How far do you live from your best friend? Wherever your friend lives, it likely doesn’t feel close enough. Unless you’ve got an across-the-hall Friends situation going on.
Wouldn’t it be grand if you could just step through a doorway and reach your friend any time you had some chai, Maggi, or gossip to share, no matter how far away they were? Or, for that matter, get from your home in Delhi to your office in Noida / Gurgaon at peak traffic hours, in NO time?
In theory it is not only possible, it is something the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in the United States is apparently actively researching.
Recently, the DIA released a list of 38 research projects in the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, as a response to a request under the Freedom of lnformation Act (FOIA). The request was made by physics specialist, activist, and Director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, Steven Aftergood.
The one that stands out to me is number 8. It reads: Traversable Wormholes, Stargates, and Negative Energy, Dr. Eric Davis, EarthTech International.
So, not only are they looking at wormholes, they’ve used the term stargate from the acclaimed science fiction Stargate franchise, which began with the 1994 film of the same name, and continued as an epic television series. It is literally one of my all-time favourite series, and has a little bit of everything: ancient history, fantastic characters, believable science fiction, and action. If you are even remotely a fan of sci-fi, I urge you to watch it. Scratch that. By reading this article, you unabatedly agree to watch the film, followed by the tv series, Stargate SG-1. It’s in the unspoken terms and conditions of this piece, and I will hold you to it (maa kasam)!
Needless to say, when I saw the term ‘stargate’ in the title of an official government funded project, my nerd-side jigged. In the series, stargates are gateways that an ancient Earth-based civilisation built to traverse galactic distances in a few seconds by establishing wormholes between them. The key takeaway is the word ‘wormholes’.
How Wormholes Work
Take a sheet of paper, divide it in half width-wise with a crease, not a cut, and draw two houses at the center of each of the halves – one representing your house, and one representing your favourite place, which could be your best friend’s house. If you’ve taken a standard A4 sized paper, the distance between the two houses is likely approximately 14.7 cm.
Now, fold the paper in half along the crease, so that both of the houses touch. The shortest distance between the two becomes virtually zero. If you build a vertical bridge in the slight space between the sheet halves, you need only to step through a doorway to reach your friend.
Essentially, a wormhole acts as a bridge between two points. It warps or bends spacetime in order to connect two distant points, in much the same way you bent the paper. Thus, theoretically, two points millions of light-years apart can be connected.
There are two types of wormholes: traversable, through which things can travel from one point to another, and non-traversable, in which things can enter from both ends but never emerge, a sort of reverse Lakshman Rekha. While a non-traversable wormhole has interesting implications in physics, it isn’t very fun to imagine, unless you think of it as a celestial Hotel California – you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!
Traversable wormholes, which are way more fun to contemplate, are viable solutions to the equations of General Relativity, as long as they follow a certain set of rules that we needn’t get into here.
The rules dictate that two-way traversable wormholes cannot exist. This means, if you and your friend establish a wormhole, then it has to be in a single direction from one house to the other. Interestingly, the writers of Stargate took this into consideration, and the wormholes depicted are one-way traversable – another reason I love this sci-fi franchise.
The Reality of Wormholes
We have as yet to discover wormholes, as far as I know. Our current theoretical understanding corresponds to what mathematics and General Relativity tell us, and they are fairly different from sci-fi’s romantic notion of them. They are likely to not be very stable or very big, and require the concept of negative energy, which is theoretical.
But it’s fun to imagine that one day we may have traversable wormholes à la ‘Stargate’, through which we can instantaneously visit friends for Maggi nights.
Which leaves one very important issue to be settled between you and your best friend: whose house will be the source, and whose will be the destination?
(Radha recently submitted a PhD thesis in theoretical quantum physics in India. As a creative outlet, she runs a small design studio called Sploosh Design (SplooshDesign.Com), a blog called Fantasy Science (Fantasy-Science.Com), and consults on sci-fi screenplays /books. In her free time, she irritates her three cats. Bug her on Twitter: @RadhaPyari. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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