The human curiosity is one such element of the psyche that simply can never be quenched, especially when it comes to space travel. Did you know that the annual funding of the Earth Science program worldwide totals up to a meager $11.6 billion?
Compare it with the budget of global space exploration – a whopping $70.9 billion – and you can see how our curiosity for space overrides our interest in Earth itself! Ironically, we know more about Earth than we do about space even today. And that is mostly because the distances between two objects in space are spread across hundreds of light-years, which makes it difficult for us to reach even the nearest heavenly body and understand its conditions better.
Covering such tremendous distances is a dream yet to be achieved. For example, it would take the Voyager I, one of the finest space exploration ships, to cover the entire circumference of the earth within an hour. But it will take that very spacecraft more than 80,000 years to reach our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri! The most probable alternative to overcome this distance hurdle is a cosmic shortcut, called a wormhole.
What are Wormholes?
Wormholes are a proposed structure that links two places in space-time together and is usually visualized as a giant tunnel linking two wider mouths or entry and exit points in space. Simply put, Wormholes could act as cosmic shortcuts.
Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen had predicted this cosmic shortcut in the early 1900s based on the General Theory of Relativity; they called it the Einstein-Rosen Bridge. This bridge connects two different points in space-time with the help of a black hole and a white hole. It looks like a double-ended laboratory funnel,
For instance, we know for a fact that the distance between the Earth and Pluto is around 5 billion kilometers. But if an Einstein-Rosen Bridge (wormhole) existed connecting these two heavenly bodies, then the straight path will be bent by the sheer force of gravity of the two black holes, just like folding a piece of paper, creating a cosmic shortcut between those two points. Thus, instead of traversing the long path of 5 billion km, a person from Earth can simply take the shorter route and reach Pluto faster!
What is Wormhole Theory?
Soon after Einstein postulated his General Theory in 1915, Ludwig Flamm, an Austrian physicist, derived an alternative solution to the black hole-related equations. He came up with a black hole-like object, called the ‘white hole’, which reverses time mathematically. In essence, a black hole slows downtime, whereas a white hole accelerates it beyond comprehension. Flamm further theorized that these two entities can be connected through a space-time conduit (throat).
It was based on Flamm’s equations that Einstein and Rosen later came up with the idea of the wormhole. They explained, mathematically and definitively, that a wormhole could exist, but that it would be extremely unstable. If the Voyager I was to enter a wormhole, then the entire contraption would completely disintegrate into pure energy.
Physicists were later able to determine that the presence of supremely negative energy, commonly known as exotic matter, inside a wormhole could potentially stabilize the structure. Thus, a shortcut through space-time could theoretically be possible.
How Time Travel or Entering a Hypothetical Parallel Dimension could be Possible with Wormholes:
Let us imagine that you are about to enter a wormhole through the opening of a black hole, stabilized by exotic matter. As you might know, a black hole has the ability to bend light and, in turn, time and space, through the sheer force of gravity. Thus, if you were to step into the event horizon of a black hole and proceed toward the singularity, time will as good as completely stop for you. You will age at an infinitesimal rate, so much so that if you were to spend even one second near the singularity, several million years would have passed on earth. So, by the time that you return to your home country, you would have essentially traveled several million years into the future!
Moving ahead, once you proceed to the space-time conduit or the throat of the wormhole, you may or may not be instantly led to the singularity of the white hole on the other end (nothing is known about the throat right now). And after you encounter the white hole singularity, you will be directly ejected out in another space-time or an entirely different dimension with time dilation working in reverse (again, hardly anything is known about the white hole so far practically).
In simpler terms, black hole stops time whereas the white hole makes time run faster than the speed of light. Thus, you will reach your destination through a wormhole almost instantly as observed from Earth (in far lesser time than it takes even light to reach it)!
This gives rise to the idea that wormholes could create shortcuts through time and space. So for instance, if you wanted to travel to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, which is a little more than four light-years away from Earth, you could possibly reach it in hardly any time if a wormhole existed that connected the Earth and Proxima Centauri, much faster than four light-years definitely!
Finally, we sincerely hate to burst your bubble here, but unfortunately, the wormhole theory is still just that, a theory derived from Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. While black holes have been vaguely discovered so far-right within several galaxies, including the Milky Way, not even a scent of wormholes has been sniffed by even the most proficient astronomical observers till date!