely medium of transmitting or receiving a message? Probably something with tremendous lifespan, that which does not seem to decay no matter whether accelerated or subject to extreme gravitation. No doubt some form of inorganic matter (half-life of isotopes, etc.). In a sense we should apply some thought to seeing if we can read "the oldest book" around us to see if a message is embedded. Message literally written in stone. Stella or Moses.

  45. Neither Newton's clockwork universe nor today's quantum mechanics has any real connection to how our social systems are organized. David Brooks is forcing analogies that don't exist. The social sciences have developed their own dynamical systems based largely on the human psyche, not on interstellar space.

  46. The human psyche contains the unconscious mind which may work on different principles than the conscious mind. For example, when you dream time becomes more like space, with movement forward and backward. The mechanics of inspiration are unknown and may be more akin to a quantum mechanical model with it inherent quirkiness and counter-intuitiveness.

  47. If the net energy of the universe is zero then it's a free lunch and feel free to pick anything on the menu..it is there some where. There must be a part of you that wonders why you get to live in the information age with the Singularity approaching. Almost like a 3D movie and you're in it.

  48. Everything was fine until...

    "Vast social engineering projects look less promising, because of the complexity, but webs of loving and meaningful relationships can do amazing good."

    Really? Vast projects like getting to the moon? Vast projects like the ones undertaken in Interstellar? Less promising? That's your takeaway from the movie?

    "Love" is now the conservative replacement for societal engineering? In who's universe? I laugh. I laugh in a vacuum. I laugh in a wormhole. I will have the last laugh on a high gravity planet.

  49. Going to the moon does not constitute a "social engineering" project. He's not talking about all projects.

  50. Around age 20, I was approached by a stranger at a gas station. He started a casual conversation about my car, a new Accord, asking me how I liked it so far, etc. "What a nice guy with no intention beyond social friendliness" I thought, right until he pitched me on how I could make a great living working from home.

    That's how this column felt. Wow, I thought. David Brooks once again captures and articulates the wonder that all people, Democrat or Republican, share and ponder after watching a movie that may challenge our understanding of the believed-in heavens and known or experienced universe.

    And then... "social engineering projects look less promising."

    David, how are the space program and investments in scientific research (mostly a democratic ideal these days) not considered great social experiments? They are the very foundation for everything in the movie.

    "I should have known better than to have thought that guy wasn't going to pitch me," I thought that night as I got back into my car.

  51. Frozen embryos died from being frozen. So the name Lazarus Project is fitting. They would need to be raised from the dead to populate another planet. Even Walt Disney bought into cryogenics. Competition for customers doesn't always come up with the best products. DuPont Chemicals presumably has good products. Yet, they have been in a financial crisis for years and are planning to "spin off" their Performance Chemicals division to somehow protect investor money and increase the value of DuPont stock. A man being trapped in a space capsule for years life to bring dead embryos to another planet? I suppose the astronaut marries the alien girl at the end.

  52. Disney being frozen was a popular myth and totally false. Just FYI.

  53. Schrodinger's cat will be biting its own tail after reading this.

  54. If one does not believe that there is a world to come, which is the real world we gain by good deeds, behaving morally, and raising decent children, then we can understand nothing of this world.

    Righteousness is the goal and we achieve this by helping others, not by fulfilling our selfish desires.

    Its byproduct is happiness.

  55. If the only reason to do good deeds, behave morally and raise decent children is the hope for "pie in the sky by and by" then that means no one is really moral, just hedging their bets.
    The truly moral do it because they do.

  56. I like David Brooks and his columns. But this one is just plain weird.

    This is a movie, man....

  57. I couldn't agree more.

  58. and a really awful movie at that

  59. @karla: yes. The problem with "really important movies" is that they usually aren't!

  60. What would Rand Paul do?

  61. OK, David, if you insist on applying the somewhat mystical if not downright mystifying (even to physicists) concepts of modern quantum mechanics and general relativity to somehow debunk any attempt to rationally attempt to improve the world, I guess in your world view we should all just give up trying to make a better world. David, even your patron philosophic saint, Edmund Burke, didn't go that far. But then, applying a pseudo-application of chaos theory, even in a world or yours where you restrain yourself to making just small incremental changes, you just never know when one of those mini-moves will take you over the tipping point into a reality at odds with either your dreams or desires.

    But surely we should at least try to move forward to a more just and decent world rather than just throw up our hands and say what will be will be. There must be some evil in your world that must be held in check by an albeit imperfect application of will. There must be some inequality that could hardly be considered in our best interest, some threat which is not self-correcting.

    Surely you could muster the will to condemn those refusing to acknowledge the scientific method, to aver that a scientific theory is far more than opinion, that the electronics conservative media use every day is based on the "theory" of quantum mechanics.

    These past months you have decried lack of faith in modern rational institutions. But then, I guess what do you expect if you yourself have none?
    .

  62. Not only Christian Wiman but also Carl Jung believed the same thing. That we as humans are only individualized "selfs" that are but subsets of the "Collective Unconscious". Not God in the traditional sense, but at least a mystical force permeating the Universe in ways we can barely glimpse.

  63. But, will it help us left here a way to get out of our pickle barrel, David?

    Sadly, I think not. We are all forced to live with the destinies we have chosen right here, on earth.

    The only "escape" we have is the one we've always had; the next life. Athiest or believer, you're gonna love it!

