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Mathematics Goes to the Movies

by Burkard Polster and Marty Ross


Event Horizon (1997)

In this scene Dr. Weir tried to explain how to the members of a rescue mission how the Event Horizon, a space ship he designed, can travel faster than light.

DR WEIR: The Event Horizon was the culmination of a secret government project to create a spacecraft capable of faster-than-light flight.
SMITH (pilot): Uh, excuse me. See, you can’t actually do that.
STARK (XO): The law of relativity prohibits faster-than-light travel.
DR WEIR: Relativity, yes. We can’t break the law of relativity, but we can go around it. The ship doesn’t really go faster than light. What it does is it creates a dimensional gateway that allows it to jump instantaneously from one point of the universe to another light years away.
STARK (XO): How?
DR WEIR: Well, that’s difficult to… it’s all math.
MILLER (captain): Try us, Doctor.
DR WEIR: Right. Well, uh, using layman’s terms, we use a retaining magnetic field to focus a narrow beam of gravitons. These, in turn, fold space-time, consisting with Weil tensor dynamics until the space-time curvature becomes infinitely large and you produce a singularity. Now, the singularity…
MILLER: Layman’s terms.
COOPER: Well, fuck layman’s terms. Do you speak English?
DR WEIR: Imagine for a minute that this piece of paper…. represents space-time, and you want to get from point “A” here to point “B” there. Now, what’s the shortest distance between two points?
JUSTIN (engineer): A straight line.
DR WEIR: Wrong. The shortest distance between two points is zero, and that’s what the gateway does, it folds space so that point “A” and point “B” coexist in the same space and time. When the spacecraft passes through the gateway, space returns to normal.