Sublight Travel And Galactic Exploration Through Wormholes
May 30, 2010 1 Comment
Though it seems impossible to colonize galaxy at sub-light speed but without FTL travel we can still colonise the universe at sub-light velocities[ using self replicating probes and Bioprograms which I’ve discussed recently], but the resulting colonies are separated from each other by the vastness of interstellar space. In the past trading empires have coped with time delays on commerce routes of the order of a few years at most. This suggests that economic zones would find it difficult to encompass more than one star system. Travelling beyond this would require significant re-orientation upon return, catching up with cultural changes etc. It’s unlikely people would routinely travel much beyond this and return.
Nanotechnology only exacerbates the situation. We expect full- nanotech, uploading, AIs etc to arrive before interstellar travel becomes practical. Assume we keep the same dimensions for our bodies and brains as at the moment. Once we are uploaded onto a decent nanotech platform our mental speeds can be expected to exceed our present rates by the same factor as electrical impulses exceed the speed of our neurochemical impulses – about a million. Subjective time would speed up by this factor. Taking a couple of subjective-years as the limit beyond which people would be reluctant to routinely travel this defines the size of a typical trade zone / culture as not exceeding a couple of light minutes. Even single stellar systems would be unable to form a single culture/trade zone. The closest planet then would seem further away than the nearest star today.
With full nanotech there will be little need to transfer matter. Trade in the distant future is likely to consist of mostly information. Design plans for new products, assembled on receipt. Patterns of uploaded consciousness of intrepid travellers. Gossip and news. But with communication delays to Alpha Centauri of the order of millions of subjective years two-way exchanges are difficult to imagine – even when we are enjoying unlimited life spans.
Communication and exploration would be, essentially, a one-way process. If you had a yen to travel to the Alpha Centauri you could. Squirt your encoded engrams down an interstellar modem and arrive decode at Alpha. Assuming the receiving station hasn’t shut in the intervening millions of years of subjective cultural change. You could leave a copy behind as redundancy or if you wanted to explore both regions, but I suspect many of us will not find this completely satisfactory. The speed of light barrier would limit us and cramp our style us much more than it does at present.
A wormhole could be constructed, by confining exotic matter to narrow regions to form the edges of three-dimensional space like a cube. The faces of the cube would resemble mirrors, except that the image is of the view from the other end of the wormhole. Although there is only one cube of material, it appears at two locations to the external observer. The cube links two ‘ends’ of a wormhole together. A traveller, avoiding the edges and crossing through a face of one of the cubes, experiences no stresses and emerges from the corresponding face of the other cube. The cube has no interior but merely facilitates passage from ‘one’ cube to the ‘other’.
The exotic nature of the edge material requires negative energy density and tension/pressure. But the laws of physics do not forbid such materials. The energy density of the vacuum may be negative, as is the Casimir field between two narrow conductors. Negative pressure fields, according to standard astrophysics, drove the expansion of the universe during its ‘inflationary’ phase. Cosmic string (another astrophysical speculation) has negative tension. The mass of negative energy the wormhole needs is just the amount to form a black hole if it were positive, normal energy. A traversable wormhole can be thought of as the negative energy counterpart to a black hole, and so justifies the appellation ‘white’ hole. The amount of negative energy required for a traversable wormhole scales with the linear dimensions of the wormhole mouth. A one meter cube entrance requires a negative mass of roughly 10^27 kg.
Wormholes can be regarded as communication channels with enormous bandwidth. The wormhole will collapse when the amount of mass passing through it approaches the same order as the amount of negative mass confined to its edges. According to some scientists information has a minimum energy of kTlog2 associated with it. For 1- meter radius cube this implies a potential bandwidth of over 10^60 bits/sec. Even very small nano-scale wormholes have bandwidths of the order > 10^50 bits/sec. This suggests it will usually be more economic to squirt the design of an object down a channel rather than the object itself.