  64. Dear David Brooks.

    Very interesting, but let's bring this down to a practical level. This morning, I noticed half a dozen entangled particles at the corner where I get the bus to work. I was spooked, and that was even before I noticed the webs of waves across the street!

    Anyway, I'm with you on the "meaningful relationships" thing. What we need is more Dr. Phil and less Surgeon General and Global Warming type stuff.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  65. Somehow, David, you just painted over the most important point of the film in your new role as film reviewer.

    Mankind has destroyed the atmosphere, destroyed all agriculture (only corn can be grown and that crop is at risk as well, but they still can drink beer, one of the many, many holes in the plot). Yet, somehow and for some strange reason you didn't mention that, except that the planet has been hit by an environmental catastrophe. Even in the beginning of the film there are references to the original dust bowl, which was an environmental catastrophe created by man.

    Hmmm, I wonder why you did that?

  66. Beer can actually be made with corn-- It's more common in Latin America than the USA, but it definitely can be made. I won't disagree with your other points, though.

  67. The science of interstellar life might have discovered new frontiers of love only now but the eternal cosmic rhythm energising the universe has always centred on the love-force, provided one has discerning senses to feel it.

  68. Sorry, but the premise of this column and the film are both beyond suspension of disbelief. If humans think finding a new planetary home is a viable alternative to taking care of the home they have now, they are going to be waiting a very, very long time...for utter disappointment. And the premise that local love will fix it all is delusional. Scale it up to cultural level and then start figuring out how government can make solutions possible. Distrusting government is like traveling at the speed of light: not an answer nor solution.

    Eclectic Pragmatist — http://eclectic-pragmatist.tumblr.com/

  69. However much those who kneel at the religion of science believe otherwise, the more "answers" science offers, the greater and more profounf the mysteries which are revealed.

    As one simple, but potent, example, is the theory that we live in an INFINITE multi-verse. This is not only accepted but peddled by an astonishing number of those who say they are committed to testable theories (i.e., our scientists). But until we can create instruments which go "outside" or "before" space/time (i.e., never), this theory is untestable. As the only "scientific explanation" for why our universe seems fine-tuned for life, however, those who refuse to accept that we finite, mortal creatures will never have answers to ultimate questions have glommed onto the theory as the "answer."

    Among the most mysterious of our discoveries is the nature of quantum processes. So I am open to where those mysteries may lead including those suggested by "Interstellar" and Mr. Brooks.

    Sadly, those who seem committed to stripping life of the awe and wonder which grand mysteries offer will deride those who aren't so certain calling them believers in faerie tales, pixie dust and unicorns. To me, it's certainty (in ANY theory) which is the real pixie dust.

  70. As science grows, so does art, and faith. The Divine will always be that next layer of possibility beyond what we know. Quantum entanglement makes everything, now and ever, interwoven and connected. Our choices are not pre-determined: instead, the living universe awaits them, and recreates itself, across all time and space, so that our choices meld with others' in simultaneity.
    Twenty years ago, I named my son after Kip Thorne, the coolest living scientist I knew; he did not become an astrophysicist, but instead a film student, and uncannily has revered Nolan years before this film was made.
    We brought my father to see Interstellar, and he recalled his own childhood in the Kansas dustbowl.
    There are unintended allegories--all fathers abandon, seemingly, their adolescent daughters "to save (or conquer) the world." True life speeds as one's obsessions burn through precious decades. We recall images of our younger parents, the ones we knew when we were children at home, and forgive them from the wiser perspective of our own challenging adulthoods.
    Thus, Nolan's art is more than this week's cultural event. It has deeply fused science, art, faith, and love--entangling us all across time.

  71. AS THE "GOD" OF WESTERN RELIGIONS KEEP EVOLVING . . .

    ...to conform with what science keeps on proving -- There was always plenty that we didn't know. But, the "prophets" and the holy texts gave (what they thought to be) answers.

    But, Galilleo, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein and ... gave us empirical and verifiable truths. And,
    Judiaism and Christianity first denied science ... but eventually were forced to accept what the scientific method had wrought -- well except for some of the ultra orthodox who continued to use scripture as being literal. Islam -- not so much and they have paid dearly in so many ways.

    So, now among well educated and sophisticated people who are "believers" what is God? He seems to address the questions which presently cannot be known -- and, probably there will always be many aspects of humanity, the world, the cosmos that will remain not understood.

    So, think of scientific truths always pushing the domain of God and religion further to account for the unanswerable. With progress, the usefulness of most Western religions will diminish and its main purpose will be communion and a template for ethics and morality.

    Should we not end human life on this planet (a real possibility), the concept of religions believing that God is a literal being ... will approach a limit of zero.

  72. "Galilleo, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein and ... gave us empirical and verifiable truths."

    Your statement implies science can define absolute truths. It cannot. The names you mentioned and other great scientists have provided deep insights into the nature of reality that are testable and therefore falsifiable. But the insights are invariably incomplete, perforce. That's the nature of science. We will always understand reality imperfectly as human beings because our senses are limited--even when enhanced through instrumentation--and our cognitive capacity is finite. We should never forget that when making pronouncements about what does and does not exist.

  73. Whatever, David. The movie was pretension and hokey. Having Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" recited at least four times (I lost count) does not make a profound film.

  74. Wishful thinking can not impede the Laws of Physics. But imagination is fun and can lead to innovation.

    With that said, I always wondered if memories could be made inheritable. Perhaps it is possible that in the future some bio-genetesist could engineer a memory gene that could be passed from generation to generation. In a strange way it's like cheating death.

