35

After the events on Miller's planet, it seems to come as a revelation to Brand that

Miller had only landed a couple hours ago, and died a few minutes ago.

The crew of the Endurance, even when they were back at NASA headquarters, had all the information they needed to figure out the time dilation and how long Miller had been on the planet. As such, they must have known that

Miller, even in the best case, would have only had a couple hours worth of data.

Why use all those resources (fuel and time) just for that?

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    Did they have all of the information that they needed, though? I'm not saying you're wrong—I've only seen it once—but once the Endurance crew went through the wormhole, their transmissions were unable to make it back to Earth. Whatever information they had about "the other side" would have been limited, no? – Brian Warshaw Nov 12 '14 at 17:07
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    So the Endurance is floating above Miller's planet, and they tell Coop (and the audience) that one hour down there is seven years elsewhere. At this point they know Miller left Earth something like 15 years ago so they should know he's only been there for a couple hours. How long he's been gone and the time dilation are both known quantities. – Kris Harper Nov 12 '14 at 17:49
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    Because clearly physics is not consistent in the universe where this was filmed - just to pick a local example, why did the Endurance, which was orbiting Miller's planet, not experience the same time dilation that the landing crew did? – Jon Kiparsky Nov 16 '14 at 17:06
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    @JonKiparsky I think the explanation for that is that the Endurance wasn't actually orbiting Miller's planet, but sitting out in space far enough away. They made a point of saying that they weren't actually going to orbit the planet. – Kris Harper Nov 17 '14 at 13:44
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    My further question on this topic is why would this planet have a thumbs up anyhow? – Neo42 Nov 17 '14 at 19:53
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Assuming the team knew that planet Miller would only have a few hours of data, visiting the planet was still a rational decision. They had 3 options, and they thought they would have enough fuel to try at least 2 before returning to earth. Edmunds was sending no signal, so the hope was that Dr. Miller, by not immediately ending her signal when she landed, thought the planet at least had potential.

As to why

Amelia Brand risked her life to obtain the probably worthless data,

that decision was likely a poor one even regardless of the time factor: they were already aware the planet was covered in water and plagued by massive waves.

One of the main themes of the movie is the contrast between humans innovating vs. behaving irrationally when faced with death ("the dying of the light"). This was an example of Amelia behaving irrationally, similar to

Tom keeping his family on the farm even when their lungs were clogging with dust

and

Dr. Mann opening the hatch to the Endurance even when he hadn't attached properly.

Amelia was probably frazzled by the danger they were in and the massive use of time, and (irrationally) hoped she could make the effort less futile by trying to save the data.

Eventually, the film favors the interpretation that despite our occasional irrationality, humans face death by innovating and helping each other, as evidenced by

Cooper sending Murph messages via the tesseract, her solving the gravity problem, future humans building the wormhole for past humans, etc.

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    "they were already aware the planet was covered in water and plagued by massive waves." They still thought the waves were mountains at this point, no? – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 26 '14 at 21:29
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    @PreferenceBean I was referring to the fact that Amelia kept trying to haul the box with data even when she saw that the "mountains" were actually giant waves. – jamaicanworm Feb 15 '16 at 18:17
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This is a very good question indeed. The main reason for landing there was a) this planet was closest to their current position (on the other side of the worm hole, at the exit of it) and b) that she - Miller - was still "transmitting" ("coming up fast"). During their meeting - the scene right before Cooper presents his improvised attempt to stay in safe distance parallel with the planet (outside the time distortion area) - they talk about one hour there being 7 years on Earth. At exactly that point the bell should have been ringing: "wait, 7 years... that means Miller is there for less than 2 hours..." (Miller startet 12 years ago: 10 years before Cooper found the NASA facility plus 2 years journey to Saturn).

I'm afraid there is no better answer than the simplest one: that even those IQ rockets combined were able to count 2 and 2 together only after landing. They do that after Doyles death, the dialogue between Brand and Cooper in the shuttle, waiting for the engines to drain. And if you could read the minds of the audience in the theaters, I'd be willing to bet that hardly any one of them was faster with that calculation and they were all just as surprised as Cooper.

(Just as a side note, @ok above: before landing on Millers, they still had enough fuel for 3 planets plus the journey back, as plan B was presented to them as one of 2 options and to be executed only if there is no alternative). It were those 23 years of staying parallel to the planet, waiting for the shuttle to come back, that consumed the fuel to force them to choose at the end. They were not in close orbit. TARS was instructed to take care for (fuel consuming) course corrections and 23 years is a lot of time.)

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    For me this whole Millers planet motive looks like giant hole is reasonable reasoning - in reality it would be incredibly difficult to get there, because of huge orbital velocity difference. Out of universe, it was one big show off. – Mithoron Apr 19 '15 at 12:10
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    I agree. In-universe they stated that it was the minimum fuel/time place to visit. A look at the orbital dynamics proves that to be false. The visit to Miller's planet was a not subtle lesson in "Nature is filled with unanticipated dangers." The lesson at Mann's planet is "Humanity poses unexpected dangers too." – Jim2B Jun 18 '15 at 2:48
  • while when considering only spacial distance, the planet may have been "closest", due to the relativist time dilation it wasn't closest in terms of "visiting as many planets as possible in as little time as possible" – Zommuter Mar 17 '16 at 6:25
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Simple answer: because Nolan had already written the screenplay for it.

Kip Thorne mentioned, in an interview, that, Nolan had even written the magic 1 hour for the waves to come back. Kip Thorne had to stretch his blackhole simulation in all possible ways to make the extreme time dilation and the 1 hour planetary wobble happen.

The movie's scientific explanation is 1. It has water. 2. Miller's signal has been coming really strong 3. It is the closest. As soon as Romily noted that the time dilation factor was 1:61320, they should have dropped the idea like hot potato. That itself refutes reason no 2 and 3 to go there. Imagine this. By the time they spend 1 year setting up camp or studying seasonal changes, 61 thousand years would have passed in the rest of the universe where time dilation is measured in the scale of nanoseconds.

they calculate that Romily has to wait 2 earth years while they just "Get in and get out" to this planet. That was seen as a better option than a few earth months worth of travel to Edmund's or Mann's. Romily still needs 2 years of food and fuel to be on a higher orbit! So, they were not conserving either time or fuel or food by this genius idea.

plus, they should have rubbed a couple of brain cells and realized that Miller couldn't have explored an entire planet within a few hours. They realize that after landing there as if they were on a poorly planned field trip.

I liked the movie but some of these contrivances disguised as good writing irks me.

  • Exactly this. To be honest this scene ruined the movie for me in the theater. I just couldn't bare the irrational decision they have made. The Earth is at an emergency and they think it's rational to spend thousands of Earth years to set up a base there. The only explanation I have is that the movie needed huge time dilataion for the father-daughter theme, which (in my understanding) is the most important plot in Interstellar. – Episodex Apr 15 at 8:45

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