Possibilities Within the Impossible

Khawaja Mustafa ShahFebruary 13, 2017Mysteries of the UniverseFeatures

Last year, I was on vacation in London, England. In the entrance of the building where my family was staying, there were two mirrors facing each other.

Once when we were getting the keys to our flat, I stared into the mirrors. They created an infinite set of reflections, each smaller than the last. It got me thinking, “What if each of these reflections leads to a parallel universe?” Ever since then, I have been reflecting on some of the mind-boggling techniques that scientists are now theorizing may allow us to traverse space and time.

Time travel, wormholes, and parallel universes are prevalent themes in science fiction. Time travel is the travel through time into the past or the future. It involves the warping of time. A parallel universe is defined as a dimension that exists outside of the four dimensions we’re familiar with, while a black hole is a region in space-time that exhibits such strong gravitational effects that nothing — not even light — can escape it. A wormhole is a connection between two areas that would act as a shortcut between points in space or universes. Wormholes and black holes are closely related, as they are both classified under the same branch of astrophysics.

Many classic science fiction and fantasy books, such as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, are also centered on these concepts. In the Chronicles of Narnia series, the protagonists use a wardrobe to enter one of the many dimensions in C.S. Lewis’s universe. These books incorporate parallel universes and wormholes into one story. This just might be one of the reasons the film adaptation of the first story in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, made $745 million at the box office and $65 million in the opening weekend alone. There are also hundreds of video games out there that incorporate the idea of portals and multiverses. But what is it about parallel universes, time travel, and wormholes that interests us so much?

A parallel universe could be an alternate reality, where every choice you have made is different. For example, in one universe, you are a successful CEO and lead a happy life. However, in a parallel universe, you might be homeless, poor, or even dead. You could meet different versions of yourself, explore alternate versions of Earth, and much more. Perhaps in a parallel universe, there is a different set of laws of physics. You could experience an entirely new reality, with a different planet, different cultures, and even different biology. Perhaps in the parallel universe, humans breathe in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. The most likely scenario is that humans aren’t even the prevalent intelligent life forms. Who knows, maybe dinosaurs keep humans as pets and are a thousand times more technologically advanced than us.

The possibilities are endless.

However, there are no proven ways to get to these universes, if they exist. There are many theories, but most require risking someone’s life. I mean, even for the betterment of the human race, would you really jump into a black hole? I didn’t think so.

Black holes have been theorized to be entrances to parallel universes. They are essentially a rip in the space-time fabric which could, possibly, allow inter-dimensional travel. However, the problem with this theory is that no one can get near a black hole. See, a black hole’s gravity is so great that nothing can escape it, not even light. If you even got close to it, you would feel the effects of the immense gravitational pull, and you would probably implode into yourself. So even if the black hole contained an entrance to the alternate universe, you would probably be dead upon arrival--not very effective if you want to relay back to your reality that there is, in fact, another universe.

Another theory is the existence of wormholes. Wormholes intrigue us as they are like intergalactic shortcuts. When Earth runs out of fossil fuels, we will need alternate sources of energy. In addition to renewable sources, it is entirely plausible that we could find a planet comprised entirely of coal. We could use wormholes to transport the coal back to Earth. Wormholes might also allow us to reach other galaxies. We could use them to colonize other planets and transport materials and personnel between Earth and those planets. Then, when the inevitable end of Earth comes about, we would be able to use the wormhole to quickly teleport from our dying planet to our new pre-prepared home.

The problem with wormholes, however, is that they may be inside of black holes and therefore nearly impossible to get to. You may ask, “What if they are outside of black holes?” Well, then how do we locate them? It would be impossible to comb the entire universe, and even if we used our radiation sensing equipment, we don’t even know what to look for.

Instead of looking for objects we cannot even fathom, why don’t we turn our attention to the stars? Have you ever heard of the fact that when you see stars in the night sky, you are actually looking back in time? It’s true — when you look at stars thousands of light years away, you are actually looking at the state of that star thousands of years ago.

A light year is a unit of distance that is equal to the amount of distance that is traveled by light in one year. The sun itself is about 7 and a half light minutes away. So theoretically, if we travel to a star faster than the speed of light, we would be in the past. However, there are a few problems with that theory.

Our current understanding of physics tells us that in order for something to travel at light speed, it needs to be created at light speed. Photons are created at light speed. Humans cannot create atoms at light speed, so how would we create a complex spaceship? In order for us to achieve light speed from a resting position, we would theoretically need infinite energy.

Another problem with time travel is the butterfly effect. This concept states that a small change could lead to a plethora of different changes. For example, you go back in time and change a seemingly unimportant choice that you made. Because of unintended consequences, this decision could lead to an asteroid destroying earth and wiping out 7 billion people in one fell swoop.

Time travel is a fascinating concept to us because it opens up a world of prospects. We could go back in time to stop events we regret and do the things we always wanted to do but couldn’t. Some of us might go back in time to stop brutal regimes from rising by killing off the main culprits before their ascension to power.

Time travel would also allow us to go back through the history of our planet, unlocking many mysteries as we go. You could go back to the gold rush, when gold was cheap and you could buy a lot of it, then come back to the present and sell it all, earning yourself quite a sizable amount of money. Similarly, if you would prefer to live in the past, you could simply print out a lot of banknotes of the time using a modern printer. Remember, technology was scarce in those days, so your counterfeit bills would pass as real money. You could live like royalty. We could rewind to the Big Bang, save our planet from pollution, and so much more.

It is this curiosity about the unknown that is the driving force behind our interest in these concepts. Our insatiable desire for knowledge causes us to constantly innovate. We have pushed the frontier of space exploration to an extent that was thought impossible by our ancestors. A century ago, traveling to the moon was a thing of fantasy. Now, we have an orbiting space station, the ISS (International Space Station). We have advanced so far since Neil Armstrong’s historic first step on the moon that commercial space flight is almost a reality.

Studying the rate of scientific developments in the past few years, who knows where we will be in the next decade or two? Maybe, just maybe, we will have discovered a “warp-drive” that allows faster-than-light travel.

Look at it this way: Humans have been achieving feats their ancestors thought impossible. Perhaps our descendants will look back at us and think, “What primitive and close-minded people they were!” as we sometimes say about our forefathers. Maybe they will be on another planet, sipping a futuristic drink that gives them enough nutrients to live for a year without eating.

Perhaps all we need to unlock the secrets of the universe is TIME...


"Ask an Astronaut: Relativity." NASA.gov. https://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/ask_astro/relativity.html

Boeing, Geoff. "Visual Analysis of Nonlinear Dynamical Systems: Chaos, Fractals, Self-Similarity and the Limits of Prediction." Systems 4 (4), 2016.

Kaku, Michio. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Romero, Gustavo E., and Gabriela S. Vila. Introduction to Black Hole Astrophysics. Heidelberg: Springer, 2014.

Khawaja Mustafa Shah is a sciences student at Bay View Academy in Karachi. He grew up in Karachi, Pakistan. He has completed an internship with Family Education Services and is pursuing one in SIUT (Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation).