0 In Astronomy

Wormholes Fact or Fiction?

I don’t know how wormholes  have weaseled their way out of scientific theory to societal fact but it is time to put an end to it.

*Deep Breath*

The bridge that connects a different time and space to the one we are currently in is very attractive to screenwriters in the science fiction genre. That is the reason wormholes have wormed their way into plots containing space travel.
Do you remember that scene from Interstellar where someone folds the paper and explains how space and time is bent? Haven’t seen it? No worries. Catch Star Trek or basically any other SciFi movie? You have probably come across the topic once in a while. The magic gate that bends space and time where we can go back in the past,  go to the future, or go to galaxies far away.
Anyway,  after seeing Interstellar, I kept hearing  that the plot line is so plausible. Then someone would dispel that with the fact that their propulsion system wasn’t believable or some other engineering problem but no one was mentioning the elephant in the room… The sudden appearance of a WORMHOLE. This got me thinking and remembering about how I might not have questioned it before I took Astrophysics but now that I know what they are, this misconception just gets under my skin.

It is time to learn the truth about wormholes.

Before you stop reading because you think I am going to completely ignore the likes of Stephen Hawking, trust me, the idea behind wormholes comes from some really interesting scientific theory. But theory is what it is and should be treated as such, not nearly on the same level as talking about black holes which we not only see exist but know are more probable than a wormhole.

If you haven’t heard of Einstein’s general relativity, it is the understanding of gravity as a geometric property alongside special relativity (space/time). General relativity is fascinating in itself but that is for another day. What you need to know now is that general relativity is how mathematically physicists understand gravity.
Schwarzschild, a physicist, solved these equations Einstein developed for their singularities (when the solution is infinite). He has done a great deal with our understanding of black holes, but also he is the first to propose the existence of a wormhole. However, his understanding of a wormhole could not stabilize and exist without the presence of exotic matter (matter with negative energy). Thus the whole wormhole theory was caboshed for the time being.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s that with a new understanding of how exotic matter can exist in some extreme circumstances (ahem, like the ones near a singularity) that newer theories in wormholes were developed. Kip Thorne’s research shows how given the right circumstances a wormhole could exist. So yes WORMHOLES ARE POSSIBLE.

BUT, with that said, they have not been found to exist naturally in the universe. This has to do with how largely improbable they are, requiring just the right singularity. They can’t be birthed from a dying star like many of the black holes we know.
As far as SciFi travel goes, when a wormhole does manifest itself, it will be very small and very short lived so you are not going to have a spaceship travel across it. Also, the introduction of nonexotic matter (you and said spaceship) will cause the emitting portion of the wormhole to close and become a black hole. But a nerd can dream, right?

What I want you to take away: if you ever hear about the presence of a wormhole in the real world your jaw better drop because that is some odds defying phenomenon.

 

Also side note: Kip Thorne actually advised Christopher Nolan while he was creating Interstellar. Kip Thorne’s involvement in Interstellar is a huge part of the reason so many found it believable, especially in my field. It made me so happy to see how the portrayal of the effects of general relativity was correctly kept throughout the movie. Except that it made for a difficult explanation to my dad afterwards……

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