Black holes may be entrances to Wonderlands. But are there Alices or white rabbits?—Carl Sagan[i]
Recently a series of science reports involving wormholes postulate tunnels through spacetime[ii] and ask whether these could be traversable by humans. The exciting new theories remind of the 2014 epic space adventure film Interstellar where a team of astronauts leave a post-apocalyptic earth and venture through a wormhole in search of a habitable planet to ensure the survival of humanity. In order to make certain the movie’s depictions of wormholes and relativity were as accurate as possible, one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Albert Einstein’s relativity equations, theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, was hired as a scientific consultant for the film. Setting a new precedent, Thorne states that this is the first Hollywood film to accurately portray black holes and wormholes the way they would actually appear. Thorne asserts, “This is the first time the depiction began with Einstein’s general relativity equations.”[iii] The visual effects supervisor, Paul Franklin, describes what a black hole looks like up close: “The gravity of a black hole draws in all matter from the surrounding universe and this spins out into a giant disk around the central sphere. As it whirls in towards the center, the gas gets hotter and hotter and the accretion disk around it shines brilliantly.”[iv] (See illustration.) This chapter will explore these topics and much more, including a new study that suggests the stunning possibility that all black holes might be wormholes to untold realms.
In early 2015, Paolo Salucci, astrophysicist of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), published a groundbreaking paper in Annals of Physics entitled “Possible Existence of Wormholes in the Central Regions of Halos.” The abstract is rather sensational:
An earlier study has demonstrated the possible existence of wormholes in the outer regions of the galactic halo, based on the Navarro-Frenk-White (NFW) density profile. This paper uses the Universal Rotation Curve (URC) dark matter model to obtain analogous results for the central parts of the halo. This result is an important compliment to the earlier result, thereby confirming the possible existence of wormholes in most of the spiral galaxies.[v] (emphasis added)
In other words, if this explanation of dark matter is correct, our spiral Milky Way galaxy likely contains a naturally occurring wormhole tunnel that traverses our entire galaxy. Note that this is specific to spiral galaxies. Salucci adds, “We could even travel through this tunnel, since, based on our calculations, it could be navigable. Just like the one we’ve all seen in the recent film Interstellar.”[vi] Salucci adds, “Dark matter may be ‘another dimension,’ perhaps even a major galactic transport system.”[vii] While this begs the question—“A transport system for whom?”—it adds considerable weight to the ideas in this series.
The science of portals may seem intimidating, like a topic only suited for science-fiction aficionados, but everyone is familiar with the “gateway to another realm” concept. Most of us learned it in kindergarten with Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. Interestingly, the era of history (early twentieth century) that inspired those memorable tales was also when those realms moved from fantastic to scientifically plausible. However, the groundwork had been laid centuries before.
The Reverend John Michell and Schwarzschild’s Magic Sphere
British polymath John Michell (1724–1793) was rector of St. Michael’s Church of Thornhill, near Leeds, Yorkshire, England. A fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge, he taught Greek, Hebrew, and was a Censor in theology. In addition to being a respected theologian, he was “the father of seismology,” the science of earthquakes. After the catastrophic Lisbon earthquake of 1755, Michell wrote a book that helped establish seismology as a science. He proposed that earthquakes spread out as waves through the solid earth and related to fault lines. This work earned him Royal Society membership in 1769. In fact, he provided pioneering insights in a wide range of scientific fields, including astronomy, optics, geology, and gravitation.[viii] Alasdair Wilkins writes, “A few specifics of Michell’s work really do sound like they are ripped from the pages of a twentieth century astronomy textbook.”[ix] The American Physical Society has described Mitchell as being “so far ahead of his scientific contemporaries that his ideas languished in obscurity, until they were re-invented more than a century later.”[x] Michell’s prescience is nearly unmatched, and today he is heralded as one of the greatest unsung Christian heroes of science.
Extrapolating from the laws of physics, Michell even predicted the existence of the black hole. In 1783, he speculated about a star so massive that its gravitational pull would hold back its own light. He reasoned that because all objects have an escape velocity, the velocity required to escape its gravitational pull, then it follows that with super massive objects, like giant stars, very interesting things begin to happen. If the escape velocity equals the speed of light, then light cannot escape; it vanishes and is never to be seen again. It becomes a “dark star.”
