Curious children: what are wormholes? | Kiowa County Press

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Solutions to Einstein’s famous equations in the 20th century describe “wormholes” or tunnels through spacetime. Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library via GettyImages

Dejan Stojkovic, University at Buffalo

curious children is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskidsus@theconversation.com.


What are wormholes and do they exist? – Chinglembi D., 12, Silchar, Assam, India


Imagine two cities on opposite sides of a mountain. People in these towns would probably have to drive all the way around the mountain to visit each other. But if they wanted to get there faster, they could tunnel through the mountain to create a shortcut. This is the idea behind a wormhole.

A wormhole is like a tunnel between two distant points in our universe which reduces travel time from one point to another. Instead of traveling for millions of years from galaxy to galaxy, under the right conditions, one could theoretically use a wormhole to reduce travel time up to hours or minutes.

Because wormholes represent shortcuts through space-time, they could even act as time machines. You might exit one end of a wormhole earlier than when you entered its other end.

Although scientists have no proof that wormholes actually exist in our world, they are good tools to help astrophysicists like me think about space and time. They can also answer age-old questions about what the universe looks like.

Fact or fiction?

Diagram of a wormhole, a tube with two funnel-shaped ends, next to a planet
Scientists call the points where you would enter and exit a wormhole “mouth”, while they call the tunnel itself the “throat”. Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

Because of these interesting characteristics, many science fiction writers use wormholes in novels and movies. However, scientists have been just as enthralled by the idea of ​​wormholes as writers.

While researchers have never found a wormhole in our universe, scientists often see wormholes described in the solutions of important physical equations. More importantly, the solutions to the equations behind Einstein’s theory space-time theory and general relativity include wormholes. This theory describes the shape of the universe and how stars, planets and other objects move through it. Because Einstein’s theory has been tested many times and proven correct each timesome scientists expect wormholes to exist somewhere in the universe.

But, other scientists believe that wormholes cannot exist because they would be too unstable.

The constant pull of gravity affects all objects in the universe, including the Earth. So gravity would also have an effect on wormholes. Scientists who are skeptical of wormholes believe that after a short time the middle of the wormhole would be collapse under its own gravity, unless there is a force pushing outward from inside the wormhole to counter that force. The most likely way to do this is to use what are called “negative energies”, which oppose gravity and stabilize the wormhole.

But as far as scientists know, negative energies can only be created in much larger quantities. too small to counteract a wormhole’s own gravity. It is possible that the Big Bang created tiny wormholes with small amounts of negative energies at the beginning of the universe, and over time these wormholes have stretched that the universe has expanded.

In this short video from Fusion, a Caltech professor summarizes what wormholes are and the stability issue that scientists are concerned about.

Like black holes?

Although wormholes are interesting objects to consider, they are still not accepted in mainstream science. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t real – black holes, which we astrophysicists know abound in our universe, weren’t accepted when scientists first suggested their existence. in the 1910s.

Einstein first formulated his famous field equations in 1915, and German scientist Karl Schwarzschild found a way to mathematically describe black holes after only one year. However, this description was so peculiar that leading scientists of that time refused to believe that black holes could actually exist in nature. It took 50 years for people to start taking black holes seriously – the term “black hole” wasn’t even coined until 1967.

The same could happen with wormholes. It may take some time for scientists to come to a consensus on whether or not they exist. But if they find strong evidence pointing to the existence of wormholes – which they may be able to do by examining strange movements in star orbits – the discovery will shape the way scientists see and understand the universe.


Hello, curious little ones! Do you have a question you would like an expert to answer? Have an adult send your question to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com. Please let us know your name, age and the city where you live.

And since curiosity has no age – adults, let us know your questions too. We cannot answer all questions, but we will do our best.

The conversation

Dejan Stojkovicphysics teacher, University at Buffalo

This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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