Sci-fi lovers will be delighted to know that, theoretically, there might be a way to navigate through a wormhole successfully.
João Rosa, a physicist at Aveiro University in Portugal, is attempting to generate a stable, traversable wormhole that can be crossed without it collapsing and trapping the traveler. He found it to be possible, but only if we change the way we look at the concept of gravity.
Background: General relativity and the science of wormholes
Space travel is currently limited because it consumes a lot of time, money, and resources. Using wormholes as a “fast lane” is a hypothetical solution for this issue, but there was no way to make it feasible until now.
Building a wormhole means combining matter and energy in a way that allows you to form a tunnel (called a “throat” by wormhole researchers) that bridges two distant points in space. The problem with wormholes, based on general relativity, is that they’re unstable and non-traversable.
If you were able to enter a wormhole, you wouldn’t be able to come back out (defeating the purpose). Plus, if a single photon or light particle enters the tunnel, the whole wormhole will collapse in an instant.
To solve these issues, in general relativity, a wormhole would need to be stabilized using something with negative mass or negative energy.
Negative mass hasn’t been observed anywhere in the universe. Negative energy is possible to obtain, but only in microscopic quantum scales.
Another possible route would be to change the way we look at the concept of gravity. Relativity can’t explain the centers of black holes, called singularities, nor the earliest moments of the universe’s creation, nor the link between itself and its weird inability to work with quantum physics. An improved theory of gravity could be the first step in understanding how to make a wormhole work.
Analysis: A different view on gravity
Rosa came up with a slightly modified version of gravity – the generalized hybrid metric-Palatini gravity. This theory is built on general relativity but is more flexible when it comes to matter-energy and space-time relationships.
Previous research showed that using this theory would make wormholes traversable, but it wouldn’t excuse the need for negative energy outside the wormhole’s throat. However, Rosa discovered that layering the entrances to the wormhole with double thin shells of ordinary matter would make it traversable without needing any negative energy.
“What happens is that these gravitational effects needed to guarantee the traversability of the wormhole happen naturally if one modifies gravity, and exotic matter [matter with negative mass] is no longer needed to serve this purpose,” Rosa told LiveScience.
Outlook: Wormholes might be open for transit
Rosa is looking forward to testing this modified theory of gravity.
“This is just a very small step towards the final goal: One must now use experimental data and observations (e.g., gravitational waves and trajectories of stars near the center of the Milky Way) to test and (hopefully) confirm the validity of these theories,” Rosa wrote.
The idea that wormholes might, one day, be used as shortcuts in our numerous travels throughout space is truly exciting, as it would completely revolutionize space exploration and allow us to go further than we’ve ever been.
“The possibility to visit other stars (or even other galaxies), possibly finding alien civilizations, and the possibility to revisit the past or not having to wait for the future have been part of the human imagination and fantasy for a long time, and wormholes provide a (relatively) simple and unified solution for both of these problems,” Rosa explained.
Raquel is a forensic geneticist turned freelance writer. She has a knack for technology and a passion for science. You can follow her at scitechcorner.com and on Twitter @theRaquelSantos.