Through a Wormhole, Softly

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Imagine a university lecture hall. It doesn’t matter where. All that matters is the presence of a professor and students.

Imagine the professor giving an introductory lecture on cosmology. He is a good professor, known for grabbing his students' interest and keeping it. He probably begins the first lecture with theoretical maunderings, hoping to capture the imagination of a few students. Consider the professor discussing cosmological theories, the arrow of time in a fixed spacetime environment, and the meaning of black holes within that spacetime.

"Cosmology," he might begin, "studies large questions. Perhaps foremost among them is the question of whether the universe is closed or open. That is, assuming the universe began with the Big Bang, will its expansion ever reach a limit at which it will stop expanding, and then contract, to finally collapse into a Big Crunch? And will this Big Crunch be followed by another Big Bang? Or is the universe open, in which case, the Big Bang was the one and only starting point of the universe and all of spacetime, and it will continue expanding forever, all the while experiencing increasing entropy until such time as all the energy within the universe winds down into a constant, useless background hum, at which point the universe will simply lie in that steady state forever."

"This is the big question," the professor might continue. "But to answer the big question, we look at smaller questions. Some investigate the total mass of the universe, and question if there is sufficient mass for its gravitational force to overcome the expansion of the universe, pulling it into a closed state. If there is insufficient mass, they argue (and now it looks as if there is insufficient mass by a good, large factor), the universe will continue to expand forever, leaving it open."

"Now consider black holes," the professor might say, seemingly changing subjects. "Due to their nature, it is impossible to determine what is occurring within a black hole. Theory says a black hole is composed of matter so densely collapsed upon itself that its gravitational force is great enough to trap even light within its event horizon.

"And consider wormholes," the professor might continue. "Wormholes, if they exist, connect two otherwise disconnected points in space. Not only might a wormhole connect this tile," and the professor would point to the floor, "directly with that doorway," and the professor would point to the back of the lecture hall, "so that after stepping here, my next step would be through that door, but that wormhole might also connect two otherwise disconnected points in time, so that my step which takes me through the door might take me to that door last month, or next Tuesday.

"But what if" the professor might posit, "a black hole is not merely a gravity trap, but rather, is one end of a one-way wormhole; that is, a wormhole in which travel is only permitted in one direction. And the reason nothing escapes this black hole end is that everything that falls in travels instantaneously to the wormhole's exit end."

At this point, most of the students convinced they are in the wrong lecture hall, but a few of them so caught up in the supposing that they are ready to study nothing but black holes and wormholes for their entire careers. The professor continues.

"And consider if that wormhole originates, that is, its exit point is located, at the Big Bang. The very beginning of the universe, and so far as we can tell, of spacetime.

"We can now consider talking with your materials science student friends. You tell them you need a substance so strong that it would withstand the gravitational shearing forces in a black hole, with such molecular cohesion that it could withstand the explosive force of the Big Bang, and so inert that it would remain unchanged for fifteen billion years. Hypothesize that such a substance can be created, and somehow marked in such a way that the markings will remain through all the travels of this brick.

"Now imagine that we can somehow convince this immutable brick to follow precisely our spacetime path to the present. If we could do all this, we could find our time-traveling, spacetime-spanning brick, making it the most incredible act of recycling ever imagined. Indeed, finding our brick might be the proof that the universe is closed, rather than open.

"You might call this the 'chrysanthemum model' of the universe and spacetime, for all of spacetime would resemble such a flower, with its center standing for the Big Bang, and the tips of the petals standing for what we currently perceive as black holes, pointing out in all directions. The lengths of the petals would be the lengths of the wormholes through spacetime from their black hole tips to their Big Bang base."

At this point, the professor would stop to give his students time to consider his theorizing....

...and the universe strikes them dead, destroying the building in which the lecture hall is situated, to maintain the fixed arrow of causality....

...or the creation of such a material is impossible, though the lecture gives the students a grand impetus for their studies....

...or such a material is created, and formed into such a brick, and it is sent into a black hole.

And then the brick suddenly appears above the professor's head, falling and killing the professor....

...or such a brick lands in front of the professor, but the markings on it are a language never seen on Earth. This brick creates "The Great Dialogue" of interplanetary, time-running bricks....

...or such a brick falls before this discussion takes place....

...or such a brick falls, followed by another, and another and another, until the entire universe is filled with inert bricks. In this manner, a previously closed universe becomes open due to the creation of such time-traveling bricks, creating a true steady state.

About the Author: 
Ian Randal Strock is the author of "The Presidential Book of Lists" (Random House, 2008), and a bunch of stories in Nature and Analog (from which he won two AnLab Awards). He is also the editor and publisher of Fantastic Books (