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In science fiction, wormholes are a method often used to travel great distances across space. Are these magic bridges really possible?
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Team: Fraser Cain - @fcain
Jason Harmer - @jasoncharmer
Susie Murph - @susiemmurph
Brian Koberlein - @briankoberlein
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Kevin Gill - @kevinmgill
Created by: Fraser Cain and Jason Harmer
Edited by: Chad Weber
Music: Left Spine Down - “X-Ray”
With all my enthusiasm for humanity’s future in space, there’s one glaring problem. We’re soft meat bags of mostly water, and those other stars are really really far away. Even with the most optimistic spaceflight technologies we can imagine, we’re never going to reach another star in a human lifetime.
Reality tells us that even the most nearby stars are incomprehensibly far away, and would require vast amounts of energy or time to make the journey. Reality says that we’d need a ship that can somehow last for hundreds or thousands of years, while generation after generation of astronauts are born, live their lives and die in transit to another star.
Science fiction, on the other hand, woos us with its beguiling methods of advanced propulsion. Crank up the warp drive and watch the stars streak past us, making a journey to Alpha Centauri as quick as a pleasure cruise.
You know what’s even easier? A wormhole; a magical gateway that connects two points in space and time with one another. Just align the chevrons to dial in your destination, wait for the stargate to stabilize and then just walk… walk! to your destination half a galaxy away.
Yeah, that would be really nice. Someone should really get around to inventing these wormholes, ushering in a bold new future of intergalactic speedwalking. What are wormholes, exactly, and how soon until I get to use one?.
A wormhole, also known as an Einstein-Rosen bridge is a theoretical method of folding space and time so that you could connect two places in space together. You could then travel instantaneously from one place to another.
We’ll use that classic demonstration from the movie Interstellar, where you draw a line from two points, on a piece of paper and then fold the paper over and jab your pencil through to shorten the journey. That works great on paper, but is this actual physics?
As Einstein taught us, gravity isn’t a force that pulls matter like magnetism, it’s actually a warping of spacetime. The Moon thinks it’s just following a straight line through space, but it’s actually following the warped path created by the Earth’s gravity.
And so, according to Einstein and physicist Nathan Rosen, you could tangle up spacetime so tightly that two points share the same physical location. If you could then keep the whole thing stable, you could carefully separate the two regions of spacetime so they’re still the same location, but separated by whatever distance you like.
Climb down the gravitational well of one side of the wormhole, and then instantaneously appear at the other location. Millions or billions of light-years away. While wormholes are theoretically possible to create, they’re practically impossible from what we currently understand.
If you could set up two ends of a wormhole to anywhere in the Universe, where would they be? Tell us your ideas in the comments below.
In our next episode, we discuss the Higgs boson, the particle recently confirmed by the Large Hadron Collider. Want to know what it is and why it’s important? Make sure you subscribe to this channel and you’ll get notified the moment we publish it.
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