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What is a Wormhole?

Michael Anissimov
Updated Feb 01, 2024
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A wormhole is a hypothetical spacetime topology, a "shortcut" that would allow travel between two points at apparently faster-than-light speeds. The name comes from analogizing spacetime to the surface of an apple, in which a wormhole is a tunnel through the apple. In reality, movement through a wormhole would not be faster-than-light, but rather moving at normal speed through folded space.

Wormholes are popular in science fiction because they allow characters to travel great distances in short periods of time. In real life, wormholes probably do not exist, as they would require negative matter, an exotic substance that has never been observed and whose existence is not predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics. Mathematical models of wormhole spacetimes show that they would "pinch off" almost instantaneously. In addition, a wormhole would have to be extremely small -- most models show wormholes with openings smaller than an atomic nucleus.

Wormholes have also been called Schwarzschild wormholes or Einstein-Rosen bridges, in the context of past mathematical analyses. An Einstein-Rosen bridge would have a black hole at both entrances, which means that once a theoretical traveler entered into the wormhole, they would cross an event horizon and be stuck in the middle.

If wormholes could exist, they could also function as time machines. According to Einstein's theory of relativity, time passes more slowly for a highly accelerated body. If one end of a wormhole were accelerated to close to the speed of light while another were stationary, a traveller entering into the stationary hole would emerge in the past from the accelerated hole. This type of wormhole would be called a closed timelike curve or a timehole.

Physicist Stephen Hawking has proposed that the causality-breaking properties of such wormholes would be physically forbidden by a form of cosmic censorship. This is because time travel would cause apparently irresolvable paradoxes, such as a case in which someone goes back in time to kill their earlier self. Learning more about the theoretical properties of a wormhole would require a quantum theory of gravity, which has not yet been developed.

AllTheScience is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime AllTheScience contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

Discussion Comments

By anon990713 — On May 06, 2015

Negative matter can generate positive energy at any given time.

And the energy can be spread. That's how we see in the dark, even with our eyes closed. Free from body, free from mind, we can from a negative matter and get positive energy. And that is awesome.

By anon926271 — On Jan 17, 2014

If a wormhole permits you to go faster than light, it doesn't mean you'll go back in time. Time may affect the traveler at a slower rate, but it does not stop. You just go faster than the speed of light. Speculation and wishful thinking. Happy trails.

By anon925709 — On Jan 13, 2014

The nature of the wormhole is such that no laws of physics are broken. Whatever creates the wormhole alters the nature of space to enable this. Space is not folded and you don't travel through subspace; that is science fiction. In the cosmos, wormholes are very possible and they are not small. Scientists with the proper theory and understanding could be testing this in labs today, and not on a subatomic scale.

The prospect is very exciting but the military would never admit to it. The result is faster than light speed yet within the wormhole, light speed is never compromised. Try and warp your mind around that. Happy trails.

By anon923871 — On Dec 31, 2013

While linking space to time has really screwed up some people's thinking, it is a reality awareness. Our reality is based on what we see, therefore it is based on light. Unfortunately light, while it appears so, is not instantaneous. Our view of the galaxy and cosmos is, in reality, a 'light' based time machine.

Here's a thought experiment. Let's assume faster than light speed travel is possible. We travel to a planet 10 light-years away in 10 minutes. Before we made this trip, assume we observed life on this planet through a telescope. When we arrive on the distant planet, we find it is 10 years in the future from what we observed before we set out. Also, we take a look at earth, which is now 10 light-years away, and we find our view of earth is 10 years into its past. If the distance were 100 or even a thousand light years, the same would be true. Our reality is based in a time machine because our view of the cosmos is time attenuated by the speed of light. So, speed is our pass-card to time travel. Now if we return to earth in the following 10 minutes, we find earth is only 20 minutes older (as are we) and yet, in that 20 minutes, we have been able to travel 10 years into earth's past and back again.

To sum up, we live in a time machine and technology will set us free without changing the 'flux' of the universe. Would you agree?

By anon314806 — On Jan 20, 2013

Space time is impossible. To travel forward or backward in time, you would have to 'fast-forward' or 'rewind' the flux of the universe. There is only the present moment and time is our measurement of flux (observable change).

By anon233309 — On Dec 05, 2011

If you could enter a wormhole, great, but do you have to have anti-matter to create it, and so if we should actually define time, space, matter and location, then we can take the next step.

By anon200442 — On Jul 27, 2011

my name is suraj k. and i am a student. time travel is a very interesting topic for me and others. i think time travel is possible, but we need to know that things which are still hidden from us. we live on earth and our life goes along with the earth's time. If we live in space that is different because time in space is faster than time on earth, but the question is why it differs and how it differs.

By anon162711 — On Mar 24, 2011

Suppose space and time are interwoven, fabric-like, and folded as you would fold a cloth, one layer on top of another. If you consider a wormhole as a caught thread of space-time between two layers, it makes it a link. Entering this link would, of course, be suicide.

However, if there is a way to journey through a wormhole, it would result in you being transported back in your timeline, which is an entirely different story altogether. And by the way, there is a way to do so. One word: antimatter.

By anon147434 — On Jan 29, 2011

but a wormhole is interrelated to the past, present and future. So it would be harmful for a person to travel through it because any problem created with your past can destroy your present.

By anon129568 — On Nov 24, 2010

if somebody goes to the future is it possible to remain simultaneously both in present and future? And in time?

By anon126679 — On Nov 13, 2010

If a wormhole is much too small then our assumption is how can a person go in it?

By anon65397 — On Feb 13, 2010

This information is mind-blowing! I'm wondering if I could create a wormhole here on Earth to travel to common place like from home to school?

Could it be possible?

By anon64939 — On Feb 10, 2010

it would be cool to go in a worm hole.

By anon61852 — On Jan 22, 2010

a better way is to find a way to change a black hole into a white hole, only we still have to prove they exist, and assuming you don't get crushed by the singularity, then it might work, but then we gotta find a way to keep the radiation from killing you, blah, blah, blah. :)

By anon56076 — On Dec 11, 2009

is it possible a black hole could be constructed and deactivated manually to open the entrance to a wormhole?

By anon54856 — On Dec 02, 2009

Sweet. I'm using this information for an essay!

By anon48963 — On Oct 16, 2009

Cool article. I'm using it for a school project.

By anon499 — On Apr 26, 2007

does a blackhle is the entrance to wormhle?

is a wormhle the entrance to the future or past?

Michael Anissimov

Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime AllTheScience contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology...

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