Wormholes can bend light like black holes do, and this could be the key to finding them

If wormholes exist, they can amplify the light of distant objects by up to 100,000 times – and this could be the key to finding them.

Wormholes are theoretically funnel-shaped portals through which matter (or possibly spacecraft) can travel long distances. To imagine a wormhole, let’s assume that the entire universe is a piece of paper. If your starting point was the point at the top of the sheet and your destination was the point at the bottom of the sheet, a wormhole would appear if you folded that piece of paper so that the two points met. You can cross the entire leaf in an instant rather than traveling the entire length of the leaf.

The existence of wormholes has never been proven, but physicists have nevertheless spent decades theorizing what these exotic objects might look like and how they might behave. In their new paper, the researchers built a model to simulate an electrically charged spherical wormhole and its impact on the universe around it. The researchers wanted to find out if wormholes could be detected by their observed impact on the environment. Their study was published in January. 19 in Physical Review D (will open in a new tab).

On the subject: Hunting for wormholes: how scientists are looking for space-time tunnels

The researchers’ model shows that wormholes, if they exist, could be massive enough to trigger one aspect of Einstein’s theory of relativity: Extremely massive objects bend the fabric of spacetime to the point where they cause light to bend. This warped light magnifies everything behind the massive object when viewed from our vantage point on Earth. This phenomenon is known as “microlensing” and it allows scientists to use massive objects such as galaxies and black holes to observe very distant objects such as stars and galaxies from the early universe.

In the paper, the researchers argue that wormholes, like black holes, must be massive enough to magnify distant objects behind them.

“The increase due to wormhole distortion could be very large, which could one day be tested,” lead author Lei-Hua Liu of the study. (will open in a new tab)a physicist at Jishou University in Hunan, China, told Live Science in an email.

Liu also noted that wormholes would magnify objects in a different way than black holes, meaning that scientists can distinguish between them. For example, microlensing through a black hole is known to create four mirror images of an object behind it. On the other hand, microlensing through a wormhole will produce three images: two dim and one very bright, as shown by the authors’ simulations.

However, since other objects such as galaxies, black holes and stars also produce a microlensing effect, finding a wormhole without clear indications of where to start looking would be a difficult task, says Andreas Karch. (will open in a new tab)a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the study told Live Science in an email.

Trying to detect microlensing caused by a wormhole would be like “trying to pick out the quiet voice of one person in the middle of a rock concert,” compared to other large objects, Karch said. He also noted that although the authors of the article proposed an interesting theoretical way to identify wormholes, “they don’t even talk about how to do it in practice yet – this is a matter for the future.”

While wormholes are still strictly theoretical, the fact that the researchers’ model could one day be tested is “a dream for most physicists,” Liu said.

Originally published on LiveScience.

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