  75. I saw the movie. It's dumb. I just lost respect for David Brooks.

  76. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but Mr. Brooks makes “Interstellar” sound like a psychedelic experiment from the 1960s:

    Picture Matthew McConaughey on a spaceship
    With quantum entanglement and mystical ties
    Suddenly someone is there at the edge of the universe
    The daughter he left behind with the earthy eyes

    It could be the theme song sung to the tune of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. But seriously, if “Interstellar” were anything like “Inception,” I’d want to see it despite Mr. Brooks’ non-stellar review!

  77. Guess I'll have to see the movie to see how these apostles manage interstellar travel in order to colonize some far flung planet with frozen human embryos in a world where vast engineering projects are not very promising. Guess the McConaughey character must build that spaceship in the shed behind the barn. And some web of loving relationships among the locals probably produced the embryos and stored them in the fridge.

  78. This again:
    (Mom had died sometime earlier.)

    You just named the secret formula to all Disney movie plots - no moms! With moms, everything is saved, restored, on the right path.

    Yet, oddly, the last time we had a serious chance to put a mother of teens and younger children in the political spotlight in our country, we were ordered by politically correct elites to not only NOT EVER vote for her, but spend the rest of our lives denouncing Sarah Palin.

    Some of the residual karma echoed again on Nov. 4th.

  79. What a movie. Brilliant cinematography and CGI. Star-studded. And then there's Matthew McConaughey, who delivers line after line of SNL-ready ridiculousness. No doubt the underlying implications are interesting... I'm not asking for my money back. But McConaughey's performance makes Dallas Buyers Club seem like a ray of light that somehow managed to escape from beyond the event horizon. Matt Damon (or a dozen other actors) would have made for far fewer laugh-out-loud zingers. I have no idea what David Brooks is talking about... not sure we saw the same movie.

  80. "But this isn’t an explicitly religious movie. “Interstellar” is important because amid all the culture wars between science and faith and science and the humanities, the movie illustrates the real symbiosis between these realms."

    No, David, it isn't and it doesn't.

  81. What are " vast social engineering projects "? Affordable Care Act? Medicare ? Social Security ? Public education? I sense that those "webs of living and meaningful relationships" mean, for Brooks, places to hang out with his own social strata- hence the word "webs". A web is a closed structure.

    In how many ways can Brooks say that he wants us all to stay in our given places and not look beyond them to a government of the people by the people and for the people? To me, Brooks use of quantum theory is similiar to his use of deceased writers. He knows little about them but uses them to try to fancy up his acceptance of greedy and ignorant Republican policies.

    Thank you to Gemli and other commenters for speaking up for the American populace as a whole- not just certain " webs".

  82. I am a progressive like many of you out there. I thought one of the attributes of progressive thinking was applying an open mind using reason to come to logical conclusions. No matter what Mr. Brooks writes, whether reviewing a movie or expanding on some philosophical material he has just read the top commentaries are always the ones which find a hidden conservative Republican agenda behind each one. We are as short sided and as closed minded as the far right enemy we abhor. If Mr. Brooks wrote a five word column "1 + 1 = 2" no doubt someone out there would get 1000 plus thumbs up votes stating that he's calling for tax cuts for the 1 percent! I am as cynical as the next gut out but come on, is this column about pushing the "right" agenda or is it perhaps someone exercising his brain to push boundaries about how we view complex material? Since when did we become the party of mush?

  83. The first 3/4th of the movie was great. The last 1/4th was not. It was like, no one knows whats inside a blackhole, so lets just makeup whatever we want to make the ending happy. There's really not much to take out of the movie otherwise. An entertaining scifi movie, but not a masterpiece for sure.

  84. Gee David, the rest of your generation took LSD and realized much of this decades ago. Better late than never I guess.

  85. The main thing about this movie was that after about the first hour, it was extraordinarily boring! With a lifelong love of science (and degrees in chemistry and pharmacy), I went to see it with great anticipation. The science was less than compelling (and I took a course in quantum mechanics as an undergraduate)! The two friends and I who went to see "Interstellar" left shaking our heads, mourning the fact that we'd never get back the 3 hours of our life we lost on this drivel.

  86. In this very strange piece, we learn that David Brooks has embarked on space odyssey of his own, one whose destination is fairyland. Let me throw just a little cold water on some of this nonsense. A wormhole is a construct that obviates the difficulty that writers of science fiction face when they contemplate space travel over very long distances, such as a search for new planets in the fantasy that is at the heart of "Interstellar". Since even our nearest neighbor in the galaxy is ten light years away, such a search is absurd unless one travels through a wormhole and presto. one is already there! The only problem is that there is no such thing as a wormhole. A new buzz word has entered the language of late—"quantum entanglement". In a paper published in 1935, Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen published a paper that noted that according to the new quantum theory, of which Einstein was deeply skeptical, if two particles in a quantum state, say a "singlet", with opposite spins, they would remain in such a state no matter how far they became separated. Thus if the spin of one of them was observed, the spin of the other would be immediately known. Einstein seemed to think that this violated the principle of causality. Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance". This became known as the EPR parodox. Others pointed out that there was no violation of causality and no paradox—it was simply the way quantum theory worked. This is quantum entanglement.

