Our understanding of the wider universe is far from being complete. For proof, look no further than the fact that new findings are made on a regular basis, with an excellent example being the recent reveal of the first photo of a black hole that was captured using eight radio telescopes. As such, it should come as no surprise to learn that there are still concepts such as wormholes that are speculated to exist but have not been proven to exist at this point in time.
For those who are unfamiliar, a wormhole is supposed to be a kind of passage that connects two separate points in space-time in such a manner that traveling through the passage makes for a much shorter trip than traveling between the two points via a conventional route. This can be rather difficult to envision. As a result, interested individuals might find it useful to imagine a piece of paper with two points on opposite sides that is folded so that the two points line up with one another. In fact, this particular explanation is so popular in spite of its issues that chances are good that interested individuals have already seen it at some point in a movie, a TV show, or some other piece of media.
Regardless, interested individuals might be wondering whether wormholes can be used for travel. After all, wormholes show up a lot in science fiction and its related genres, which like to use them as a convenient way to explain faster than light travel between interstellar distances while remaining within a timescale that is practical for humans. Unfortunately, there is zero reason to believe that wormhole travel will be happening for human civilization anytime soon, assuming that it ever happens at all.
Could a Wormhole Be Used for Travel?
There are a number of issues that must be resolved for wormhole travel to become possible. However, none of these issues can be considered trivial in nature. Instead, each one of these issues can be considered a serious problem in its own right, so much so that it calls for massive expenditures of time, effort, and other limited resources for there to be even a small chance of seeing a successful outcome. Even worse, there is excellent reason to believe that some of these issues cannot be solved using our species’s current technological capabilities, meaning that they will remain beyond our reach for the time being even if we were to open our metaphorical wallets to the fullest extent. Never mind the possibility that some of these issues might not be solvable. Period.
First, there is the question of whether wormholes even exist or not. This is important because scientists speculate that wormholes exist based on the mathematics of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which says that they should exist. However, while the theory of general relativity is a cornerstone of its scientific field, it is nonetheless a product of an incomplete understanding of the universe and its mechanisms, meaning that its conclusions cannot be trusted without questioning. For that matter, even if the theory of general relativity was believed to be perfect, its conclusions would still need empirical evidence for them to be considered either truth or the next best thing to truth because fundamentally speaking, science is based on a posteriori proof rather than a priori proof. In other words, it cannot be assumed that wormholes exist until scientists manage to observe wormholes in existence.
Speaking of which, that leads into the second point. Considering the rate at which scientists are announcing new discoveries about the wider universe in recent times, some people might expect that the confirmation of the existence of wormholes will be coming out anytime now. However, said assessment of the situation is a bit optimistic to say the least. Certainly, there have been some suggestions made for how wormholes can be detected as well as distinguished from other phenomenon, with an excellent example being Alexander Shatskiy’s recommendation on the matter. However, a successful implementation is still much easier said than done in spite of said recommendations, not least because the relevant scientists have to search through the vastness of space for something that is situated at astronomical distances away from us. The first is a huge problem because space is so big that its scale is far beyond what the human mind can comprehend on an intuitive level, while the second is a huge problem because it makes observation impossible without very advanced telescopes set up under very specific conditions as well as special methods that can be used to pick out signs that something is a wormhole rather than something else altogether.
Moving on, there isn’t much reason to believe that wormholes would make for a convenient means of travel. If anything, there are plenty of reasons to believe the reverse. For example, primordial wormholes are expected to exist on a microscopic scale, thus making them useless for human travel. It is possible that some of those wormholes have managed to become bigger since the time of their creation because of the continuing expansion of the universe. Likewise, it is possible that we will find a use for such wormholes in spite of their microscopic scale. However, that is nonetheless a serious obstacle to wormhole travel. Even worse, there is reason to believe that it is impossible for a wormhole that can let humans travel through it to exist, meaning that said problem might never be overcome. Fortunately, this is one of those cases in which our relative lack of knowledge works out in our favor because we don’t actually know enough to say for sure that such wormholes cannot exist.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of other potential problems. For another example, consider the expectation that wormholes are expected to collapse at a rapid rate. Something that would even observing them a serious challenge. Never mind actually making use of them for travel purposes. After all, even if we ignore the dangers of sending something through a collapse-prone passage, there is still the matter of sending something in before it can collapse. There is a potential upside for this particular problem in that some scientists believe that it might be possible to keep a wormhole open through the use of exotic matter, but that leads right into other issues. For starters, exotic matter is a catch-all term for matter with strange properties. In practical terms, this means that we aren’t very familiar with the forms of exotic matter that we have managed to observe, while others are similar to wormholes in that they are speculated to exist but have not had their existence confirmed with empirical evidence. Due to this, it seems safe to say that we won’t be using exotic matter to keep wormholes open anytime soon, assuming that of course, wormholes actually exist.
