Well New Year’s Eve is once again upon us and as we look back at the 12 months we have just spent hurtling around the Sun it is pretty likely that a lot of us will end up feeling like failures. Each year starts with such promise. We make resolutions to lose weight, run a marathon, learn French once and for all; unfortunately, most of us fall short. But don’t panic yet, you have until the clock strikes twelve to accomplish what you set out to and avoid the dreaded stink of a botched resolution! Depending what time you read this you might have 8, 10, or even 14 hours to pull of the resolution Hail Mary. Luckily, there is a trick of physics that might help buy you some more time.
All we need is a wormhole. Sure, you’re probably busy getting ready for some party tonight and the odds of finding the perfect wormhole are appallingly slim, but Einstein and one of his physics buddies named Nathan Rosen have told us that wormholes are consistent with the known laws of the Universe. So to quote the fictional and festively named Lloyd Christmas “You’re telling me there’s a chance…”
Wormholes, or Einstein-Rosen Bridges if you’re the name dropping type, are the result of chance alignments between ridiculously heavy objects in space. To understand why they allow for time travel, you need to accept that time is just another dimension of space. That’s right, you can move forwards and backwards, left and right, up and down, and through time. If you don’t believe me, go back and read our article on time dilation. A wormhole is just a link between two points in space caused by the warping effect that mass has on space-time.
Imagine space-time as a bed sheet folded in half with a space between the top and bottom layer so it forms a sideways U shape. That is the curved universe we live in. Now imagine a weight placed on the top layer of the sheet that pushes down towards the bottom layer. This is what heavy objects actually do to the space around them. Now imagine another weight placed on the bottom layer of the sheet so that it pushes up towards the top. If the two dents in our astronomical bed sheet touch one another, we have created a link between two points that didn’t exist before. That is our wormhole.
Theoretically if you could travel through that wormhole you could outrace a beam of light traveling between the same two points, but moving through regular space. Since time is just another dimension of space, when you get through the wormhole, you might just find you have traveled back in time. If you’re ridiculously lucky, you might even find yourself on December 31, 2013 with a fresh crack at your resolutions.
The problem with our plan, aside from the probabilities involved, is that wormholes are thought to be very unstable. They might exist for only a tiny fraction of a second before collapsing in on themselves because of the huge amounts of gravity involved. What we need to really harness them is what physicists call “exotic matter.”
Exotic matter is any particle with traits that allow it to blow your mind. The type of exotic matter we need is the kind with negative mass. It might seem crazy, but it might actually exist. Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider have already begun finding exotic particles, and negative mass particles are on their most-wanted list. A particle with negative mass is a crazy thing to think about. These particles would be repelled by gravity and if you hit one with a hammer it would take off towards the hammer! If we, or a super advanced civilization, could figure out how to harness these particles we could use them to cancel out some of that wormhole mass and keep the bridge open long enough to move through.