  87. "Since even our nearest neighbor in the galaxy is ten light years away, such a search is absurd".......For a person traveling at or near the speed of light, how long will they perceive it takes to get to the nearest galaxy?

  88. Though, at the most basic level, we are all quantum phenomena, you cannot apply the rules of quantum entanglement to human life in general, Mr. Brooks.
    "Interstellar" is an interesting movie, but it is not going to cause a cultural shift, and definitely not in Washington. But, just for a moment, imagine that we are living in a different universe, just one among many in the multiverse.
    In this universe, Republicans are devouring Kip Thorne's book explaining the science behind "Interstellar". Even Michelle Bachmann is flipping the pages, looking for cartoons. Obama and Boehner are not only playing golf together, they are playing the same tunes in their minds. The Republicans are vowing that they will personally blow up the Keystone XL pipeline, if ever completed, and throw the Koch brothers in jail, if they object. Now, this is the universe where quantum entanglement really rules!

  89. One Noble laureate astrophysist once said - danger of science is to be 'cock sure' of their findings. The mystic nature of our worldly life was known long before the modern science came. It was contradiction to the mechanistic world view of the nineteenth and twenty the century science. Quantum physics finally showed the close connection of the science to mystic perception - Schoridenger's "What is Life". Our society is still not struggling to grasp these mystic thoughts - divine love, oneness of life, immortality of person, limitations of time, space and causality. These type of Hollywood movies help us to understand these ideas.

  90. Earthling Brooks! R U serious? U R serious! I M returning to my home planet.
    U 2 gravitas 4 me.

  91. All right, all right, all right, Mr. Brooks. From true detective to interstellar cowboy, the true grit we learned from this movie is that we're all interconnected in a quantum web of entanglements. While popping fluffy kernals of corn the audience participated in a union of science and spirituality. Could it be possible that they are one in the same underneath all of the scorched Earth dust bowl scenery of grief as well as the frigid ice of the wormhole space frontier?

    Reunification of our tribe is a common theme as old as mankind. In the Epiphany of the Lord, Isaiah 60:1 praising the glory of Zion when the Israelites were reunited after years of captivity, the holy book reads:

    1. Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
    2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.
    3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
    4 Lift up your eyes round about, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms.
    5 Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

    We all have alot to be thankful for including your warm thoughts today.

  92. Time warps and flows...
    Where it goes, nobody knows...
    Perhaps it bends back around to where it was created...
    Or, maybe it is merely a digital thing and heavily pixilated...
    I get confused by light speed, worm holes and Einstein's relativity theory...
    And quantum mechanics, big bangs, and entangled particles make me leery.
    Sure, I 'm getting older and older but, you know...
    I really don't care..
    Because, as Jimmy Buffett says...
    "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere."

    Good enough for me!

  93. David, if you haven't read much about Buddhism, you might want to. Particularly , you might read about Interbeing. Also, you might enjoy Dr. Dan Siegel's work on interpersonal neurobiology.

  94. The universe IS God.

  95. Are you sure you couldn't have given away more of the plot.

  96. David, since your column on Tuesday I need to ask, have you been smoking something?! I was waiting for you to equate this column as an analogy of Obama and the Democrats; they should have done this, or shouldn’t have done that. But it wasn't there. Keep smoking please!

  97. Well, he did make a passing reference to the "unborn", which is a bit of a dog whistle, at least if your dog watches Fox.

    Personally, as a member of the Undead Community, I feel a little slighted - but I'm getting over it.

  98. Wow! Chill out everybody. It is only a movie! And David is only human. Planck, Heisenberg, and Schroedinger are laughing and rolling their eyes!

  99. I’m in my study, alone,
    On a November morning,
    My newly-socked feet
    Not yet warm enough.

    I’m conducting a thought experiment.
    I’m imagining someone
    With neither hearing nor sight
    Transported unawares in an instant
    To the very middle
    Of a bustling newsroom
    On an election night.

    Did you know,
    By the way,
    That some birds
    Wear mating plumage
    In colors they can see
    But we can’t,
    Beyond the border of the violet?

    I’m in my study, alone,
    On a November morning,
    My newly-socked feet
    Not yet warm enough.

    I’m alone.

    Am I alone?

  100. I am often deeply moved by nytimes readers comments but not so here. Brooks may be anathema to many who read the Times but in this piece he becomes rhapsodic and appropriately so in capturing the theme of loving connections that he actually describes quite beautifully. Even though I often find my self at odds with his conclusions I appreciate the beauty and meaning of INTERSTELLAR in much the same way he does.

    The challenge we face is can we fashion programmatic modes of competently addressing the shared needs of humanity without literally violating the rights of individuals.

    That tension has been lived out in one tragic experiment after another. Our own CIVIL WAR is a compelling example of the struggle to accept all as equally entitled to freedom and dignity. We have killed each other repeatedly in wars with the same theme.

    We are brutal often savage predators mindlessly exploiting each other with no sense of personal commitment based on loving appreciation of the 'other' but only on perceived need that may be justified in a multiplicity of ways. "I deserve to live well but you do not" is the macabre expression of this most fundamental flaw in human nature.

    Evolution has bequeathed us the theme of survival of the fittest. It is tragedy eternal for which love of one another serves as counterpoint for without it we perish.

    That is the theme of INTERSTELLAR and Brooks seems to get that right.

  101. Mr. Brooks, agreed. It's an incredibly ambitious movie that just might be inspiring enough to make us a star-gazing people again. I'm thrilled for NASA to have such a compelling cultural touchstone.