Michell’s speculation was not taken very seriously at the time—that is, not until after 1916, when Karl Schwarzschild, a German physicist, found an exact solution to Einstein’s equations for a massive star that suggested Michell’s earlier hunch was right. From Einstein’s equations, Schwarzschild independently rediscovered Michell’s dark star. Schwarzschild conjectured that massive stars were surrounded by a theoretical “magic sphere”—a point of no return, even for light. In honor of his discovery, the radius of a black hole’s event horizon is known as the “Schwarzschild radius.”In 1939, J. Robert Oppenheimer (of atom bomb fame) proposed that black holes form when an old massive star uses up its nuclear fuel and implodes, compressing to within its Schwarzschild radius. However, how does one prove something that cannot be seen?
The existence of black holes is now considered “settled science.” Although it seems fair to ask if anyone has ever actually seen one, such an inquiry misses the point because black holes are by definition invisible. Nobody can directly “see” the dark heavenly dwellers, but they are detectable using various indirect means.[xi] Like dark-colored fluid swirling down a drain, the liquid vortex is visible even when the drain’s hole is not. Similarly, gas, dust, and space debris form a disk-shaped, spiral pattern up to the edge of the event horizon. Accordingly, astronomers look for the “accretion disk” surrounding a black hole. Using the Hubble Space telescope, space scientists have now collected stunning photographs of these accretion disks.
In order to distinguish black holes from other super-massive entities, astronomers calculate the size and mass to verify that the matter is compressed in a sufficiently small space. Additionally, as material is sucked in, it is torn apart, releasing vast amounts of heat. As it heats up, the dark star emits copious amounts of detectable radiation, such as x-rays. Providing yet another means of identification, the huge energy transfer can cause matter close to a black hole to be violently ejected in what are called “radio jets.”
The Hubble telescope has also measured black holes rotating at half the speed of light, or 149,896,229 meters per second.[xii] This is particularly important to the discussion at hand, because a precisely tuned rotation makes human travel through wormholes—once thought implausible—theoretically possible. In 1963, New Zealand mathematician Roy Kerr found an exact solution to Albert Einstein’s previously unsolved equation describing a spinning black hole.The correct spin velocity creates enough centrifugal force to cancel the inward force of gravity, stabilizing the portal that otherwise shreds its passengers into tiny particles. This makes human travel through wormhole portals at least theoretically possible. However, there’s a catch. Popular physics author Michio Kaku explains in Parallel Worlds: A Journey through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos:
The frame of Alice’s looking glass, in other words, was like the spinning ring of Kerr. But any trip through the Kerr ring would be a one-way trip. If you were to pass through the event horizon surrounding the Kerr ring, the gravity would not be enough to crush you to death, but it would be sufficient to prevent a return trip back through the event horizon.[xiii]
While still theoretical (we are told), Kerr-Newman geometry provides a complete description of the necessary gravitational and electromagnetic fields to form a stationary, traversable black hole.[xiv] It eliminates the crushing gravity near the event horizon, one of the previously thought insurmountable problems associated with wormhole travel. But all of this engineering isn’t necessary if braneworld theory is true and the Milky Way galaxy hosts a traversable portal to another dimension.
On Mount Graham, the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) and LUCIFER are confirming the recent hypothesis that central halo regions of spiral galaxies like the Milky Way contain “stable and navigable”[xv] wormholes accessible enough to be labeled a “galactic transport system.”[xvi] The hypothesis is based on the existence of “dark matter” in the halo that makes itself felt by its gravitational influence on the visible matter. The LUCIFER device helps astronomers detect the clouds are typically opaque to visible light.[xvii] LBT also confirms the invisible dark-matter halo by detecting its angular momentum as in with the Seyfert galaxy Messier 94.
Perhaps even more provocative, a new study suggests that any of the super-massive objects scientists think are black holes could instead be wormhole portals leading to other universes. A recent article reports:
Though black holes are not seen directly, astronomers have identified many objects that appear to be black holes based on observations of how matter swirls around them.
But physicists Thibault Damour of the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques in Bures-sur-Yvette, France, and Sergey Solodukhin of International University Bremen in Germany now say that these objects could be structures called wormholes instead.[xviii]
In other words, all black holes might be portals rather than dead ends, and it is impossible to tell the difference.
