A Wormhole is a structure which links two disparate points in space-time. They are commonly described or depicted as "tunnels," however, this is gross oversimplification. In actuality, there is no space inside of a wormhole, entering and leaving a wormhole is instantaneous. The only limit being how fast the object can move through it. Wormholes are often used as a form of faster-than-light travel and are common used when other methods are impractical. However, it is estimated that most wormholes in the universe are actually natural in origin such as those comprising the Janus Network.
Wormhole technology is slowly being phased out in favor of a combination of Hyperlane and SICTIRIAD technology. Even so, they are the known way to travel instantly across the universe, meaning that they will likely never be phased out.
A Wormhole Gate is a large (usually elliptical) mega-structure capable of linking two another gate. These gates are commonplace in the universe, with the average star able to accommodate several (although the smallest red dwarfs do not have the energy output to create a wormhole in a reasonable time-frame). These structures typically orbit the home star or accompany the planet they are meant to lead to. When a wormhole gate is first constructed, it is linked to another wormhole gate. These two gates cannot be separated without entirely replacing the structure. These two gates will always lead to each other.
Most major civilizations have created Wormhole Networks linking together major planets in their galaxy. Any planet with a gate is usually reachable within seven transits. These networks end up taking up the largest portion of the energy budget of most civilizations that construct them.
Before Instant Communication became widespread, most civilizations send information through wormholes. Often, smaller gates were created to shine laser-light through, allowing for effectively instant communication. There was still significant light-lag as the wormhole gates are usually far from the intended planet to minimize waste energy.
With wormholes being such gluttons for energy, anything smaller than a mega-structure in scale cannot produce them. However, if one could minimize their energy consumption, truly fantastic technologies could be created. They would essentially be elevators except able to go anywhere in the universe. One could instantly travel from their home town to another planet across the galaxy without ever stepping into a space-ship. Surgeries could be done by using miniature wormholes, allowing for easier access to areas, particularly brains, that have typically been difficult for nano-technology to access cheaply. Other uses could be cheaper forms of instant communication that would allow for faster processing of data.
As mentioned above, two wormhole gates need to be created for each destination one would like to go to. Transferring through half-a-dozen wormholes to get to a location takes a lot of time, especially considering how long the queues are to get into the busier wormholes. What's more is that they are very unstable, requiring the operators to "cool" them down every so often, which basically means shut down. This is because particles at the edges of the gate can absorb its energy, gradually becoming faster and faster until the whole generator is undergoing a sustained fission event (as many of the particles accelerated are neutrons). "Meltdowns" caused by insufficient shutdown time have been disasters rivaled by few single events in history.
Natural Wormholes are thought to be far more common than their artificial counterparts, however, they are far more unstable. Large networks of wormholes, such as the aforementioned Janus Network, are not entirely understood, although, some general rules about their behavior is known.
- These wormholes usually do not allow objects smaller than themselves to enter.
- These wormholes are highly concentrated in some areas, while being almost nonexistent in others, the rules governing rich regions of space develop natural wormholes are unknown.
- Natural wormholes are usually small, with a radius over a few picometers at most. With every increase by an order of magnitude in size, the probability decreases exponentially.
- Length is entirely random and is often not governed by any rules at all.
- Natural wormholes are drawn to large gravity wells, but not black holes. Meaning, there is a large chance a natural wormhole will link two planets, but a low chance they will link two galaxies.
- The larger a Natural wormhole is, the longer it will last as the larger ones are more stable.
Just like their synthetic counterparts, natural wormholes are instant. In galaxies where they are common, they are often used for communication and travel as a cheap alternative to any other form of FTL. Any wormhole large enough for ship to fly through is likely to last several million years.
One could imagine the universe as a balloon. Everything exists on the surface of this balloon (of course, the universe actually has three dimensions, but this two dimensional explanation will have to suffice). Travelling along the surface of the balloon takes a large amount of time compared to travelling in a straight line through the balloon. This is what wormholes do, linking two places directly through the metaphorical balloon. It is like pushing two portions of a balloon closer together to allow for a faster path. Now, the universe is actually more malleable than a balloon is, making this process fairly easy for even Kardashev II civilizations. This is essentially how wormholes work, except instead of the universe being on the surface of a 2D balloon surface it is 3D and wormholes rely on travel through four-dimensional space (which can be thought of as the interior of the balloon).
Wormholes are not tunnels, they are quite like a hole in a piece of paper. The travel time is instant, the two places they link might as well be right next to each other. Whether the wormholes are a few astronomical units apart or across the observable universe, travel time is only limited by how fast an object can pass through. Although many representations of the concept portray them as tunnels, which are admittedly easier to understand, the true nature of these devices are more analogous to pinning the two ends of a sheet of paper together. The hole does not bridge the areas, it links them as though they were next to each other.