What Are Wormholes?

Updated on December 8, 2018
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Leonard Kelley holds a bachelor's in physics with a minor in mathematics. He loves the academic world and strives to constantly explore it.


Einstein was a genius whose work continues to expand and offer new insights into the Universe. Occasionally, a prediction of it takes time to be verified, like gravity waves which took just over a hundred years since its theoretical inception. It didn’t take long before people played around with the theory and found some fascinating possibilities. Einstein and Rosen found that if you form spacetime under the right conditions that it is possible to connect different pieces of it via an Einstein-Rosen bridge, or what we commonly refer to as a wormhole. The frequent (and easy to construct by hand) visual is a piece of paper and two points on opposite sides. You could travel on the surface and get from one point to the other or you could bend the paper so that the two points touch each other. This is similar to what a wormhole allows. But there is a catch: We aren’t confident they actually exist (Redd).

For starters, theory predicts they would be about 10-35 meters in size, making travel though them difficult and even finding them hard. Plus these wormholes theoretically don’t live very long because they undergo length expansion and shrink in the middle until the wormhole collapses into a new singularity. That is, unless something called exotic matter is present (and that substance is known to exist but not in large enough quantities to be of use unless one were to mine it from vacuum fluctuations in proximity to a black hole). This matter has somewhat opposite properties to that of normal matter in that gravity doesn’t pull but pushes outward. Therefore it could act like a prop to keep the wormhole door open (if such a door even exists) by forcing the tunnel to remain larger than the horizon which would ultimately collapse the wormhole (Redd, Scharr, Hamilton).

Are White Holes Real?
Are White Holes Real? | Source

White Holes

So where might we see something exhibiting wormhole behavior? Black holes. They are already fascinating objects, but wormholes may make them even cooler. Most theories say that once you go past the event horizon, you can never leave. But some work shows that instead of encountering a singularity after the event horizon you travel via a wormhole to someplace else. We would call this exit point a white hole, and it would dump everything that the black hole had consumed. This would be a great alternative since singularities give scientists a hard enough time as is. But wait, it gets better. You see, singularities are not just in black hole physics, but in Big Bang cosmology as well. Everything sprouted from a singularity, but what if it was actually a while hole instead? That could imply that we are at the other end of a black hole and that black holes in our Universe may create new Universes within them! That is amazing (if true) and it is testable, for black holes have rotation to them and so should white holes. If the Universe has an overall rotation to it then it would be evidence for this model. But white holes do pose a thermodynamic issue by violating the second law of thermodynamics (for a white hole is a black hole in reverse) (Than, Hamilton).

Time travel mechanism?
Time travel mechanism? | Source

Time Travel

Wormholes may also allow one to go to different places in space and time. In relativity terms these would be closed spacelike curves and closed timeliek curves, which are visual demonstrations via a diagram that show possible movements and behavior in spacetime. We say closed because it is consistent and doesn’t lead one past a horizon that one couldn’t return from, like a black hole. This is all realtivity talk, but what does the other giant of physics, quantum mechanics, have to say about this? If you travelled through the wormhole, a quantum back reaction would develop that generates tons of energy which would destroy the wormhole. So…either its possible via relativity or not via quantum mechanics. Clearly, this is another example of their incompatability and should prove to be a fruitful ground for trying to reconcile the two theories (Redd, Scharr).

Works Cited

Hamilton, Andrew. “White Holes and Wormholes.” Jila.corlodado.edu. University of Colorado,15 Apr. 2001. Web. 16 Aug. 2018.

Redd, Nola Taylor. “What is a Wormhole?” space.com. Space.com, 20 Oct. 2017. Web. 16 Aug. 2018.

Scharr, Jillian. “Wormhole Time ‘Machine’ Called Best Bet for Back-in-Time Travel.” Huffingtonpost.com. Huffington Post, 26 Aug. 2013. Web. 16 Aug. 2018.

Than, Ker. “Every Black Hole Contains Another Universe?” nationalgeographic.com. National Geographic, 12 Apr. 2010. Web. 16 Aug. 2018.

© 2018 Leonard Kelley


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