John K Clark (johnkc@well.com)
Wed, 3 Dec 1997 23:20:38 -0800 (PST)


On Thu, 4 Dec 1997 Douglas Whitworth <DouglasW@durban.gov.za> Wrote:

>Is this concept the same as the one used in " Contact" whereby Jodie
> Foster ( can't remember her character's name) is sucked through the
>wormhole when her " capsule" is launched by the Vagan designed ..
>er.. Artificial Singularity ?

It's funny you should mention that, the modern theory of wormholes was
largely developed by Kip Thorne, but he probably wouldn't have come up with
it if it wasn't for Carl Sagan and his novel "contact". Sagan needed a way to get his characters to
the stars quickly, and so in an early version of his book they fell into a
wormhole made by a Black Hole. Sagan didn't mind proposing new physics for a
novel but he didn't want to use things we already know are untrue, he wasn't
an expert on General Relativity so he sent his manuscript to somebody who was,
his good friend Kip Thorn. Thorne said he was sorry but it just wouldn't work,
such a wormhole would be as unstable as a pencil balanced on its point,
the very act of entering one would cause it to collapse.

Thorn felt badly, he didn't want to leave his friend in the lurch and became
determined to find a way Sagan could finish his book. After a few days of
work he found that wormholes could be stabilized and made to do useful things
if you had something that pushed the wormholes walls apart gravitationally,
something with a negative energy density from light's frame of reference,
something like antimass. Thorn called this stuff "Exotic Material". Nothing
like Exotic Material has ever been observed and there is no theoretical
reason to think it exists, but there is no theoretical reason to think it
doesn't either, and that was just what Sagan needed for his novel.

John K Clark johnkc@well.com

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