Hypothetical bridges connecting distant regions of space (and time) could look more or less like black holes in the garden, meaning these mythical beasts of physics may have already been seen.
Fortunately, however, if a new model proposed by a small team of physicists from Sofia University in Bulgaria is correct, there might still be a way to tell them apart.
Play around with Einstein’s general theory of relativity long enough, it’s possible to show how the space-time background of the universe can form not only deep gravitational pits from which nothing escapes – it can form impossible mountain peaks that cannot be climbed.
Unlike their dark cousins, these luminous mounds would shun all that approached, possibly spewing out streams of particles and radiation that had no hope of ever returning.
Aside from the clear possibility that the Big Bang looks exactly like one of these “white holes,” none of this has ever been observed. Still, they remain an interesting concept to explore the frontiers of one of physics’ greatest theories.
In the 1930s, a colleague of Einstein’s named Nathan Rosen showed that there was nothing wrong with not connecting a black hole’s highly curved spacetime to the steep crests of a white hole to form some sort of bridge.
In this corner of physics, our everyday expectations of distance and time go out the window, meaning that such a theoretical connection could traverse vast stretches of the cosmos.
In the right circumstances, it might even be possible for matter to travel down this cosmic tube and come out the other end with information more or less intact.
To determine what this asshole black hole might look like for observatories like the Event Horizon Telescope, the Sofia University team developed a simplified model of a wormhole’s “neck” as a magnetized ring of liquid and made various assumptions about what matter would look like in orbits before swallowing.
Particles caught in this raging vortex created powerful electromagnetic fields that would roll and fracture in predictable patterns, polarizing any light emitted by the heated material with a clear signature. It was polarized radio wave tracking that gave us the first stunning images of M87* in 2019 and of Sagittarius A* earlier this year.
It turns out that the smoking hot lips of a typical wormhole are almost indistinguishable from the polarized light emitted by the swirling chaos disk around a black hole.
By that logic, M87* could very well be a wormhole. In fact, wormholes could be lurking anywhere at the bottom of black holes, and we wouldn’t have an easy way to find out.
That’s not to say there’s no way to even know.
If we’re lucky and stitch together an image of a possible wormhole as seen indirectly through a decent gravitational lens, subtle features that distinguish wormholes from black holes might become apparent.
This would, of course, require a conveniently placed mass between us and the wormhole to distort its light enough to magnify the small differences, but it would at least give us a means of knowing for sure which dark patches of the void have a back exit .
There is another remedy that also requires a good deal of luck. If we were to spot a wormhole at the perfect angle, the light coming toward us through its gaping entrance would amplify its signature even further, giving us a clearer clue to a gateway through the stars and beyond.
Further modeling could uncover other properties of light waves that help sift wormholes out of the night sky without the need for lenses or perfect angles, a possibility the researchers are now focusing on.
Imposing further constraints on the physics of wormholes could provide new ways to explore not only general relativity, but also the physics that describe the behavior of waves and particles.
Additionally, lessons from predictions like these could show where general relativity breaks down and open up some holes of our own to make bold new discoveries that could give us a whole new way of looking at the cosmos.
This study was published in Physical Check D.
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