Wormholes Could be Portals to Other Universes—Here's What One Might Look Like

black hole
Representative image of a black hole. iStock

Wormholes are theoretical objects that could serve as portals between two points in space and time. Some believe they could even act as passageways to other universes. But if one did exist, what would it look like?

Roman Konoplya, a theoretical physicist with the Peoples Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), has attempted to answer this question in a study published in the journal Physics Letters B.

"The wormhole shape can be imagined if you put together two kitchen funnels," he told Newsweek. "The junction of both funnels occurs at the narrowest part of such a system. It corresponds to what we call 'throat' of a wormhole. In a stricter way, if one takes rope and winds it round such a funnel at some distance from the throat, he can measure the length of the rope, then he can repeat measurements at some other distance from the throat and so on and so on.

"Knowledge of such measurable lengths at any distance from the throat gives us the full shape of the wormhole. Far from the throat the funnel is flat and the effect of gravitational attraction of the wormhole is tiny. Therefore it is important to know the shape of a wormhole near the throat, where interaction of the wormhole with its astrophysical environment should occur."

Scientists can only make observations of hypothetical wormholes by looking at their indirect properties. This includes redshift, where there is a shift towards longer wavelengths of the spectral lines by an object moving away from Earth. Konoplya used quantum mechanical and geometrical assumptions to show how the shape of a wormhole could be calculated based on the redshift value.

Representative image of a wormhole. iStock

He used a mathematical model of a wormhole to describe how the shape and symmetry can be determined based on its wave range. From this he developed an equation to calculate its geometrical shape. Explaining how we might one day use this work find wormholes, he said: "In order to discard—or prove, who knows—the existence of wormholes it is important to constrain allowed geometries of wormholes by comparing theory with experiment."

There are two main ways to do this—by detecting gravitational waves from a wormhole, or by gravitational lensing. This is where the wormhole attracts particles of light, making them move away from their normal trajectory—as a result, the ray of light would bend.

Konoplya also said that for a wormhole to stay open (and not collapse) it would need some force. This could be dark energy, the mysterious force thought to be driving the expansion of the universe. Another option could be the "Casimir effect"—a force emerging from quantum vacuum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field.

"Wormholes offer a breathtaking—though purely theoretical—opportunity to travel in space with an effective speed, which is much higher than the speed of light, that is, to travel quickly all over the universe or, possibly, to other universes," Konoplya said. In addition, wormholes offer mechanisms for travel in time. [As a result], many theoreticians (and I am one of them) think that it is a worthwhile effort to study wormholes, despite it not being proved by observations that they really exist. After all, the opposite has not been proven either."

He continued: "I am not convinced that wormholes exist, but if they do, or even if they could be created in the very distant future in a laboratory, in my opinion, that would pay off all of the efforts of theoreticians."