On top of this, there is the issue of making something that can make the passage through a wormhole. Currently, we know very little about what it would be like within a wormhole, meaning that we do not have a perfectly clear picture of what the hazards of wormhole travel would entail. However, what we know suggests that there will be plenty of other risks as well. One excellent example would be high levels of radiation, which is a problem that we struggle with when it comes to something on the scale of a theoretical spaceship. Another excellent example would be contact with exotic matter that could result in poorly understood consequences, which is something that we would be even less well-prepared to handle. Without a much better understanding of what wormhole travel is like, this is a problem that scientists can’t be expected to make much progress on because of that critical lack of information.
Of course, this isn’t even considering the fact that we don’t have the ability to build anything that can travel for more than very short distances, meaning that we will need to work on that before we attempt anything more ambitious as a species. With our current capabilities, building something capable of passing through a wormhole might not be any better than asking the ancient Mesopotamians to build a rocket capable of reaching the moon. In other words, we might be able to envision such an occurrence, but turning this particular vision into reality is something that is wholly beyond us. We might be capable of overcoming our current limitations at some point in the future, but attempting to make predictions about what is to come in too much detail is something that is doomed to failure.
Summed up, it seems clear that wormhole travel won’t be happening anytime soon. At this point in time, we have no real understanding of what wormhole travel would be even like, not least because we have no proof that wormholes even exist in reality. Due to this, we cannot figure out what challenges would be involved in sending something through a wormhole, which in turn, means that we can’t do much to overcome them. Theoretically, there might come a time when we will find wormholes, learn how to either make them or sustain them, and then build spaceships capable of passing through them, but for the time being, said prospect is nothing more than the stuff of fantasy.
Why Are People So Interested in Wormhole Travel Anyways?
Having read this, some people might now be wondering why there is so much interest in wormholes. After all, the concept has numerous problems, none of which have even the slightest hope of being solved unless interested parties are willing to spend a huge amount of time, effort, and other limited resources. However, while wormhole travel isn’t much more than a wild flight of fancy for the time being, it still possesses plenty of appeal.
For instance, wormhole travel is one of the theoretical methods by which faster than light travel is possible. Currently, we know of no way to break the light speed barrier. As a result, even if we become capable of building spaceships that can travel at light speed, we are bound to our own solar system plus our very closest neighbors. For context, consider the fact that our closet neighbor Alpha Centauri is still separated from us by a distance of more than four light years, meaning that even a one-way trip on a light speed spaceship would take more than four years to complete. Due to this, if we want to head somewhere further out while still being able to make it there within a time scale that is convenient for humans, we are going to need some way to either break or by pass the light speed barrier.
Otherwise, there is no practical way for us to reach the overwhelming majority of solar systems even in our own Milky Way galaxy. Never mind other galaxies, particularly since there is reason to believe that the universe is expanding at a rate that is faster than light. Of course, there is still the question of why people would want to venture out into the stars. However, there is no simple and straightforward answer for that particular question, though one excellent example would be the spirit of exploration that remains alive and well in the modern age.
With that said, there are even wilder possibilities about what wormholes might offer. For instance, there are some scientists who believe that wormholes might be usable for time travel both forward and backward, though this is disputed by other scientists with other interpretations. No matter which side is correct, the fact that this is a matter of dispute makes wormholes even more fascinating. Something that adds to rather than detract from the human desire to understand them as much as possible.