Wormholes — shortcuts through the fabric of space-time — have become a token of the science fiction genre ever since Albert Einstein and his colleague Nathan Rosen came to realize they were theoretically possible according to general relativity. It's easy to understand why: If wormholes were real and they could be manipulated with technology, then they could make long distance space travel possible. They could even make time travel possible.
Unfortunately, no evidence has yet been found for the actual existence of wormholes in nature. But what if they could be created in a lab? A team of researchers may have made such a breakthrough. By manipulating magnetic fields using superconductors and other materials, they have created a sort of "magnetic wormhole" that tunnels a magnetic field through space, reports Space.com.
Though it's not exactly the same thing as a space-time wormhole, these magnetic wormholes make for an interesting analogue, and they could eventually lead to a number of mind-blowing technological breakthroughs.
"This device can transmit the magnetic field from one point in space to another point, through a path that is magnetically invisible," explained study co-author Jordi Prat-Camps. "From a magnetic point of view, this device acts like a wormhole, as if the magnetic field was transferred through an extra special dimension."
The device works because superconductors, which can carry high levels of current, can expel magnetic field lines from their interiors. By making use of this property, researchers were able to manipulate, bend and distort these lines in such a way that a wormhole-like tunnel was created through the magnetic field.
"From a magnetic point of view, you have the magnetic field from the magnet disappearing at one end of the wormhole and appearing again at the other end of the wormhole," said Prat-Camps.
One immediate use of this technique could be to develop an MRI machine that can take pictures of a patient's body more remotely. As anyone who has had an MRI can attest, it can be quite claustrophobic. But if there was a device that could funnel a magnetic field from one spot to the other, then it would be possible to take pictures of people's bodies with the strong magnet placed far away, freeing them from those terrifying, coffin-like MRI machines.
Long distance space travel through wormholes might still be the stuff of science fiction, but that doesn't mean researchers can't be inspired by ideas like these to create new, exciting and ever inventive technologies that could eventually lead to further breakthroughs in the future.