    The Zimmer soundtrack is helping me to work and roll up my sleeves starting my company right now, particularly tracks like 'Day One', 'Where We're Going', and 'First Step'.

    And the Europeans ten days ago. How exciting! Let's go.

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  102. I don't know if the movie was that good. I think Mr. Brooks got a little carried away. Did you watch it in Colorado by any chance, while enjoying a "smoke" perhaps?

  103. How about saying "spoiler alert" at the beginning?

  104. The last time I slipped through a wormhole, I ended up in Istanbul.

  105. Check out C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, the final book of his three-book "space trilogy."

  106. To bad, Most bloggers commented as if the film was suppose to be a documentary and also the author's review...Of course there will be "holes", spatial, interstellar, spiritual and by God, the script also.

  107. In Interstellare, there may be love across generations, love across galaxies, but there is no love across humanity: There are no Asians in the film.

    Generally in Nolan films, generally in fantasy films, generally in sci fi films, there are simply No Asians, not a single one, not even in some small stereotypical role, not even killed off in the first 5 seconds, not even as an extra rushing past in some background shot.

    Absent, gone, disappeared. What happened to 75% of humanity?

    Oh, in the reduced world of Nolan's apocalyptic future, there are some blacks, maybe I spotted one Latino, but it is overwhelmingly white, who eat only corn and play only baseball. It's doubly strange that Nolan is British but he presents this small-town mid-western vision of America as the center of the entire human race to be saved.

  108. When I was young, I respected science fiction. It was a genre in which authors could imagine worlds where beings of all planets (read: people of all races and ethnic heritage) could find common ground. That was a radical concept in the racially and ethnically divided America of the 1950's. Now it's the inspiration for conservative writers to attack social welfare programs. The funny thing is that without the US space program, one of the biggest social engineering projects of all time, we could not even imagine a movie like Interstellar.

  109. No offense Mr. Brooks, all the metaphors aside, the movie was terrible. Can't believe I wasted my 15 bucks on that drivel.

  110. " but webs of loving and meaningful relationships can do amazing good."

  111. Today I enjoyed a streaming of "Nebraska," a 2013 release, and now can look forward to the creative "Interstellar" perhaps in a couple of years.

    The folksy Bruce Dern movie does not utilize sci-fi to communicate the expression of love, and it's touching without mind-challenging symbolism.

    Dern plays a dottering ole man with a son who cares deeply while learning to better understand and provide happiness for his dad upon re-visiting their original home-town.

  112. David, let me be political. You could describe the quantum entanglement that exists between both political parties. Yes, endless complex patterns of dishonesty, untruthfulness and corruption. So, we need a new political system, and maybe we need it on a new planet. Until then, same old, same old. No romance, no sex. Pitiful.

  113. David Brooks of course doesn't mention the part where (very conservative) mainstream humanity on earth virtually condems itself to an almost certain extinction by denying science, out of fear for disaster that should really call for more investment of science in order to survive. Sounds familiar? In the film, luckily, science is allowed to save the day by going underground. However, if David Brooks conservative side have their way the government won't allow even the underground science, and leave everyone to farm and die.

  114. Its pretty embarrassing for Mr. Brooks when he glorifies a movie (and its science) that has as one of its central themes the catastrophic consequences of human impact on our environment when the ideology he stands for and constantly promotes is constantly denying science; behind much of our own real world environmental disaster going on; and which stands in the way of being able to do much about it.

    It is another reminder to never underestimate the capacity of the rightwing for hypocrisy.

  115. Contact did the same story 15 years earlier and infinitely better.

  116. Most of today's movies are simply about violence and sex. It's absolutely tiresome to watch tv and movies. So, I don't.

  117. If this is so David why was half the audience in attendance when I went to see Interstellar asleep?

  118. While I agree with some of Brook's sentiments, he makes a common error. When one takes Newton's clockwork universe, Darwin's natural selection, and Einstein's relativity and try to apply them in social contexts, you invite abuse. Science can inform human life, and yes, we usually adjust our belief systems to accommodate what is usually convenient for us (once upon a time, test tube babies were the spawn of satan). Remember that Newton described gravity as an "occult force," and Einstein once called quantum physics as "spooky action at distance." We live with mysteries, some persist, some are mysteries only for a time until we discover what is behind the curtain. In that, we don't live in an either/or universe. It's more of a paradox, with lots of "ands."
    As for religion or faith in the movie, may I offer one that has been left out. Interstellar confirms a humanistic view of the challenges of living in a capricious universe. Human beings can and must save themselves.

  119. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we stayed on earth and fixed our problems... rather than running away from it? There seems to be a very long-term pattern for this, from the migrations out of Africa in pre-historic times.

    More recently, parents who move their kids to private schools or charter schools instead of staying to fix public schools.

    Is this the way the majority of people on earth will deal with pollution? climate change? There was a time when we fought for clean air, clean water. We reduced pesticides (remember DDT)? There was a time when we fought for good roads, good infrastructure, against needless wars, good schools and universities. There was a time when we fought against corporations running roughshod over their workers, customers, suppliers, and governments (Teddy Roosevelt's Progressives).

    The people of each generation has the choice to make the world a better place to live, or not. Each one of us has an effect by the daily choices we make.

    Do we really want to fly away from earth rather than take care of her?

