Study claims travel through wormholes is possible

Among all the existing structures in the Cosmos, wormholes (or Einstein-Rosen bridges) spark the imagination of science, technology and (of course) science fiction enthusiasts: they would be the shortcut to exploring the galaxy, the Universe, the Delta quadrant. A study by two researchers hinted at the possibility that these structures exist and are “walkable” – yes, by humans.

There’s a trail of “ifs” to the entrance to a stable wormhole big enough to let a ship through. This is because the General Theory of Relativity does not support the existence of such “walkable” passages (wormholes would not be stable, as they would collapse very quickly, before anything crosses them). However, where traditional physics can’t solve, quantum physics can handle it.

For physicist Juan Maldacena, from the Institute of Advanced Studies, the existence of a physics beyond the so-called Standard Model implies that there are not only wormholes, but structures large and safe enough to be traversed by human travelers.

Maldacena is the theoretical physicist who, in 1997, proposed the principle according to which the Universe is a hologram. This idea, called the Holographic Principle, allowed us to explain inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein’s gravity, as well as providing a solid foundation for string theory.

exotic matter

According to Maldacena and the study’s other author, Princeton University astrophysicist Alexey Milekhin, “walkable” wormholes exist under very special conditions. If real, they open and close almost at the same time. What would keep them open and stable would be something whose existence is questioned by physics: negative mass, an exotic matter with exotic properties as well.

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Here comes quantum physics: the uncertainty principle allows the vacuum of space to be filled by pairs of particles and virtual antiparticles, which appear spontaneously and exist for only a short period before annihilating themselves. However, some of them may have negative energy – linked to the existence of negative mass.

These particles can travel through space, entering one place and emerging in another, implying that the energy they generate can support the existence of a stable wormhole between points in spacetime.

narrow and short

One more problem: they would let particles through, not a ship, and they would be small in size. For a human to cross it, a wormhole would need to be large, which requires the use of physics in addition to the Standard Model.

Here comes the Randall-Sundrum II model (or theory of deformed geometry in five dimensions), complicated enough that we do not delve into the subject. Suffice it to say that with it you have the negative energy needed to keep a wormhole open.

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One problem resolved, there remains another: crossing stable wormholes would cause time dilation.

“For astronauts going through the wormhole, it would take just 1 second of their time to travel 10,000 light years away. For the observer who remains at the entrance, it will be 10,000 years”, explains Maldacena, pointing out that this is consistent with Einstein’s General Relativity.

The pair of researchers say the study aimed to show that traversable wormholes can exist as a result of “the subtle interaction between general relativity and quantum physics”, and not necessarily as a practical way to travel through space – at least, not in the way we imagine.

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