A model of a black hole.
The first Avengers flick hit its dramatic peak when an alien army descended upon New York via a wormhole in the sky. New research shows part of this is theoretically possible. (Hint: It's not the alien army part.)
Wormholes, a shortcut from one area of spacetime to another, can really exist, according to a new study from Daniel Jafferis and Ping Gao from Harvard University and Aron Wall from Stanford University. The catch? Real-life wormholes wouldn't really be an instant transportation situation.
“It takes longer to get through these wormholes than to go directly,” Jafferis said, “so they are not very useful for space travel.”
The discovery, presented by Jafferis on Saturday at the 2019 American Physical Society April Meeting in Denver, is really more about quantum mechanics than intergalactic travel. His theory states that two black holes connected at a quantum level can act as a wormhole through which light can travel. This means that light and information can be retrieved from a black hole.
How black holes swallow light, warp space-time and blow…
“From the outside perspective, travel through the wormhole is equivalent to quantum teleportation using entangled black holes,” Jafferis said. “I think [this new research] will teach us deep things about the gauge/gravity correspondence, quantum gravity, and even perhaps a new way to formulate quantum mechanics.”
It's been a big week for black holes. We humans finally saw one with our own eyes: Scientists from the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration revealed the first direct image of a black hole last Wednesday.
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How to spot a wormhole (if they exist)
An artist’s concept illustrates a supermassive black hole. A new theoretical study outlines a method that could be used to search for wormholes (a speculative phenomenon) in the background of supermassive black holes. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
A new study outlines a method for detecting a speculative phenomenon that has long captured the imagination of sci-fi fans: wormholes, which form a passage between two separate regions of spacetime.
Such pathways could connect one area of our universe to a different time and/or place within our universe, or to a different universe altogether.
Whether wormholes exist is up for debate. But in a paper published on Oct. 10 in Physical Review D, physicists describe a technique for detecting these bridges.
The method focuses on spotting a wormhole around Sagittarius A*, an object that's thought to be a supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy. While there's no evidence of a wormhole there, it's a good place to look for one because wormholes are expected to require extreme gravitational conditions, such as those present at supermassive black holes.
In the new paper, scientists write that if a wormhole does exist at Sagittarius A*, nearby stars would be influenced by the gravity of stars at the other end of the passage. As a result, it would be possible to detect the presence of a wormhole by searching for small deviations in the expected orbit of stars near Sagittarius A*.
“If you have two stars, one on each side of the wormhole, the star on our side should feel the gravitational influence of the star that's on the other side. The gravitational flux will go through the wormhole,” says Dejan Stojkovic, Ph.D.
, cosmologist and professor of physics in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.
“So if you map the expected orbit of a star around Sagittarius A*, you should see deviations from that orbit if there is a wormhole there with a star on the other side.”
Stojkovic conducted the study with first author De-Chang Dai, Ph.D., of Yangzhou University in China and Case Western Reserve University.
A close look at S2, a star orbiting Sagittarius A*
Stojkovic notes that if wormholes are ever discovered, they're not going to be the kind that science fiction often envisions.
Travel through wormholes is possible, but slow
A Harvard physicist has shown that wormholes can exist: tunnels in curved space-time, connecting two distant places, through which travel is possible.
But don't pack your bags for a trip to other side of the galaxy yet; although it's theoretically possible, it's not useful for humans to travel through, said the author of the study, Daniel Jafferis, from Harvard University, written in collaboration with Ping Gao, also from Harvard and Aron Wall from Stanford University.
“It takes longer to get through these wormholes than to go directly, so they are not very useful for space travel,” Jafferis said. He will present his findings at the 2019 American Physical Society April Meeting in Denver.
Despite his pessimism for pan-galactic travel, he said that finding a way to construct a wormhole through which light could travel was a boost in the quest to develop a theory of quantum gravity.
“The real import of this work is in its relation to the black hole information problem and the connections between gravity and quantum mechanics,” Jafferis said.
The new theory was inspired when Jafferis began thinking about two black holes that were entangled on a quantum level, as formulated in the ER=EPR correspondence by Juan Maldacena from the Institute for Advanced Study and Lenny Susskind from Stanford. Although this means the direct connection between the black holes is shorter than the wormhole connection — and therefore the wormhole travel is not a shortcut — the theory gives new insights into quantum mechanics.
“From the outside perspective, travel through the wormhole is equivalent to quantum teleportation using entangled black holes,” Jafferis said.
Jafferis based his theory on a setup first devised by Einstein and Rosen in 1935, consisting of a connection between two black holes (the term wormhole was coined in 1957). Because the wormhole is traversable, Jafferis said, it was a special case in which information could be extracted from a black hole.
“It gives a causal probe of regions that would otherwise have been behind a horizon, a window to the experience of an observer inside a spacetime, that is accessible from the outside,” said Jafferis.
To date, a major stumbling block in formulating traversable wormholes has been the need for negative energy, which seemed to be inconsistent with quantum gravity. However, Jafferis has overcome this using quantum field theory tools, calculating quantum effects similar to the Casimir effect.