  120. If all it does is awaken people to the danger of denying man-made global warming (or climate change) if you prefer, it will have made a welcome contribution to exposing the limited sanity exhibited by the climate change deniers.

  121. As a general rule, you should never use entanglement to explain something outside of physics or chemistry (or in rare cases, mathematics). The only way you'll avoid saying something wrong is by being too vague to say anything, and almost always you can make your point without invoking entanglement.

  122. I'm always fascinated by esoteric scientific stuff. But I sure wish that the lawmakers of our world would listen to the the fact that our very existence is threatened by discharging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It's easier to stop doing it than to figure out a way to send it down an interstellar worm hole.

  123. A since it's a "movie" and not "real", it fits right in with Republican thinking these days; if the "science" doesn't match up to one's rhetoric, then just "make stuff up", just like in the movies!

  124. After so much build-up ("Nivrana for Moviegoes). I found Interstellar tedious and yes, disappointing.

    I'm sure I'm an outlier here. And I confess, I'm not a huge fan of sci fi, other than the old Twilight Zone stuff and 2001 A Space Odyssey, which I found much more compelling .

    But the movie just seemed to be a treatise on love and physics and overly pretentious in exploring the conflicts between emotions and science. A huge fan of Matthew McConnahey, I kept waiting for his strong acting skills to emerge instead of simply reciting a script. A mouthpiece for Nolan's complex vision. As were the other actors.

    Moreover, it was long. I mean, really long. Over and over, we have to sit through the space ship hurtling through wormholes, dazzling viewers with colorful galaxies, amazing technology, and feats of implausibility--yet hampered by huge disconnects. The Mann character could have, and should have, been eliminated.

    Where 2001 A Space Odyssey was sparsely elegant in its concept, Interstellar was weighed down by its philosophical complexity and prosey script.

    Hey, my sig other, a huge sci fi fan, loved it. But other than the main premise of earthly destruction by man's inability to stop raping natural resources--the one thing I found disturbingly plausible--the time-warps and prosy lectures on the enduring power of love left me cold.

    As did this overwrought column which kept tripping over its own interpretations.

  125. Dr. Mann's character, I believe, was a selfish, groveling Everyman, caring more about his botched, then covered up, scientific reputation than the greater good. In this sense he was the epitome of the ugly underbelly of science (i.e. selling science/tech for unrealistic profits without any consideration of the greater good. Dr. Mann wanted to return to Earth alone to keep his secrets about his scientific results intact, even if it meant leaving behind the other astronauts. In this regard, Dr. Mann was the perfect foil to the protagonist's concerns about discovering a viable alternative to dying Earth.

  126. So now Christopher Nolan gets dragged into the old saw that science and religion are simply two complementary world views that seek to describe the same reality. What nonsense.

    Science explores and explains reality; religion obfuscates it with myth, superstition, and the abiding project of the normalization of conservative, male privilege. 'Faith' has become the preferred euphemism for religion because it sounds innocuous, even virtuous--though how a decision to believe something for which there is no evidence renders someone virtuous is unclear. The term should be 'gullible,' or maybe 'indoctrinated.'

    Instead of waxing philosophical about quantum entanglement, Brooks should be examining the phenomenon of intellectual befuddlement; he lives in a country where the national space agency's budget has been reduced to pocket change, and 42% of the population claims to believe that this planet is less than 10,000 years old.

    Religious symbols can be found anywhere, if their discovery is one's agenda to begin with. This morning I saw the face of Sponge Bob Squarepants in a piece of toast, and failed to have an epiphany. It's really shaken my faith in Squarepantsianism.

  127. I hope the Republicans will begin to see science for what it is once again.

  128. Why does it take a Saturn V rocket to lift the capsule off of tiny earth, with its negligible time shift, and yet the little rocket motors on board the capsule are strong enough to take off from the edge of a black hole, where one hour equals seven earth years? It should take the power of a thousand suns to do this.
    Wish I could go forward and meet my own children as grandparents, but mass also increases at the high velocities necessary to achieve these time shifts. The energy needed to accelerate away from a black hole is probably something larger than a supernova.

  129. Yes to the interconnectivity of all things, all matter. And some matter forms hearts and souls.

    Everybody's running around with an apocalyptical state of mind these days somewhat influenced by popular novels, movies, etc. But, it is a savage, unpredictable universe, and truly, from moment to moment, we don't know.

    But in the NOW and HERE, there's some 7 billion souls pooled largely together in various places around this old mud ball. There are forces that tear apart the various nations, and there are other forces that pull us together. Health workers from around the globe are treating Ebola victims in Africa while fundamentalist murderers are doing their thing in the Levant.

    In this particular pool of humanity, the USA, there are obligations and responsibilities that go with being in close quarters with many others. We are not free to go about flaunting rules of law. The more folk there are, the less absolutely free we all are to do what we wish. In a similar vein, government is needed to enforce societal rules and obligations. And one of government's primary purposes is to regulate business.

    Love and personal wealth are great but do not provide health insurance for the poor. I think we all hold hope against an apocalypse, but the best we can do NOW is try for prepared and engaged societal governments that will look out for common health and welfare, even if disaster should strike.

  130. David go watch Plan 9 from Outer Space: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5DZhDH8eew, I found it to be far superior to Interstellar in every way. Love, Science and Society and there was more truth in 87 minutes of Plan 9, then when I left the theater after Interstellar, I felt I would run into my 120 year old daughter.

