Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar raises a few questions about the possibility of wormhole travel. If Earth were to ever come to shambles, would the solution be to teleport to another planet via a double-ended tunnel – essentially a short cut though space? According to Kip Thorne, the renowned astrophysicist and author of the novel on which the film is based, the answer is a steadfast “no.”
Although wormholes may technically exist, there’s no plausible way to make it through to the other side…well, in one piece at least. Thorne, who served as the executive producer and adviser for the film, explains the situation: “while wormholes are possible according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, such exotic voyages will likely remain in the realm of science fiction.”
Back in the 1930’s, Albert Einstein and his assistant, Nathan Rosen, first proposed their theory of wormholes (known as Einstein-Rosen bridges back then) in a paper – characterizing them as tunnels with a black hole on one end, and a theoretical white hole on the other. The term “wormhole” was then officially coined in 1957 by physicist John Wheeler, who compared the tunnels to the holes made by worms in apples: similar to how these holes facilitate travel through the inside of an apple, a wormhole could theoretically facilitate travel through space time.
Some scientists believe black holes, which are formed when massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycle, are comparable to the openings of wormholes. Thus, they could potentially serves as gateways to other universes. Traveling through them, however, poses a problem. Due to the extreme gravitational force surrounding the black hole, anything that comes near it (and especially near an area known as “the event horizon”) will instantly be pulled apart – potential space travellers are warned.
Another problem arises due to the wormhole’s unstable nature; a lot of negative energy, for example, is needed to keep the tunnels open long enough for something to travel through. Although, this type of energy has been created in the laboratory, as of now, it’s not possible to have enough of it to repel the walls of a wormhole.
Sorry Interstellar fans…maybe in the distant future.