Traversable Wormholes Can Exist, But They Are Not Very Useful for Space Travel, Physicists Say

Harvard University physicist Daniel Jafferis and colleagues have shown that wormholes — theoretical portals through space-time that could create shortcuts for long journeys across the Universe — can exist.

Wormholes are predicted by the theory of general relativity. Digital art by Les Bossinas, Cortez III Service Corp., 1998.

Wormholes are predicted by the theory of general relativity. Digital art by Les Bossinas, Cortez III Service Corp., 1998.

“But don’t pack your bags for a trip to other side of the Galaxy yet,” Dr. Jafferis said.

“Although it’s theoretically possible, it’s not useful for humans to travel through, said the author of the study. It takes longer to get through these wormholes than to go directly, so they are not very useful for space travel.”

The new theory was inspired when Dr. Jafferis and co-authors began thinking about two black holes that were entangled on a quantum level, as formulated in the ER=EPR conjecture by physicists from Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study and Stanford University.

Although this means the direct connection between the black holes is shorter than the wormhole connection — and therefore the wormhole travel is not a shortcut — the theory gives new insights into quantum mechanics.

“From the outside perspective, travel through the wormhole is equivalent to quantum teleportation using entangled black holes,” Dr. Jafferis said.

He and his colleagues based their theory on a setup first devised by Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen in 1935, consisting of a connection between two black holes (the term wormhole was created by the American physicist John Wheeler in 1957).

Because the wormhole is traversable, it was a special case in which information could be extracted from a black hole.

“It gives a causal probe of regions that would otherwise have been behind a horizon, a window to the experience of an observer inside space-time, that is accessible from the outside,” Dr. Jafferis said.

To date, a major stumbling block in formulating traversable wormholes has been the need for negative energy, which seemed to be inconsistent with quantum gravity.

However, the team has overcome this using quantum field theory tools, calculating quantum effects similar to the Casimir effect.

“I think it will teach us deep things about the gauge/gravity correspondence, quantum gravity, and even perhaps a new way to formulate quantum mechanics,” Dr. Jafferis said.

The physicists presented their results April 13 at the 2019 American Physical Society April Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

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Daniel L. Jafferis. Traversable wormholes. Bulletin of the American Physical Society: APS April Meeting 2019, abstract # B02.00002

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