When the Large Hedron Collider (LHC) first started up on September 10, 2008, director for research and scientific computing at CERN, Sergio Bertolucci, provoked a whirlwind of speculation with his enigmatic remark that the LHC might open a door to another dimension. During a regular briefing at CERN headquarters, he told reporters, “Out of this door might come something, or we might send something through it.”[xix] The notion of higher dimensional beings conjures up the denizens of legend, orcs, ogres, elves, fairies, dwarves, and giants. A British military analyst later quipped:
We’re looking here at an imminent visit from a race of carnivorous dinosaur-men, the superhuman clone hive-legions of some evil genetic queen-empress, infinite polypantheons of dark mega-deities imprisoned for aeons and hungering to feast upon human souls, a parallel-history victorious Nazi globo-Reich or something of that type.[xx]
While that was amusing, more serious researchers like Richard Bullivant had already connected the dots:
The most plausible explanation the next time Bigfoot or a lizard man or a flying dragon is sighted—or perhaps even a UFO ascending into the earth and disappearing into the side of a hill—surely has to be that it is evidence that portals to parallel worlds are serving as doorways where strange beings, vehicles and entities occasionally stumble into our universe—and sometimes we in turn stumble into theirs.[xxi]
It did not help that the LHC was named “Shiva” after the Hindu destroyer of worlds, a fact that prompted a teenage girl in India, Madhya Pradesh, to commit suicide.[xxii] Whether the scientists responsible for the name believe it or not, wormhole portals are studied very seriously.
In 1935, Albert Einstein and his student, Nathan Rosen, proposed that connecting two black holes would form a tube-like gateway between two regions. This passageway is called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge. The math works. Traversable wormholes provide a valid solution to field equations of general relativity.[xxiii] According to theory, one could enter a black hole and exit a white hole in another universe. A white hole is a region of space-time that cannot be entered from the outside, but from which matter and light may escape. Thus, a black hole serves as the entry portal and a white hole marks the exit portal. Yet, prior to the discovery of spinning Kerr black holes, traversing the magic sphere meant being obliterated down to the atomic level by the enormous gravitational force. Consequently, during Einstein’s day, no one took the possibility of traveling through such a gate very seriously.
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In the 1950s, John Wheeler, the physicist who coined the term “wormhole,” published a paper showing that, rather than connecting to another universe, a wormhole could also bend like the handle on a coffee cup to join two different regions of the known universe. This suggests the possibility of near-instantaneous travel over vast distantness. In 1962, Wheeler and Robert W. Fuller published a paper showing that these wormholes are unstable, and will pinch off quickly after forming, seemingly relegating the hope for a negotiable wormhole to the world of fantasy.
The possibility of truly traversable wormholes was first demonstrated by Kip Thorne of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group at the California Institute of Technology and his graduate student, Mike Morris, in 1988. Thorne devised a wormhole that does not require a black hole and a white hole or that destructive event horizon. He proposed that the throats, or tunnels, could be made large enough for a human in a craft to get through by threading the portal with exotic negative matter. In the film Interstellar, aliens (or future humans) from the fifth dimension provide the artificial wormhole. However, according to new theory, we may be getting close.
Interestingly, Thorne’s initial attention was sparked when the celebrated physicist, TV personality, and author Carl Sagan asked about the feasibility of his scenario in an early manuscript for the now-famous science-fiction book and movie, Contact:
Thorne realized he could design just the sort of wormhole Sagan was looking for. It turned out to be possible in theory to have a link between two parts of the Universe that looked, schematically, just like Wheeler’s quantum wormholes of thirty years earlier. But this time the tunnels would be large enough for humans to travel through in a spacecraft without feeling any discomfort. For instance, a traveler could enter one mouth of the wormhole near Earth and within a short time he or she would emerge from the other end on the opposite side of the Galaxy. The traveler would then be able to return through the wormhole and report back. This “connection” was thus dubbed a “traversable wormhole” to distinguish it from non-traversable ones like the Einstein-Rosen bridge.[xxiv]
The Morris-Thorne traversable wormhole they proposed is held open by a spherical shell of exotic matter. This theoretical element would prevent the pinching off Wheeler discovered and stabilize the wormhole for travel. Unfortunately, “exotic” entails hypothetical properties that violate the known laws of physics. Not to be confused with antimatter, negative matter has negative mass, not a reverse electrical charge from matter. Unfortunately, it is only theoretical. As far as the public is told, the closest known example of such exotic matter is the region of pseudo-negative-pressure density produced by the Casimir effect. This effect occurs when quantum vacuum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field between two close, parallel, uncharged, conducting plates create a small attractive force.[xxv] Stephen Hawking,[xxvi] Kip Thorne,[xxvii] and others[xxviii] argue that such effects might make it possible to stabilize a traversable wormhole. The work is ongoing.
In 2008, Matt Visser refined the basic design in order to “minimize the use of exotic matter. In particular, it is possible for a traveler to traverse such a wormhole without passing through a region of exotic matter.”[xxix] Additionally, physicists have now identified scenarios in which wormholes could have naturally formed with stabilizing forces preventing such a collapse.[xxx] Several new types of traversable wormholes have been suggested, including a wormhole that does not require exotic matter.[xxxi] The best minds in astrophysics and quantum mechanics increasingly breathe scientific plausibility into previously thought fanciful descriptions of mystical portals, heavenly gates, visionary ladders, and vile vortices.
