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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bridges, Wormholes, and Tunnels in Space-Oh My!


When I wrote “First Duty” and, subsequently, enhanced the story into a racier version titled “Ultimate Duty,” I had to find a way for my characters to move around the galaxy without spending a few thousand years in transit.

I considered the Star Trek Warp Drive, but I felt I needed something a bit less familiar. In researching various wormhole theories, I found that Professor Albert Einstein came to my rescue with math I’d never hope to understand. However, I trusted Albert to not lead me astray.

A bit of background techno-talk courtesy of Krioma Net.
“In 1916 Einstein first introduced his general theory of relativity, a theory which to this day remains the standard model for gravitation. Twenty years later, he and his long-time collaborator Nathan Rosen published a paper showing that implicit in the general relativity formalism is a curved-space structure that can join two distant regions of space-time through a tunnel-like curved spatial shortcut...The Einstein-Rosen Bridge is based on generally relativity and work done by Schwarzschild in solving Einstein’s equations; one of the solutions to these equations was the prediction of black holes.”
Got that? Einstein and Rosen did not consider this bridge theory to allow faster than light travel, but can be a short cut across space using a tunnel or bridge on which some type of matter can get from here to there in no time at all.

This isn’t, strictly speaking, time travel, but it does save a heckuva lot of time in transit. I’ll settle for omitting the tedious time it takes to go from star to star by using a convenient short cut shaped like a tunnel or funnel or a warped space (thus the Warp Drive, I suspect).

Scientists, not letting well enough alone, determined there were two types of wormholes: Lorentzian and Euclidian. Forget Euclidian since it’s no fun at all. Lorentzian, however, gives us some possibilities. Again, from the Krioma Net website:

“Lorentzian wormholes are essentially short cuts through space and time but they instantaneously close unless some form of negative energy can hold them open. It is possible to produce small amounts of negative energy in the laboratory by a principle known as the Casimir effect. However this energy would not be enough to keep open a wormhole.
A by product of Lorentzian wormholes would be that objects passing through them would not only be moved spatially but also temporally (assuming parallel universes exist).
Lorentzian wormholes come in at least two varieties:
  1. Inter-universe wormholes, wormholes that connect ‘our’ universe with ‘another’ universe.
  2. Intra-universe wormholes, wormholes that connect two distant regions of our universe with each other.”
This second type is handier for science fiction writers. We’re allowed to stay within our own universe, but able to hop directly to other regions.

My assumption is that you can’t just make an intra-universe wormhole, but you can take advantage of those that already exist. Here I’ll remind you of “Farscape,” the TV series. The main character, John the Astronaut, is accidentally tossed through a wormhole, ending up on the bio-ship, Maia. Well, if you don’t know the series, then get to Netflix or Amazon and find it. Well worth your time to watch.

If we make the leap that the wormholes do exist and you just have to find them, then manage some way to keep them open while your ship travels through, you’ve got a good method of getting to point B from point A. However, wormholes don’t conveniently take you where you want to go. You might have to jump from one to another for the journey. Thus, some amount of ship time is spent going from one bridge to another until it gets where it wants to go.

This is what makes space opera possible: conjectures of a high-level mathematical model without any practical evidence. Just add a few centuries, and I’m sure somebody will figure out how to turn the theoretical into the practical. After all, that’s what happened with impossible flight, impossible communication across long distances, impossible everything. It all becomes real within the pages of a science fiction novel.

FIRST DUTY (the YA version of the story) and ULTIMATE DUTY (the adult version released by Eternal Press) have essentially the same plot, but I changed the character names to differentiate them. Apparently, that pissed off at least one reader who actually liked FIRST DUTY and bought ULTIMATE DUTY believing it to be a sequel (despite my note in the description on Amazon indicating they were the same story). Oh, well, can’t please everybody. Too bad, the reader might have liked the sex and enhanced space battles in the second version. I offered to give him a free copy of Ultimate Duty, but I haven't heard back.

You can buy either book in ebook or print format at fine on-line purveyors everywhere. Here are the links to the ebook/print editions of both books on Amazon.

Excerpt (from ULTIMATE DUTY)

Life at the Space Academy ran pretty much as Remy thought it would. Lots of very hard classes in astrophysics, other sciences, history—the usual. Military duty required filing reports whenever anything happened, so she had to take a course in report writing. 

She had excelled in normal school, so some of the classes seemed a boring waste of time. Military classes excited her, however.

Pilot training was just about the most fun she’d ever had. Excursions to satellite installations, working in free fall, and lessons in weaponry all kept her mind and time busy. What thrilled her most were the classes on navigating through Einstein-Rosen Bridge, ERB, jump points.

The ERB got around the rules of relativity, which mathematically disproved faster-than-light travel. The theoretical bridge had become a reality when SemCorp scientists figured out how to exploit the space curve theorized by Einstein in the twentieth century. 

Of course, it was a tightly held patent, so nobody outside the bureaucracy knew exactly how it worked. All most people knew was the jump to ERB required everything loose to be secured, including people. Once traveling across the bridge, one couldn’t tell if the ship was in motion, or even if it moved at all. People still complained about the time it took to travel they never heard about the sub-light travel which colonized the planets in the first place. The cryo-ships began leaving Earth in the twenty-second century, carrying their frozen colonists to their selected worlds. Although the ships traveled at near light speed, it took more than a hundred years to reach the nearest habitable planet. Acceleration, then deceleration when they neared their selected planet made up most of the journey. When the ERB was perfected in the twenty-sixth century, all twenty-three of SemCorp’s member planets swarmed with human inhabitants.


  1. Somebody did some research here. Looks really interesting!

  2. When I was devising the technology for my future interstellar travel, I rejected wormholes because everybody uses them these days! Btw, I'm a big Farscape fan - own the series on DVD - I should watch it again soon. Anyway, I concocted a fictional physics based on something called temporal quantum theory that isn't discovered until 2679. It allows for moving through an alternate dimension, yet permits "real" Earth time to progress within the "pod" so you don't have this problem of people being older or younger when they get back to our home planet. It's got a lot of dangers, however. The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars will deal with that.

  3. Thanks, Penny and Lorinda!

    Lorinda: People are coming up with different ways time travel can occur. I always appreciate a writer who comes up with something different. For myself, I decided to stick with the Einstein-Rosen Bridge since it's the only viable possibility we can envision at this time. Who knows what the 27th C. will bring? Maybe the temporary quantum theory will be it.