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Movie Detail Monday: Space, Time, and the Ticking Sound in ‘Interstellar’

Interstellar Water Planet
Paramount Pictures

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Movie Detail Monday: Space, Time, and the Ticking Sound in ‘Interstellar’

Each tick represents one Earth day.

As one might expect from the delightfully thorough filmmaker, Christopher Nolan went the extra mile when making “Interstellar” by relying on Kip Thorne to ground the film in as much reality (and science) as possible.

Thorne is a theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate, known for his contributions to gravitational physics and astrophysics. Not bad for a movie consultant, eh? Therefore one shouldn’t be surprised to find out that the dialogue and story lines used throughout the movie are indeed mathematically accurate.

For example, when Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and crew land on the water planet, he states that every hour there is seven years on earth due to the very real relationship between gravity and Einstein’s concept of spacetime. Furthermore, there’s a ticking sound in the musical score playing throughout the sequence. Each tick symbolizes one day that passes on Earth.

Don’t believe me? It’s true! Someone on Reddit actually did the math:

“I just timed 60 seconds of the track, and there were 48 ticks, so each tick interval is 1.25 seconds. Every hour on Miller is about 7 years on Earth. There are 3,600 seconds in an hour (and 86,400 seconds in a day x 365.25 days in a year x 7 years on Earth per hour on Miller, or roughly 221,000,000 seconds in 7 years). This gives us a conversion factor of 221,000,000/3,600 ≈ 61,400 seconds which pass on Earth for every second spent on Miller. Multiply this by the interval between each tick, and you get 77,000 Earth seconds, about 21 hours. So, each tick you hear is a whole day passing on Earth.”

And to seal the deal, check out this video with the isolated soundtrack below.

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