Wormholes

A wormhole is an artificial connection analogous to a tunnel or portal in spacetime, able to join two locations at potentially great distances. Independently invented by multiple civilizations, wormholes are notable for their use as the primary means of interstellar transit in the Starweb.

Overview

Floating free in space, a wormhole resembles an immaterial sphere of spacetime, through which the destination can be seen with distortion around the edges. In practice, wormholes in active use are placed inside stargates, cylindrical or ring-like structures with the wormhole at the center. Wormholes come in pairs, with each end being termed a mouth and its interior the throat connecting the two. Mass and momentum are conserved locally at each mouth. While a wormhole mouth cannot be moved faster than light, once moved into position it can enable effective-FTL travel.
  The impact of wormholes cannot be overstated, without them interstellar civilization as it is known simply could not exist. Rather than being individual systems isolated by vast gulfs of lightyears, wormhole technology enables easy transport of people and information, making possible dynamic, space-spanning societies.

Physics and Mechanics

Creation

Wormholes are manufactured with special machinery, emerging from the quantum foam and being stabilized with negative energy fields. Wormhole pairs thus created can then be transported to their destinations and inflated to macroscopic size in a stargate, whereupon they are ballasted with balance mass and regular travel may commence.  

Launching / Transportation

Wormhole mouths are subject to Einsteinian relativity, a consequence of which is they experience increasing time dilation as they are moved at higher and higher velocities. Since a wormhole shrunken down to subatomic size can have a correspondingly small mass, it can be accelerated up to such speeds that it takes on tremendous time dilation factors, traveling distances of tens or hundreds of lightyears in a matter of subjective weeks or months. For example, if a wormhole mouth is launched towards a solar system 100 lightyears away at a speed such that it experiences a dilation factor of 1000, an observer waiting at the destination will see it taking a hair over a century to arrive, but someone looking through the wormhole mouth kept back at the origin will see it arrive in a thousandth of the time, or about thirty-six days. Thus, the new star system can be open for travel and settlement in mere months instead of a century-plus. In practice, wormhole launch speeds are limited by the difficulties of steering and braking a mouth traveling at ultrarelativistic speeds, but in the modern day are fast enough that in most cases stargates to new systems will be operational a few months to years after their wormholes were dispatched.
  Wormhole networks hence tend to expand at just under the speed of light, fast for those within it but slow for anyone outside—unless they too have wormholes, in which case two time-dilated wormhole networks can expand out to encounter each other far faster than sublight ships could. Thus, virtually all aliens encountered through wormhole network expansion either themselves use wormhole technology, are stone-age primitives, or went extinct long ago. Xenologists consider this to explain some of the mystery behind the ancient Fermi paradox: young civilizations will generally not encounter any extant others until they invent wormholes and begin launching them out at nearlight speeds.
NASA_wormhole_travel.jpg
Wormhole Travel by Les Bossinas
Parent Technologies
Inventor(s)
Humans
Baharn
Chaydrans
Quassep
Enlavers
Uzen

Mass-Balancing

An object transiting a wormhole will add mass to the departure mouth and remove it from the destination. If a wormhole mouth's mass reaches zero it will collapse, shearing off any portion of the object still in transit and leaving the remainder now cut off at the destination. To prevent this, mass flow across both mouths must be balanced. Since it is rare for an exactly equal amount of traffic to pass in both directions, the usual solution is to move so-called balance mass through the wormhole in the opposite direction as a ship crosses it. This is usually water pumped down pipes, and for this reason many stargates are located on, in, or near an ice asteroid to serve as a handy source.  

Timesync

Because wormholes are shortcuts through time as well as space, one may wonder if it is possible to use them for time travel. A single wormhole link can never be used in this way since any time differential gained by passing through it will immediately be reversed upon going back the other way, and the lightspeed limit on wormhole transportation precludes sending messages or objects into the past through conventional space. One can attempt to get around this with multiple wormholes, trying to create a loop through which a person could travel and arrive back home before they left, but in practice this will not work because quantum fluctuations running through it will cause the weakest wormhole in the loop to collapse as it is being built. This phenomenon is called causality collapse or Visser collapse, and occurs because as the loop approaches the point where a signal can travel through and arrive back at the instant it left, natural background radiation and fluctuations will be amplified into an unbounded energy spike which destroys the loop before anything can travel into its own past.
  Causality collapse can be entirely avoided by keeping the wormhole network in a tree configuration, but this has the disadvantage of centering it on a single root node. Crosslinks can be made by sending new wormholes through the existing network, but this will result in loops ("cycles" in graph terminology) which must be kept in timesync. This is usually accomplished by every so often taking stargates offline and spinning their wormholes around in an accelerator at relativistic speeds to induce time dilation which corrects for accumulated temporal drift.
  New routes near or in the existing network must also avoid creating causality accidents with unsynchronized loops. If done deliberately, this is termed a "causality attack". Such attacks were commonplace during the Second Interstellar Period as a means of capturing territory in the form of stolen wormhole connections, and were employed by the Nomads against Starweb space during the Nomad War.  

Hazards

Wormholes are useful but also dangerous, with various failure modes which must be guarded against. A wormhole mouth which undergoes collapse will turn into a black hole of equal mass, which for most interstellar-grade wormholes will shine with petawatts of Hawking radiation as it sheds mass at increasing intensity until it vanishes with a final explosion-like spike of energy. Even a small wormhole of mere grams is quite deadly if it collapses, all its mass will be liberated as energy in a blast calling to mind an ancient Terran nuclear weapon.   For safety, stargates are kept away from population centers, commonly in interplanetary space where any collapse-created back holes could radiate away without causing catastrophic damage. Wormholes are also monitored for signs of incipient causality collapse, with automated systems for warning nearby traffic to get clear as much as possible. Links further out in the frontier are generally made weaker than those further in, so any timesync errors or alien causality attacks will sever remote regions before disrupting core space.

History

Human history with wormholes dates back to the twentieth century A.D. when they were first theorized, followed by their successful manufacture in the twenty-first. This ushered in the Wormhole Rush, where mouths were launched to interstellar destinations and stargates constructed in orbit around Earth. After the End of Earth, the human wormhole network was rebuilt into what eventually became part of the modern Starweb. Some other intelligent species, such as the Baharns, Quassep, and Chaydrans, also devised their own wormholes and the expansions of their networks eventually encountered the Starweb.

Articles under Wormholes



Cover image: by Caspar With

Comments

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1 Aug, 2020 03:21

You clearly put a lot of thought into how your wormholes work!

Author of Fillimet, bright fantasy land of possibilities, and Vazdimet, its darker spacefaring future.
Sage AntimatterNuke
M.J. Tremblay
1 Aug, 2020 05:35

Thanks! The ideas behind the stuff like time-dilated wormholes and causality collapse comes from people who actually know the physics behind real wormhole ideas, it's pretty weird (and cool). In general I wanted an interstellar travel system that wasn't some kind of conventional hyperdrive-type thing that makes space feel like an ocean.

Parastellis, sci-fi with aliens, posthumans, and uplifted raccoons!
Current serial: Shadows of the Keepers
1 Aug, 2020 09:30

Have you read any of the books by Michio Kaku? I rather enjoyed Hyperspace - not that I think it would add much to this specific article, but it just seems like the sort of book you would enjoy. (His little points of humor while talking about string theory and dimensions and how wormholes form are particularly fun.)

Author of Fillimet, bright fantasy land of possibilities, and Vazdimet, its darker spacefaring future.
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