Movie: Sunshine (2007)

In the movie “Sunshine” by Danny Boyle [IMDB] there is a scene which is impossible to comprehend unless you have some knowledge of physics. The protagonist Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) finds himself trapped in an airlock from which he must escape at any cost. The airlock contains a space suit, and has one outer hatch towards space, and one inner hatch towards the interior of the spaceship, which is locked.

Capa first uses a blowtorch to bore a tiny hole on the inner hatch; then, he wears the spacesuit, fastens himself securely so that he won’t be blown away, and presses the button which opens the outer hatch. The airlock decompresses violently to the outer void, and for a split second nothing else seems to happen, but immediately afterwards the inner hatch gets mysteriously blown away too, and the atmosphere of the ship escapes, (together with many objects from its interior,) through the airlock, to space.

After a few moments the flow of debris abates, and Capa is able to enter the ship. (Do not try this at home.) The movie does not spend any time explaining the cause of the explosion of the inner hatch; for those who got it, fine; for the rest, it is a mystery.

What blew up the inner hatch was the tiny hole that Capa bore on it before decompressing the airlock. It works exactly the same way a pin prick causes a balloon to explode: the hole expands rapidly (catastrophically so) in order to release energy stored in the stretched fabric of the balloon (or hatch) due to the pressure differential between the inside and the outside.

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