“I think it will teach us deep things about the gauge/gravity correspondence, quantum gravity, and even perhaps a new way to formulate quantum mechanics,” Jafferis said.
The presentation, “Traversable wormholes” will took place on Saturday, April 13. ABSTRACT: http://meetings.aps.org/Meeting/APR19/Session/B02.2
Materials provided by American Physical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Are Wormholes Real – Can You Control the Weather – Wormhole Facts
Bruce Rolff/Stocktrek Images
- Australia has been suffering through a major drought for years.
- One man is offering a cure-all, claiming he can enter wormholes and control the weather in the future.
- The weather peddler claims to have found buyers for his technology, although none of have gone on the record with verifiable claims.
Australia has been suffering through a serious drought since 2017. The entire country has been hit by the lack of rainfall, including the southeastern state of Victoria, Australia's largest agriculture producer with around 77,000 people working in the field. Recently, the state's government has offered $31 million for drought-affected farmers.
“It won't make it rain, no drought package can do that,” state Premier Daniel Andrews said at the time.
But that's exactly what a company called Miles Research is promising. The company offers three-month “rain contracts” to farmers for $50,000, or around $33,800 USD.
“It’s preying on people’s desperation,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chairman Mick Keogh told ABC Radio, admitting the government can't do much to stop people from hiring the man behind the company, David Miles.
“If you wanted to prosecute, a court requires you to prove essentially that there’s no basis for the claims being made and that is a very difficult thing to do,” Keogh said. “By far the very best defense against them is widespread consumer education. It’s up to individuals obviously to make their own mind up. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
So what kind of technology is Miles peddling? It isn't exactly clear.
The company doesn't actually mention on its website what it's doing to create more rain in Victoria; it just claims it's responsible for increased rainfall in a region of the state called Wimmera in July and August 2018. The Australian government notes high rainfall in part of Wimmera in August at the time, but calls the July rainfall average.
Miles Research also claims it would increase rainfall in the state of New South Wales, although no further information is available on that claim. While we don't have many tech specs, we do have an origin story:
It was in the late 1990’s that [Miles] realized that it was possible to incrementally influence weather patterns using a variant of the Einstein – Rosen Bridge hypothesized in the 1930's, to effectively create a bridge between ‘the present’ in the physical space-time continuum, and a near-future event, forecast to exist from one to ten days ahead in time. The necessary targeting profile of the predicted event is created using meteorological forecast data and high-resolution supercomputing.
You're probably wondering … what?
Einstein-Rosen Bridges, still hypothetical in science, are also commonly known as wormholes.
Miles claims he has gained the ability to somehow “configure” a wormhole, enter it, and then alter the weather in the future.
Theoretical scientists have speculated about warping space-time in one way or another, but many believe it would take approximately all energy within the known universe to do so.
Miles Research then goes on to claim credit for secretly ending a variety of droughts in Australia from the 1990s onward.
The company also referenced something called “electromagnetic scalar waves” on its website, but took down the language after ABC Radio contacted University of Melbourne associate professor of physics Martin Sevior, who told them “electromagnetic scalar waves don’t exist. There’s no such thing. He’s taken a few words and put them together and made them sound somewhat scientific but it’s meaningless.”
Miles says he has a “small, private group” of farmer clients. One anonymous client spoke to ABC Radio favorably, saying, “I got involved because it sounded good, the fact you can control weather, because as a farmer rainfall is everything.” The anonymous client makes no mention of any actual rain benefits they have received.
There have been many efforts to try and artificially create rainfall over the years, mostly through something called cloud seeding. Though both the South Korean and Chinese governments have tried the technique of seeding clouds with certain chemicals in order to create rain for years, there is little proof that it has actually worked.
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Physicists Just Released Step-by-Step Instructions for Building a Wormhole
Everybody wants a wormhole. I mean, who wants to bother traveling the long-and-slow routes throughout the universe, taking tens of thousands of years just to reach yet another boring star? Not when you can pop into the nearest wormhole opening, take a short stroll, and end up in some exotic far-flung corner of the universe.
There's a small technical difficulty, though: Wormholes, which are bends in space-time so extreme that a shortcut tunnel forms, are catastrophically unstable. As in, as soon as you send a single photon down the hole, it collapses faster than the speed of light.
But a recent paper, published to the preprint journal arXiv on July 29, has found a way to build an almost-steady wormhole, one that does collapse but slowly enough to send messages — and potentially even things — down it before it tears itself apart. All you need are a couple of black holes and a few infinitely long cosmic strings.
The wormhole problem
In principle, building a wormhole is pretty straightforward. According to Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, mass and energy warp the fabric of space-time. And a certain special configuration of matter and energy allows the formation of a tunnel, a shortcut between two otherwise distant portions of the universe.
Related: 8 Ways You Can See Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in Real Life
Unfortunately, even on paper, those wormholes are fantastically unstable. Even a single photon passing through the wormhole triggers a catastrophic cascade that rips the wormhole apart.
