When I was answering some older Interstellar related question, I had to re-watch some parts of Interstellar. I've noticed one thing about wormhole and data they were able to send (back) through it.

At the beginning, when Cooper with Murph reached the NASA station and Brand, Doyle and Romilli are explaining them the mission details, Doyle said

Data transmission back through the wormhole is rudimentary, simple binary pings on annual basis give us some clue about which world has the potencial ...

Which means ships sent to the wormhole had enough power to send binary data back through the wormhole.

Signal from the Earth got through the wormhole to the endurance quite well, since Cooper had 23 years worth of messages.

If I would send some space ships through the wormhole, I would probably try to equip these ships with as good transmitter as possible and state strict protocols for communication.

My question is (according to be able to send binary data back through the wormhole) why they didn't use some protocols for more complex communication - e.g. being able to send data from sensors, images - possibly encoded using base 64 to binary data and send back through the wormhole.

Maybe it would help spotting giant waves on Miller's planet, or getting true data from Dr. Manns sensors - so he would not be able to fake them.

And if they just could not send such complex data, may anybody explain why ?

  • Perhaps to send data needs a lot of power ... the sort of power you could only get from an earth located transmitter - after all on the other side of the wormhole it has to be unidirectional - be received from where-ever. We never see him ever send replies to messages.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 3:16
  • Yes, but how would scientist on the Earth know there are three suitable worlds ? If you can get any meaningful binary data back through the wormhole, you can then get more binary data, dont you?
    – kocica
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 9:01
  • 1
    Sorry, I'm not trying to say they can't communicate .... I'm saying the data rate from the ship back to earth is low ... like ELF communications (a few characters a minute), or even worse a "go/no-go". Its a stretch I agree though.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 14:06
  • Well, you are probably right about low data rate :-)
    – kocica
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 14:12
  • Keep in mind htey would have needed to decide what kind of data would be sent back before they launched the probe(s). Since this is presumably mankind's first interaction with a wormhole, that means they don't know what will work until after they try it. So they keep the initial transmissions short and simple purely to minimize the risks of data loss or corruption when passing through the wormhole. By the time the Endurance is going through the wormhole, they know better how data transmission works, and feel safe implementing more advanced video transmissions.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 18:25

1 Answer 1


As I (barely) understand it, it has to do with the gravity effects of the connected black holes and the effect it would have on the information. Information transmission is very limited, and apparently even the act of sending the information affects the mass of the black holes and decreases the message available length, until eventually there would be no info at all in the message.

As published in the preprint journal arXiv, this article states:

In the new research, Van Leuven and his colleagues studied the traversable wormhole using the geometry of space-time as described by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. The math used to describe the scenario was done in a two-dimensional universe for simplicity, but it should also hold true for a 3D universe, like our own.

The results showed that only a few bits of information could be passed through the wormhole at a time — less than other methods had found. They also found that sending messages through the wormhole would change the black holes. The sending black hole would increase in mass, and the receiving black hole would decrease in mass, with each message sent. With the first message, the receiving black hole would lose about 30% of its mass, and over subsequent messages, the black hole would disappear. Additionally, each subsequent message would decrease in size, such that the message would eventually hold no information.

There is further information in the article linked.

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