Wormholes are theoretical bridges across spacetime that link distant places together, much like shortcuts. Meanwhile, a black hole is a point in space with such immense gravity that it traps even light. Objects can traverse wormholes and exit them, but a black hole leads to an inescapable dead-end.
Below, this article dives into what wormholes and black holes are and how they differ.
Along the way, we dispel some common misconceptions and reveal plenty of surprising facts.
Wormhole vs Black Hole: Explained
What Is a Wormhole?
In simple terms, a wormhole is a tunnel that connects two points in space.
They can bridge places only a few feet apart, from one room to another.
But they can also transport an object light-years away in an instant.
It’s not hard to see why wormholes are a prevalent feature of science fiction stories.
After all, the most significant barrier preventing humans from traveling space is the distances involved.
And wormholes seem to fix that problem elegantly.
The only catch is that scientists aren’t sure that these spacetime bridges are real.
While the theory of general relativity predicts such structures should exist, no one has observed a wormhole yet.
So until that happens, they remain hypothetical phenomena.
Nonetheless, astronomers and physicists have developed theories on how wormholes could form.
The prevailing idea is that naturally occurring wormholes connect black holes with white holes.
Nothing can escape a black hole.
And nothing can enter a white hole.
So the thought is that the two objects should theoretically form a wormhole when linked together.
Still, that is an oversimplification, and other conflicting explanations exist.
What Is a Black Hole?
While a wormhole links different places in space, a black hole leads only to its center.
It’s sort of like a bottomless pit that you can’t escape once you start falling in.
The name black holes is a bit of a misnomer because they aren’t really holes.
Instead, they consist of a theoretical point called a singularity that possesses tremendous gravitational pull.
The powerful gravity of a singularity traps not only matter, but even energy.
However, the idea of singularity is a bit of a placeholder.
The rules of both general relativity and quantum physics break down near the center of black holes.
Meaning no scientist can currently verify what’s at their core.
Nonetheless, around the center is an event horizon, which is a threshold of no return.
Anything that passes through it, even light, is drawn inescapably towards the singularity.
As a result, the event horizon causes black holes to appear as spherical voids in space.
Black holes form from under the power of supernovas, which are the cataclysmic deaths of massive stars.
And once birthed, they may last for millions upon billions of years.
But scary as that sounds, black holes aren’t all bad.
As long as you don’t cross the event horizon, they don’t pose a threat.
In fact, the gravity of supermassive black holes is what keeps large galaxies held together—including our very own Milky Way.
Wormholes and Black Holes Compared
While they’re similar, there are significant differences between wormholes and black holes.
Wormholes are like bridges across spacetime, allowing travel between two distant points.
But a black hole is a dead end, and anything that enters it can’t leave.
Furthermore, wormholes are something humans can theoretically travel through.
Meanwhile, black holes can tear objects apart on a molecular level once they near their singularity.
Below is a table comparing wormholes to black holes.
|Scientific verification||Observable in space, accepted by scientists||Not yet observed, considered theoretical phenomena|
|Formation||Formed by supernovas||Not known, possibly created by supermassive black holes|
|Duration||Lasts millions and billions of years||Exists for only brief moments unless stabilized|
|Stability||Black holes are relatively stable and slowly evaporate over time.||Wormholes are unstable and may require exotic matter to prevent collapse.|
|Appearance||Spherical black void||Resembles a tunnel or spherical window to another place|
|Prevalence||Black holes form frequently across universe||Unknown, possibly prevalent but unable to stabilize|
|Traversability||Inescapable and impossible to travel through||Can transport matter and energy instantly across great distances|
Misconceptions About Wormholes and Black Holes
There are numerous misconceptions surrounding wormholes and black holes.
Science fiction, in particular, tends to misrepresent how these structures work.
To help clear things up, we’ll dispel some common myths below:
- Myth: Humans can safely travel through black holes.
Fact: A black hole’s center generates tremendous gravity that would tear apart any human being. This effect is known as spaghettification because objects seem to stretch out into long strips near black holes.
- Myth: Black holes are also wormholes.
Fact: Some scientists believe that black holes may also create wormholes. However, this hypothesis is not verified, and wormholes could theoretically form in other ways.
- Myth: A person could walk through a wormhole.
Fact: Most wormholes would likely be microscopic and thus too small for a person to traverse. And even if you could, scientists aren’t sure what would happen if you touched the wormhole directly.
- Myth: Wormholes are stable and last forever.
Fact: Wormholes would theoretically require a stabilizing element, such as exotic matter, to prevent collapse. Without being stabilized, wormholes may only last for a brief moment.
Can Wormholes Be Created?
As of yet, no known person has created or stabilized a traversable wormhole.
However, scientists believe that doing so should theoretically be possible.
According to researchers, the first logical step would be stabilizing a tiny wormhole.
While we couldn’t travel through it, doing so may allow us to transfer information anywhere in the universe.
Not to mention helping us test how wormholes function on a small scale.
That being said, creating a wormhole big enough for humans or spacecraft to traverse is a monumental challenge.
And there’s a couple of reasons for that.
Firstly, wormholes constantly want to close shut.
So to keep them open, humans must use exotic matter with strange properties such as negative mass.
The only problem is that such material is mostly hypothetical and tricky to create.
Another issue is that wormholes may be dangerous to humans.
For example, you might get exposed to extreme radiation while near or inside one.
Plus, no one knows what happens if you exit a wormhole mid-transit or touch its boundaries.
While wormholes can bridge places across spacetime, black holes lead only to their center.
There may be a way that black holes and wormholes are linked together. However, scientists have yet to discover the mechanics of how that would work.
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