Buzz Lightyear often says, “To infinity . . . and beyond!” but we all know it is impossible to go beyond the infinite. Still, people will always wonder what is past the endless emptiness of the universe. Are there parallel universes to ours with equal amounts of infinity? Can we reach these other universes by traversing beyond the infinity of our own universe? How would one go about traveling beyond the infinite? With our current scientific knowledge, we have no idea what’s beyond our own universe. That doesn’t mean we don’t think up creative ways to get there. Just like there are no bounds on infinity, there are no bounds on our imagination. With the special effects used to bring science fiction stories to life, we can get a glimpse of what some people think lies beyond the realm of our universe. This week’s two films explore what’s just beyond the infinities of space.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Length: 149 minutes / 2.48 hours
It is a sobering thought to realize that a species such as ours has only walked on a fraction of a percent of the surface of our nearest celestial body. We’ve sent probes to other planets, imagers to comets, and spectrometers to the sun. And yet, we hardly know anything about the infinite amount of objects in our universe. Are there aliens hiding on Europa? Does the Kupier Belt contain the mysterious “Planet 9?” Will the “Flat Earth” theory ever stop being a thing? Science can infer many things from our universe, but humans have been heretofore unable to tactilely experience anything other than our home on Earth. With such a vast array of possibilities and mysteries trapped outside our reach, we merely have to speculate what is beyond our comprehension. If we were ever able to travel faster than light, we might have a chance of exploring these spaces. Even if we did travel that fast, what would it look like?
Towering over primitive humans, a black monolith influences their evolution, which leads them to discover tools and weapons. Fast forward to the future, where another of these black monoliths is found on the surface of the moon. Using a high-pitched radio frequency, it transmits another set of evolutionary instructions. A year-and-a-half later, humans are headed to Jupiter on Discovery One, a spaceship controlled by the artificial intelligence, HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain). Hal has doubts about the true nature of the expedition, but his human caretakers are mum on the details. Worried their mission will fail, Hal sabotages the humans on board until one of them, Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) shuts Hal down. Now in orbit around Jupiter, David finds another black monolith and is able to traverse beyond the infinite.
Length: 169 minutes / 2.82 hours
While nobody has ever physically passed beyond the infinite reaches of space, many physicists have speculated how it could be done. Their constructs are primarily theoretical but have created a few options that could push humans past the limits of infinity. Ideas like wormholes and black holes being portals to other parts of the universe (or even other universes entirely) have their origins in theoretical physics. Many of these ideas have permeated science fiction for decades, but few films have been able to accurately represent what some of these phenomena might look like. Granted, there’s still no solid evidence for what happens when humans interact with these cosmic entities—especially in the case of black holes—but that leaves plenty of room for imaginative speculation. Interstellar (2014) tries to represent the space beyond infinity in its own creative way.
In a world on the brink of destruction, Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) accidentally stumbles upon a secret, underground resistance: NASA. To save humanity, NASA is planning to send a crew to a wormhole discovered near Saturn. From the information they’ve gathered via probes, the wormhole is a pathway to a distant galaxy that could hold a habitable planet for the doomed human race. Cooper pilots the crew of Endurance through the wormhole and sets out to find which world will work for their purposes. Unfortunately, after a few setbacks, Cooper is forced to send the last remaining crew member to the final planet of the system while he traverses the event horizon of the nearby black hole, Gargantua. Once inside the singularity, he finds a realm beyond the infinite and beyond all expectations.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 endless excursions