Key Takeaways:

  • Wormholes are theoretical shortcuts through spacetime, but their existence is unproven.
  • New research suggests microscopic wormholes might exist without exotic matter, but they wouldn’t be big enough for humans.
  • Larger wormholes could theoretically exist, but they require very specific conditions and might be unstable.
  • Traveling through a wormhole could be dangerous and require precise engineering.
  • Time dilation might make your trip seem short, but for those outside the wormhole, it could take much longer.

The wormhole has long been an essential component of science fiction plots. It’s a quick way to get characters from Point A to Point B across vast distances in spacetime in a matter of seconds. Do wormholes exist, though?

Though the existence of these spacetime portals has long been a subject of speculation among theorists such as Albert Einstein and Kip Thorne, until recently no one has been able to offer tangible proof of their presence.

According to two studies that were published in the journals Physical Review Letters and Physical Review D, wormholes that are safe for humans to pass through might actually exist in the real world. The third study that was posted to the preprint server arXiv studied the possibility of allowing safe passage through a wormhole by employing a slightly different definition of gravity.

One of the primary rejections of wormhole existence claims that the neck, or narrowest portion of the portal, would probably collapse from gravity’s weight. According to some theorists, one way to get around this problem and stop gravitational collapse would be to introduce an unusual type of matter with negative mass into the wormhole. But this solution isn’t a cosmological silver bullet—such a form of matter is purely theoretical.

In the first publication, a group of three international scientists under the direction of Jose Blázquez-Salcedo of the Complutense University of Madrid have suggested an alternate strategy that avoids the collapse of a delicate wormhole’s neck and does not require exotic matter to maintain the wormhole’s open state.

Rather, the three theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, and electrodynamics have been integrated into the researchers’ theoretical models to explore the potential of microscopic wormholes.

These scientists propose that the cosmic thruway could be maintained by adjusting the mass and charge of fermions, which are the fundamental building blocks of matter. This would only be feasible if there is a ratio between the total mass of all the fermions inside the wormhole and their total charge that is larger than the practical limit that black holes set.

The catch is that Blázquez-Salcedo and his colleagues are discussing microscopic wormholes. Even though humans can’t really walk on them, this is at least a modest step in a new theoretical direction.

However, the second paper, by Princeton University’s Alexey Milekhin and Juan Maldacena of the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey, does investigate the possibility of wormholes big enough for humans to fit through and travel through spacetime.

Here, Maldacena and Milekhin have developed the Randall-Sundrum model, a five-dimensional spacetime wormhole formation theory. The authors claim that an inexperienced observer would mistake these wormholes for intermediate-mass black holes.

You could accelerate up to 20 Gs if you fell into this type of wormhole, which is uncomfortable but manageable. However, the authors admit that this theory has some real-world applications. For instance, the wormhole needs to be impeccably clean, devoid of any errant particles:

If particles that fall into the wormhole scatter and lose energy then they would accumulate inside, contributing some positive energy that would eventually make the wormhole collapse back into a black hole.

The center of a black hole is the last place anyone wants to end up when traveling through space. The researchers write that the wormhole must also be extremely cold. Additionally, there is the minor issue of creating the wormhole initially. Milekhin and Maldacena are still trying to figure out how to create one.

Building your wormhole requires negative energy or negative mass, or exotic matter, which is too much work. Instead, João Luís Rosa, a physicist at the University of Tartu in Estonia, suggests that you consider how you perceive gravity. He describes the application of a model known as “generalized hybrid metric-Palatini gravity” in his paper on the arXiv preprint server. Although general relativity is the foundation of this idea, the relationships between matter, energy, and space and time are slightly different from what general relativity predicts. Therefore, by layering the entrance with twice-thin shells of ordinary matter, you could create a stable wormhole without the need for exotic matter.

What’s good news after all this fiction and fact debate? In theory, traveling across a galaxy would take you less than a second. However, your loved ones will have to wait a very long time for your adventure to come to an end if they are following you from outside the wormhole. They would estimate that your journey would take tens of thousands of years.

Looks like you’ll have to find your own ride home.


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