However, a healthy dose of negative mass — yes, that's matter but with an opposite weight — can counteract the destabilizing effects of regular matter trying to pass through the wormhole, making it traversable.
OK, matter with negative mass doesn't exist, so we need a new plan.
Let's start with the wormhole itself. We need an entrance and an exit.
It's theoretically possible to connect a black hole (a region of space where nothing can escape) to a white hole (a theoretical region of space where nothing can enter).
When these two odd creatures join together, they form a brand-new thing: a wormhole. So you can jump into either end of this tunnel and instead of getting crushed into oblivion you just harmlessly waltz out the other side.
Oh, but white holes don't exist, either. Man, this is getting tricky.
Charge it up
How to Peer Through a Wormhole
Continue reading the main story
Want to get away? Far away? There is a way. Maybe.
In science fiction, wormholes — tunnels through space and time — have long been the preferred means of travel across the universe.
In the movie “Interstellar,” directed by Christopher Nolan in collaboration with Kip Thorne, the physicist and Nobel laureate at the California Institute of Technology, astronauts venture through a wormhole from our solar system to another galaxy to explore potential replacement planets for a worn-out Earth.
So I was intrigued when a pair of physicists suggested recently that it might be possible to determine if there is a cosmic subway station at the center of our own galaxy. That is where a supermassive black hole — an invisible cosmic tombstone four million times more massive than the sun — lurks, wreathed in mystery and imagination behind the dusty clouds of Sagittarius.
Wormholes are another prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which has already delivered such wonders as an expanding universe and black holes, objects so dense they swallow light.
One simple version of a wormhole, called an Einstein-Rosen bridge, consists of a pair of black holes stuck back-to-back, each facing out into its own realm of the universe or universes and connected by a “throat” — the wormhole.
But nobody knows if wormholes actually exist. If wormholes did exist, they wouldn’t let you go anywhere or even send a message. The moment you tried, the wormhole would crinkle up and crush you.
To prevent a wormhole from imploding, it would have to be filled with an exotic substance, sometimes called phantom energy, that exerted negative gravity. But most scientists think the laws of physics forbid such a substance.
“To get a stable, traversable wormhole, you need some magic,” said Dejan Stojkovic, a physicist at the University at Buffalo and a co-author of a recent paper on the topic.
But for theorists who believe in magic, there are millions of ways to design a wormhole, Dr. Thorne said in an email. “Since we know nothing firm about the technologies and materials available to a very advanced civilization, we physicists have an infinity of freedom in building models for traversable wormholes,” he wrote.
In their paper, published Oct. 10 in Physical Review D, Dr.
Stojkovic and De-Chang Dai, of Yangzhou University in China, envisaged a layer of this exotic phantom energy packed around the entrance to the Sagittarius black hole, wedging open a wormhole through which you could safely pass.
As a sufficiently small object approached the hole, and just before it reached the event horizon, the point of no gravitational return, it would suddenly find itself in another time and place, perhaps in another universe.
The authors proposed that their thought experiment offered a way to test if wormholes actually exist. Even if the wormhole was too small for a star or a spaceship to traverse, gravity could reach through, they contend.
“Gravity is just a property of space-time itself, so if you shake one end of it, you will feel it on the other end too,” Dr. Stojkovic explained in a series of email exchanges.
So a star on one side of a wormhole might feel a gravitational tug from a star or other massive object on the other side of the wormhole. To astronomers, strange deviations in one star’s trajectory could indicate the influence of a “ghost star” reaching through the wormhole from the far side.
ImageThe region around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, known as Sagittarius A*.Credit… NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin/Y.Bai, et al.
Dai and his colleague have a particular star in mind to test the idea: a blue star known as S2, or sometimes S02, that tightly circles the Sagittarius black hole, approaching to within 11 billion miles every 16 years. Astronomers have been following the star for years to gain clues about Einstein’s theory of gravity and the inner workings of the black hole. But they might be able to see deeper.
Imagine that the Milky Way black hole, known officially as Sagittarius A* (pronounced “A-star”), harbored such a wormhole, Dr. Dai and Dr. Stojkovic wrote in the paper. Presumably, the gravity of stars or other massive objects on the far side could leak through the wormhole and tug S2 slightly off its orbit.
With a few more years of study, they noted, astronomers should know S2’s orbit precisely enough to detect such a tug, which would accelerate the star about one millionth of a meter per second per second. Astronomers could also look for similar effects near other known black holes.
“This would be spectacular if observed,” Dr. Thorne wrote in an email. He cautioned that, although this model of a wormhole was interesting and attractive, it was only one of countless possibilities.
Dr. Thorne, who won the Nobel Prize in 2017 for his work on gravitational waves, explored the notion of wormholes as time machines in his book “Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy.
So I reached out by email to Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, who has been tracking the star S2 for years from an advanced telescope in Chile. He broke my heart.
He replied that he and his colleagues are close to measuring S2’s orbit with enough precision. That is not the problem, he added, “There is another ‘dragon’ that will make things very difficult.”