Construction of such cubes is, of course, far, far beyond our present day abilities. With AIs and nanotech combined we expect the limits on intelligences to be governed by physics, not biology. Our brains’ processing capacity lies somewhere between 10^15 – 10^18 bit/sec. A comparably sized nanoelectronic brain would have power of 10^32 – 10^36 bit/sec. Assuming a factor of million is lost for the speedup still leaves 8 – 12 orders of magnitude expansion in the complexity, or depth of thought, of our brains as we switch from biology to nanotechnology. So we should not assume construction and manipulation of the materials required will long remain beyond the grasp of future civilisations, populated by such super-intelligences. The remainder of the article will assume the mass production of wormholes is economically achievable. Wormholes enable travel from one mouth to the other. To travel to distant parts of the universe one wormhole end stays at home and the other is carted away, at sublight velocities, to the destination.
Problems begin when the distant wormhole end turns about and returns home. According to the twin paradox the traveller returns aged less than the stay-at-home twin (their clocks are no longer in step). Travelling through the wormhole from the stay-at-home end to the go- away-and-come-back end transports you forward in time. Travelling in the reverse direction transports you back in time. Wormholes allow time travel. This conclusion was realised soon after the first articles on traversable wormholes were published. Depending on your view of the plausibility of time travel this is either, if you believe time travel possible, very exciting or, if you scoff at time travel, proof that traversable wormhole can’t exist. No general consensus emerged in the pages of various physics journals as the subject was batted back and forth. Elaborate and very interesting papers reconciled time travel with quantum theory, whilst others (like Hawking ) proposed a Chronological Protection Conjecture[CPC], which says the Universe Shalt Not Allow Time Travel.
A space probe with a wormhole could be powered from base. The fuel is uploaded through the wormhole from base to the in-flight ship. There would an energetically very strong potential hill for the fuel to climb to reach the ship. For a ship moving at relativistic speeds most of the energy of the fuel would be lost in the climb. This suggests that the ship would be stripped to the bare minimum, just modern rockets are. [ref: Time Travel Research Center]
The probe remains in contact with the home base, throughout the trip. As a drop point approaches another wormhole plus deceleration rig would be loaded through to detach itself from the mother craft. Deceleration would likely be quicker and less expensive than acceleration because the daughter craft could brake itself against interstellar/galactic gas, dust and magnetic fields. For energy cost reasons it is not likely that transfer of colonists would begin until deceleration is complete.
The colonists transfer through this hole, whilst the main probe continues its outward voyage. One of the first activities of colonists would be to secure the connections with home by increasing the wormhole capacity and numbers. Transport of manufacturing plants, more wormholes etc would continue until local nanotech factories become locally more competitive than transport of finished product via wormholes. After this point the wormholes would be increasingly used for communications rather than materials transport.
An analogy with the cloud chamber spring to mind here. Charged particles are tracked through cloud chambers. Each particle is invisible, but its presence is deduced from the trail of growing droplets left behind. Similarly the space probe is all but invisible, lost in the immensity of the dark of space. The burgeoning colonies left behind mark its passage. The colonies send out further wormholes probes. From a distance the whole affair would resemble a growing 3-D snowflake.
Road, sea and air routes let commerce draw on the whole earth’s resources and the telecommunications highways keep us in contact with each other. Wormhole connections laid down by space probes enable a space-faring civilisation to remain a single economic entity, with all the social and material benefits that follow. Wormholes connections enable the region colonised to stay interconnected as civilisation expands through the universe.
Wormholes do have one major trick up their sleeves. We have seen that wormholes don’t permit time travel. But they do exhibit some very strange effects. Consider a colonist stepping through the home wormhole to transfer to the landing ship. Ship time and home time are running in synchronisation. If I wait 15 years at home after launch before stepping through then I appear at the travelling end at the point when the probe passes Andromeda. In crossing 2,250,000 light years of conventional space I travel 2,250,015 million years into the future. So, Wormholes could help us in colonization of galaxy and universe and may be possible we could colonize parallel universes[assuming they exists].