  131. You are da bomb!!!!

  132. Oh good Lord, talk about bending ideas to fit a foregone conclusion and seeing everything through the eyes of preconceived notions. I for one would like to wholeheartedly endorse the words of the intrepid space traveler Kurt Vonnegut: "The world would be much better off if there were less love and more common decency." Amen!

  133. Entanglement, non-local connection, synchronicity (different names for the same essential thing) has been known for thousands of years in India, and is expressed in their Vedas, Upanishads and other teachings.

  134. Well, Mr. Brooks, I have no idea if you have fundamental values toward a religion, or if you have a feeling toward predestination, but your column strikes my thoughts, which is life on this planet and in the universe is a result of random selection. Always, it seems, human fate is after, and never before, the fact.

  135. Many people who consider themselves atheists and agnostics, or who simply have a personal, ill-defined sense of the spiritual, feel a "radical openness". It has always been the distrust of superstition, power and resistance to science that motivates our dislike of organized religion. This piece sounds like conservatism co-opting another aspect of progressive thought. It isn't reasonable to have it both ways, and this film's spiritual bent does nothing to assuage the doubters and skeptics who are stunned by the narrowness of some ideologies.

  136. Two of the greatest human mysteries are 1. Our Consciousness, and 2. Our ability to use langue to create and to communicate meaning.

    As much as science will continue to teach us wondrous things about our physical bodies, our consciousness will always be larger than what we can learn about it. As one wag put it, "If the mind were simple enough to understand, we would be too stupid to understand it."

    Brooks' "Bobos in Paradise" impressed me when I first read it, and it said a lot about my generation and the culture we live in. But I also noticed that Brooks likes to avoid intellectual responsibility by continually reducing ideas into their smaller parts. He also like to force conclusions, as if everything must have a conclusion.

    My mind is a mystery to me, and I kind of like it that way. The world I live in is not, and I try to do my best to deal with it.

  137. Thanks for the spoiler alert, Mr. Brooks.

  138. There you go again, David. You find your lesson of the day in "Interstellar": "Vast social engineering projects look less promising, because of the complexity, but webs of loving and meaningful relationships can do amazing good."

    In your commentary on this work of fiction, and hiding behind your implicit claim to understand quantum mechanics, and justified by your assurance that the science of this film is deeply meaningful, you sneak in a critique of social justice. Somehow you find support for a sloppy libertarian/conservative blended worldview that argues for individual selfishness and for faith in the invisible hand of market, god, cosmology, or whatever is the flavor of the month that brings about good and fairness out of status quo acceptance of oppression, inequality, prejudice, and violence. Sure, love is important. But love between a separated parent and an immigrant child, for example, however analogous to quantum entanglement you find it, is still tragic, painful, and avoidable, and likely would be helped by some good social engineering/tinkering. And such social engineering can easily avoid foolish bad engineering with some humility and flexibility built in, as in so many good engineering solutions (landing a scientific experiment on a dime located on an asteroid speeding along out there in space). We need not accept the product of our very imperfect human past as inevitable.

  139. Whew! Let me say that again, whew! First, saw it, Good acting, but way too long. Nolan stole the younger/older flip flop from a sixties era Twilight zone. Overall theme stolen from The Man Who Fell To Earth, a great scifi book and movie from the 80's. The science was real, but the fist fight was pure Western, in space suits. And all he biblical stuff was way 2 filofaxing obvious. Course this was a movie sold to the masses. Bet it puts most to sleep when it goes to video. Gravity was way better. And as for Brooks, turned a middling movie into a metaphor for anti big government, he just tried to be sly about it.

  140. As the poet Christian Wiman wrote in his masterpiece, “My Bright Abyss,” “If quantum entanglement is true, if related particles react in similar or opposite ways even when separated by tremendous distances, then it is obvious that the whole world is alive and communicating in ways we do not fully understand."

    Quantum entanglement neither involves nor permits "communication" in any sense of that word. It is far more subtle and at the same time far more magnificent than Wiman realizes. I recommend the essays by N. David Mermin.

  141. I worry about the unconscious effects of a movie suggesting that we can trash this planet and move on to the next.

  142. "Vast social engineering projects look less promising, because of the complexity, but webs of loving and meaningful relationships can do amazing good." Did I miss something? Did an editor remove an errant paragraph or sentence from Mr. Brook's column?

    One moment the subject is "quantum entanglement" - the next it's Obamacare (OK - he didn't say it but you know he meant it). For the record - per the NYTimes - quantum entanglement is still not proven. see: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/opinion/sunday/is-quantum-entanglement....

    Once upon a time Brook's columns were straightforward and intelligently written argument promoting Conservative view. Now he seems loopy and dreamy. Mr. Brooks - please get back to where you once belong.

  143. After reading this article, I decided to go ahead and see this movie. Any movie dealing with such subject will, inevitably, be compared to Stanley Kubrick's 1968 epic masterpiece "2001 A Space Odissey". In my view, nothing that came after this movie comes even close to the philosophical, evolutionary and humanitarian issues brought about by Mr. Kubrick. 46 years after 2001, I am curious to see if this time, a movie can approach and upgrade the universal aspect and the beauty of 2001 A Space Odissey. I hope it does, and I applaud Mr.Brooks' wonderful piece of writing.

  144. Saw the movie and my overwhelming thought was I want my money back!!!

  145. Almost as good as the real-life movie where the principled President rebukes his seditious and Dickensian right-wing Congress by allowing the hard-working, salt-of-the-earth Mexican immigrant parent to stay in America with their children instead of deferring to the powerful angry mob who wants to deport them for spite and take food from the mouths of babes.

