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  • Annika Santhanam

The Science Behind Wormholes in Interstellar

Have you seen the movie Interstellar? The scientific aspects of the movie are amazing. If you haven’t watched it already, here’s a quick recap.

Set in the future during a major dust bowl, Interstellar is about a scientist, Professor Brand, who plans to send the humans left on Earth to another planet via wormhole, since Earth is quickly becoming unsuitable to live on. But before he can do this, he has to test his chosen wormhole and see which three planets on the other side are suitable to live on. He sends former NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) pilot Cooper and a team of researchers through the wormhole, with them returning decades later.

What are Wormholes?

Before I get into what wormholes are, you need to know what black holes are. Black holes occur when an object of a great amount of mass throws off so much gravity that it collapses on top of itself, forming the black hole. The black hole has a huge amount of gravity that will suck in anything that gets close to it. Scientists have proven that black holes exist in the universe.

Wormholes are the product of two black holes. Wormholes are like two mouths, with a throat connecting them. This throat is formed when the singularities of two black holes (the point where it tapers off) connect to form a passageway between the two areas. The wormhole warps time space so strongly, that the two points basically touch. It’s like opening a door on Earth and walking straight into another galaxy.

Scientists know that black holes exist, but do wormholes really exist today? According to Albert Einstein, they do exist, but only theoretically.

In theory, they pop in and out of existence in the tiniest areas of space called quantum foam, the fabric of space. Wormholes are considered to be teleporting passages that bend space time to connect two points and make them touch, providing a shortcut to travel from one dimension to another. For example, if you bend a piece of paper, the curve shows the path between Earth and the other galaxy. Typically, you would take the long way around. But wormholes defy these laws. They bore a hole into time-space, allowing you to take the shortcut through the middle of the paper. You’ll be able to travel faster than the speed of light, allowing you to reach the other galaxy in a much shorter time period.

Since wormholes are subatomic in size, they only are open for a fraction of a second before closing off and disconnecting. Since wormholes are only theoretical, the only way for humans to be able to use one is to create one in the first place.

Wormholes and Black Holes in Interstellar

When Cooper and his team cross the wormhole, they reach 3 planets which orbit around a black hole. If you believe that planets orbiting a black hole is impossible, think again. Our entire Milky Way is centered around a massive black hole, 4.5 million times the size of our sun. It’s entirely possible that these three planets can exist.

On the other side of the wormhole in Interstellar, every hour is equivalent to 7 years on Earth. This is because of gravity. When you are in an area of a high gravity concentration, time passes faster than in an area of less gravity concentration. Since Cooper and his team are extremely close to a black hole, the amount of gravity they are being subjected to makes several years feel like several minutes. Therefore, when Cooper gets back to civilization, he hasn’t aged, but his daughter, whom he left back on Earth, is very old, and humanity has already colonized on a different planet.

What Roles Do Wormholes Play Today?

Scientific discoveries of the black hole are encouraging scientists to conduct experiments to find wormholes. Currently the theory says that wormholes that may exist are too small and unstable to travel through. If scientists can find a way to stabilize the wormholes and widen them, they could exist in the future. The only way to do this, however, is to send high amounts of negative mass through the wormhole, counteracting with the high amount of mass/energy in a wormhole, causing it to stay open for a longer period of time and become wide enough to allow something, perhaps a spacecraft, through it. That is, if we find one or create one in the first place.

Wormholes, being able to teleport objects, could lead to the creation of teleportation on our Earth. If we find a way to create and stabilize wormholes, we could travel to other universes, galaxies, and we can expand our knowledge of what’s out there even further. We could even find a way to link man-made wormholes together. Now are you still dreaming about flying cars? I hope not. I think we’d all prefer teleportation any day, am I right?

Wormholes can lead to so many discoveries that can help us advance our technology and our world. The possibility of wormholes leading you to another universe or dimension leads us to say, our Earth is only the beginning.


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