Explore Black Holes with Nobel Laureate G. Smoot

by Paris Centre for Cosmological Physics
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Create a short educational movie about black holes for an online course about gravity, with participation from Nobel Laureate George Smoot.

  Education, Cosmology

Where do we live? Where do we come from? What is our future? The physics of the Universe helps us formulate answers to these questions and get the bigger picture. But the Universe at large is powered by gravity. Exactly 100 years after the publication of Einstein’s General Relativity, research on gravity is undergoing a revolution: gravitational waves are expected to be discovered in the next years, allowing us to study with revolutionary new means black holes, neutron stars, dark energy…and the Big Bang.


Precisely one hundred years ago - 25 November 1915 - Einstein published the gravitational field equations of his General Theory of Relativity. Experimentally confirmed just four years later, Einstein’s equations are now an essential tool for astrophysics research and provide the foundation for the current understanding of black holes, regions of space where gravitational attraction is so strong that not even light can escape. They also form part of the framework of the standard Big Bang model of cosmology.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of General Relativity, we are creating a short film called “Through the Horizon”, featuring a voyage of a small black hole through the event horizon of another black hole. While similar concepts have been the theme of many Hollywood films (such as Interstellar, Event Horizon, and Donnie Darko), ours is unique in that it places an emphasis on scientific accuracy, and is produced by physicists specializing in General Relativity. Through the Horizon will be used as an educational tool for the general public, by using the fascination exerted by the voyage to the black hole to explain how this will be achievable by scientists in not so distant a future.This will allow us to explain what is a black hole, what fascinating science one can expect from its study, and which advanced technologies will allow such an ambitious scientific endeavor.

Our film will tell the story of Hemry: Hemry is not an astronaut, nor even a robot, but a tiny black hole who will orbit many times around a gigantic black hole before plunging into its event horizon. This simulation will have Hemry send information to Earth about this trip, not using radio (electromagnetic) waves but rather gravitational waves. 

In order to receive such gravitational waves, humans are currently building in the vicinity of the Earth a constellation of satellites called the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Project. Thus we will soon be capable of listening to the symphony of black hole collisions or other exotic astrophysical events, to which until now we have been completely deaf.

This movie will form a key component in the MOOC course "Gravity! From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” taught by Pierre Binétruy and with the participation of Nobel Laureate George Smoot who contributes with interviews, takes viewers to a trip through the Universe and  reenacts the famous Galileo inclined plane experiment. Once the course concludes, the movie will be uploaded to YouTube for the general public to benefit from this educational resource. To create this production, we’re planning state-of-the-art special effects, original filmed footage, music and sound design, and interviews with renowned scientists. For this, we are seeking your involvement, not just through funding but also through your own suggestions on the script.


Our film and course will raise awareness of the central issues that modern physics and astrophysics answer regarding the Universe itself and our own place in it. We invite you to become part of this revolution in scientific knowledge by becoming an active participant of our movie Gravity! First increase your own knowledge by following the course and the many events associated with it. Then share the gift of knowledge by supporting our crowdfunding campaign to produce a high-quality educational movie for the world.


The Gravity! course has already been fully financed by public funds, as well as private funds from the Endowment Fund “Physics of the Universe”. We have received non-financial support from many individuals who helped with the course conception, and also with publicizing the course in social media, institutional campaigns. These include the University Sorbonne Paris Cité; University Paris Diderot; French Embassy in London; British Embassy in Paris; Kinetica Museum, London; Institute of Physics; Royal Astronomical Society; Friends of eLISA; and Ms Letizia Reuss.

The course will be launching on October 26. Registration has already begun (current enrollment is over 5000) and we are now starting an enrollment campaign on social networks. We’ve begun working on the first draft of the storyboard of the film. But to complete it, we need your support.


We have developed our free internet course to make everyone be aware of the central role that gravity plays in our universe, from the Big Bang to black holes, from dark energy to our own Galaxy. We are opening the production of the movie for crowdfunding in order to include more individuals in what promises to be one of the main adventures of the next decades: the exploration of the gravitational Universe. Rewards for donations include producer credit in the movie, participating in our live Google Hangout at the Paris Science Museum on November 25, and even a private meeting with Nobel Laureate George F. Smoot, in person or remote.

Even if a financial donation cannot be made, people can help by registering to the MOOC (free of charge), or by giving advice and suggestions on the story of Hemry. They could also help publicize our campaign on social media.


We are the ParisCosmo Foundation, created to promote a better understanding of the physics of the Universe by supporting research in the field. We also facilitate those allowing all those interested to get better acquainted with our present understanding of the Universe, but also with the fundamental questions that we, scientists, are trying to solve, and how we do this.

The Gravity! course is a major endeavor to address this programme and to address the wish by many of you to be understand our Universe in its largest dimensions, or its strangest aspects. The course will primarily be taught by Professor Pierre Binétruy, with participation from Professor George Smoot, who received the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics for a major discovery: fluctuations in Universe's first light. This discovery is widely considered the beginning of precision cosmology.

A more detailed description of their background is below.

Pierre Binétruy is a French theorist working in the fields of cosmology, gravity and particle physics, professor of physics at Paris Diderot University, Director of the Paris Centre for Cosmological Physics, leading the French participation to the gravitational wave space observatory LISA.

George Smoot is an American astrophysicist and cosmologist. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for his discovery of the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background, which is widely regarded as the beginning of cosmology as a precision science. He is a professor of physics at Paris Diderot University, the University of California, Berkeley, and senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


Milestone 1 - September 15: Storyboard completed 

Milestone 2 - October 15 : Begin minimal version of film, if supported.

Milestone 3 - November 15: Begin adding special effects and interviews, if supported.

Milestone 4 - November 25: Google Hangout for the 100th anniversary of General Relativity (live from the Paris Science Museum)

Milestone 5 - December 15: Film delivered

Miletsone 6 - January 10: All perks delivered

  Budget Breakdown

While our goal of $15,000 would allow us to deliver the best possible production of “Through the Horizon”, we would be able to complete a mini version of the project for at least $2,000. Below is a list of what could be accomplished at each of the funding milestones.

$2,000: conception of the movie: storyboard, use of existing video material, voice-over and sound

$5,000: add shooting of original scenes

$8,000: add original music and sound design

$11,000: add special effects

$15,000: add interviews of renowned physicists

  Risks and Challenges


  • Project Leader: Paris Centre for Cosmological Physics (University)
  • Location: Paris, France
  • Organizer:

    Pierre Binetruy

    Contact the organizer

Explore Black Holes with Nobel Laureate G. Smoot

Create a short educational movie about black holes for an online course about gravity, with participation from Nobel Laureate George Smoot.