UP NEXT: Four Levels of Multiverse
[iii]Kip Throne, “The Science of Interstellar,” http://video.wired.com/watch/exclusive-the-science-of-interstellar-wired (00:50).
[iv] Paul Franklin, “The Science of Interstellar,” http://video.wired.com/watch/exclusive-the-science-of-interstellar-wired ( 01:54–02:09).
[v]Farook Rahaman, Paolo Salucci, et al., “Possible Existence of Wormholes in the Central Regions of Halos,” Annals of Physics, Vol. 350, November 2014, 561–567, (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1501.00490v1.pdf).
[vi]Milky Way Could Be a “Galactic Transport System,” http://scitechdaily.com/milky-way-galactic-transport-system/.
[viii]Russell McCormmach, “Archimedes, New Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology,” vol. v.28, Weighing the World: The Reverend John Michell of Thornhill (Dordrecht: Springer, 2012), 177, http://public.eblib.com/eblpublic/publicview.do?ptiid=885997 (accessed August 6, 2014).
[ix]Alasdair Wilkins, i09, December 23, 2012, The forgotten genius who discovered black holes. over 200 years ago (accessed August 6, 2014).
[x]“This Month in Physics History: November 27, 1783: John Michell Anticipates Black Holes,” http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200911/physicshistory.cfm (accessed August 6, 2014).
[xi] Video, “How Are Black Holes Detected?” Space.com, http://www.space.com/10257-black-holes-detected.html (accessed November 21, 2014).
[xiii]Michio Kaku, Parallel Worlds: A Journey through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos, reprint ed. (Anchor, 2006) 121.
[xiv] S. L. Shapiro and S. A. Teukolsky, “Kerr Black Holes,” §12.7 in Black Holes, White Dwarfs, and Neutron Stars: The Physics of Compact Objects (New York: Wiley 1983) 338.
[xv]Sissa Medialab, “In Theory, the Milky Way Could Be a ‘Galactic Transport System,’” Science Daily, January 21, 2015, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150121083648.htm (accessed January 23, 2015).
[xvii]Rebecca Boyle, “Lucifer Instrument Helps Astronomers See through Darkness to Most Distant Observable Objects,” Popular Science, April 23, 2010, http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-04/devil-named-telescope-helps-astronomers-see-through-darkness.
[xviii] David Shiga, “Could Black Holes Be Portals to Other Universes?” New Scientist, April 2007, http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11745-could-black-holes-be-portal#.VIItFzHF-xU (accessed December 5, 2014).
[xix] Lewis Page, “Something May Come through Dimensional ‘Doors’ at LHC,” The Register, November 11, 2009, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/06/lhc_dimensional_portals/ (accessed September 5, 2014).
[xxi]Richard Bullivant, Beyond Time Travel—Exploring Our Parallel Worlds: Amazing Real Life Stories in the News (Time Travel Books, 2014) Kindle Edition, 781–785.
[xxiv]Jim Al-Khalili, Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines (Bristol, UK: Institute of Physics, 1999), 206.
[xxv]Philip Gibbs, “What Is the Cashmir Effect?” University of California Riverside, http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Quantum/casimir.html (accessed December 4, 2014).
[xxvi]“Space and Time Warps,” Hawking.org.uk.
[xxvii] Michael Morris, Kip Thorne, Ulvi Yurtsever (1988), “Wormholes, Time Machines, and the Weak Energy Condition,” Physical Review Letters, 61 (13): 1446–1449.
[xxviii]Ford Sopova (2002), “The Energy Density in the Casimir Effect,” Physical Review D, 66 (4): 045026. Roman Ford, (1995),“Averaged Energy Conditions and Quantum Inequalities,” Physical Review D 51(8): 4277–4286.Olum (1998),“Superluminal Travel Requires Negative Energies,”. Physical Review Letters, 81 (17): 3567–3570.
[xxix] Matt Visser, “Traversable Wormholes: Some Simple Examples,” Physical Review, D 39, no. 10 (1989): 3182.
[xxxi]Matt Visser, Lorentzian Wormholes: From Einstein to Hawking, Aip Series in Computational and Applied Mathematical Physics (Woodbury, N.Y.: American Institute of Physics, 1995) 143. Also see Elias Gravanis; Steven Willison (2007). “‘Mass without Mass’ from Thin Shells in Gauss-Bonnet Gravity,” Phys. Rev. D 75 (8), http://journals.aps.org/prd/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevD.75.084025.