notes: “Shut up! I just want to be entertained!”

I am mystified that someone would complain at length about an article 1 that he perceives as trashing a movie he enjoyed, albeit an article published in the normally science-allergic Salon 2, while yet failing to notice that one of three articles he links to (without quoting or naming or citing or mentioning the authors) was originally published in Scientific American 3!

Probably just a grab-bag of incredulity

“Why do we go to the movies?” asks Adam Epstein. And he answers his rhetorical question, “I go to be entertained”. These people, he says, are nitpicking. I can’t help now noticing, though, that Phil Plait critiques Interstellar 4 and says that he didn’t like the movie for dramatic reasons as well as its technical issues. He “wanted to like it”, he said. And then we see The science of Interstellar: astrophysics, but not as we know it 5.

None of these are particularly light-weight periodicals, despite my remarks about Salon, nor generally given over to peevishness. In trying to meet a deadline, I suppose Adam Epstein simply missed the obvious fact that criticising movies is practically an English obsession, none happy ’til they’ve knocked a famous film maker down a peg or two, especially if he’s a fellow Brit. Here, I’m referring, tongue-in-cheek, to a half-dozen Guardian articles. He missed, most importantly, that the linked article was written by Dr Roberto Trotta, senior lecturer in astrophysics at Imperial College London, someone I’d guess has a stake in defending the science presented in a movie for public consumption.

Missing also, meanwhile, the tie-ins to critical articles like, Phil Hoad’s piece, Good ol’ future boys: Interstellar and sci-fi’s obsession with Americana 6 in which he weaves the movie into a trend in contemporary cinema.

Now, why, one wonders, would Scientific American be interested in factual inaccuracies in cinema? And why would Plait be concerned with astronomy facts? And Dr. Roberto Trotta? Help me out here…

I take no particular pleasure to see an editorial fellow, covering television, technology, and media; who attended Johns Hopkins University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, further mangling the language by describing those who would point at factual inaccuracies in the movie Interstellar as “truthers”. A bit of nitpicking is called for, I think.

“Truthers”? Uh oh!

The word, “truther”, as you will recall, popped into the English lexicon in description of a particular class of person who wanted to believe that the events in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001 were other than what they appeared to be. A “truther” is a conspiracy theorist, not content with mundane plots about alien spacecraft and bigfoot, but coming out of a particular era and enthusiastic about particular kinds of plots. In 2001, four commercial aircraft were used by a group of men in a series of suicide attacks. Facts are available from many sources, eye-witnesses for anyone willing to find them, but the “truther” is convinced that a counter-narrative exists. “The Truth”, which to the “Truther” is something meant to be “more true” than what is demonstrated by the available facts, is self-convinced in a narrative that supports a particular view of government agents and collusion with powerful, highly monitized interests. The so-called “9/11 Truther”, so designated and particularized in contrast to a mere Truther, is willing even to ignore particular facts that directly contradict conspiratorial narrative, or even to flat out tell eye-witnesses that they didn’t see what they saw!

Not unlike the attitude that an inaccuracy isn’t an inaccuracy, that it should not be spoken of in public for fear of ruining the story for all those people who “just want to be entertained”.


Someone of Nobel material liked the movie and that the very same “Nobel” figure brought up something he referred to as “teachable moment”. Seems to be a misunderstanding, or just wishful thinking, about what is meant by “teachable moment”

Oh well.


  1. Adam Epstein “Shut up about the inaccuracies of ‘Interstellar'” Quartz 2014-11-21 (http://qz.com/299334/shut-up-about-the-inaccuracies-of-interstellar/
  2. Lee Billings, “What “Interstellar” gets wrong about interstellar travel” Salon 2014-11-03 (reprint, Scientific American) (retrieved, 2014-11-30 http://www.salon.com/2014/11/13/what_interstellar_gets_wrong_about_interstellar_travel_partner/
  3. Lee Billings “What Interstellar Gets Wrong about Interstellar Travel”, Scientific American 2014-11-12 (retrieved 2014-11-30 http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2014/11/12/what-interstellar-gets-wrong-about-interstellar-travel/
  4. Phil Plait, “Interstellar Science: What the movie gets wrong and really wrong about black holes, relativity, plot, and dialogue”, Slate 2014-11-06 (retrieved 2014-11-30 http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/space_20/2014/11/interstellar_science_review_the_movie_s_black_holes_wormholes_relativity.html
  5. Dr. Roberto Trotta, “The science of Interstellar: astrophysics, but not as we know it”, The Guardian 2014-11-05 (retrieved 2014-11-30 (http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2014/nov/05/interstellar-astrophysics-does-space-science-work-out
  6. Phil Hoad’s piece, Good ol’ future boys: Interstellar and sci-fi’s obsession with Americana 
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