    The true American experience is the immigrant experience......except for the Native Americans who were obliterated.

    Love and gravity...in the real world.

  146. And don't forget the metaphorical dig at abortion early in this article with the reference to "frozen embryos" and "love for the unborn." I had no idea that quantum mechanics and right wing policies were so deeply intertwined.

  147. Let me guess: The environmental catastrophe is blamed on the Affordable Care Act and President Obama's decision to act on immigration.

  148. The prime mover in the movie is "an environmental catstrophe". Maybe the "strange truth" revealed here is that we are in peril from climate change. Perhaps that is the purpose of the "radical openness" it is trying to evoke in people. Keystone pipeline anyone?

  149. David, there is no war to speak of between science and the humanities. Yes, there is a nefarious war between faith and science, where faith often turns hysterically irrational in its questioning of the premises of science. But the humanities have charioted science by creative conditions for science's narrativization. The humanities have helped popularized science and continues to do so.

  150. Seemingly plausible, romantic visions of escaping through a worm hole to a "better place" will encourage those who already don't believe in the fragility of our planet at the hands of man to argue that we'll just hop off somewhere else after we've soiled our own nest. Not to worry. We'll send out our new century pilgrims and all will be well within a gene pool launched toward some futuristic Planet X, although those of us Left Behind might be frying and dying in place.

    This time the fanciful notions about an escape clause from an apocalypse of our own making will not be buttressed by fantasy but by some wishful thinking jerry- rigged with factoids from science.

  151. Sounds like a movie worth going to see.

  152. If David's theory that exposure to "Interstellar" will result in a "radical openness to strange truth" is valid, then perhaps all members of Congress should be required to watch it before the opening of the next session.

  153. So when religious undertones are the underlying attracting pull behind the movie we flock to see it.

  154. Arguing that quantum mechanics somehow supports your conservative philosophy is like arguing that the theory of evolution somehow supports the ill-named "social Darwinism". Both are complete non-sequiturs that only ideologues with an agenda could take seriously.

  155. But we have climate change denial and creation theory museums and ministers and churches and faiths and Fox News extolling the virtuous majesty of an omnipotent omniscient deity who managed to do so much in so many places in only 6000 years for our exceptional entertainment and enjoyment.

    While the scientists generally fail to tell us that that can not even begin to explain the nature of the 72% of physical reality that rest in the whimsy of dark energy and the 24% of reality that comes from dark matter. And even the 4% of stuff that the scientist know must deal with the barrier between the quantum and the relative along with uncertainty and incompleteness.

    Science rest on faith and extrapolation as the best interim explanation for the best currently available natural knowledge and facts. Both gravity and evolution are scientific theories. Neither is theology nor guessing nor whimsy nor myth nor opinion. Subject to rejection by better evidence and explanation.

    Ignorance as in the absence of knowledge is universal. Stupidity as in knowing things that are not true is a more limited condition. Movies are meant to entertain through taking dramatic license with facts including science. The future is unknown.

  156. "More, it [Interstellar] shows how modern science is influencing culture. People have always bent their worldviews around the latest scientific advances."

    Hmm. I guess this means Republicans, unlike, apparently, corporations, are not "people."

    Think John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and James Inhofe, to cite just three of that breed, who are in the vanguard of man-made climate change and are now in positions of power to not do anything about it.

    Really science influenced guys, doncha think?

    Perhaps we could pass the hat to get tickets to Interstellar for Jim, John, and Mitch so that they too might experience "a radical openness to strange truth just below and above the realm of the everyday"?

  157. "generally based on real science" Anybody else find that ironic?

  158. I haven't yet seen Interstellar. As one who's read a lot of science fiction over the decades, some of which was along the philosophical and metaphysical lines described by Mr Brooks, I can say with some confidence he 'gets it' (or, if you prefer, he groks it).

  159. The fundamental premise of "Interstellar" is nonsense.

    Any planet that can manage travel through wormholes, or any other kind of interstellar travel, can manage it's environmental issues with one collective hand tied behind it's collective back. That's how huge the scientific hurdles to interstellar travel for humans are.

    In a way, the irrational conceit at the heart of "Interstellar" is more egregious than the unscientific navigational gibberish at the heart of that prizewinning crowd favorite, "Gravity" At least there the baloney factor was firmly limited to the realities of navigation in earth orbit. Something the scientists of the world actually know quite a lot about.

    But "Interstellar" couldn't be more science fantasy if the writers had introduced Flash Gordon's Emperor Ming the Merciless as a character.

  160. Today we play "where's Waldo?", hunting through the verbiage of movie critique, quantum effects, love and the species, hunting, hunting for that nugget of Brooks' political raison d'tetre and ... Got It !

    "Vast social engineering projects look less promising, because of the complexity, but webs of loving and meaningful relationships can do amazing good."

    A variation on the convenient old meme -- government efforts are doomed; the poor need to find more meaningful relationships.

    The whole exercise has as much content as a crossword puzzle.

  161. If that's all you allow it to be. I find that Brooks is constantly, if not always successfully, trying to get inside the heads of people whose views are alien to his own. You might try the same.

    I don't expect you appreciate it in private life when someone is sure they've figured you out, that they always know what you *really* mean, that they needn't take seriously your protests.