Nathan Rosen on Wormholes and a Thought Experiment

Artist impression of a Schwarzschild wormhole

On March 22, 1909US-American physicist Nathan Rosen was born. He is best known for his cooperation together with Albert Einstein and Boris Podolsky on the quantum-mechanical description of physical reality leading the the so-called Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradoxon, as well as his postulation of worm holes connecting distant areas in space. Although purely theoretic, his work also had an important impact on science fiction literature.

Nathan Rosen was born in New York City and attended MIT, earning the bachelor’s degree in electromechanical engineering and his master’s and doctorate in physics. During his time at the University, Rosen already published several papers on the explanation of an atomic nucleus‘ structure and on wave functions.

Rosen started his assistance job to Albert Einstein in 1935, extending Einstein’s studies on wave functions, resulting in a publication together with Boris Podolsky. In the paper, the three scientists attempted to answer the question “Can quantum-mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete?“. The effects were then named the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox (EPR). The EPR paradox contains a thought experiment, attempting to reveal insufficiencies of quantum mechanics and indeed they at least proved the research on quantum mechanics at this state was incomplete.

After working for EinsteinRosen was suggested to continue his work in Israel. Both scientists began focusing on wormholes after discovering a mathematical method for wormholes able to connect certain areas in space. These Einstein-Rosen bridges were found by mating the mathematical solutions of black holes and white holes through using Einstein’s field equations from 1915. The Einstein-Rosen bridges, also called Schwarzschild wormholes were completely theoretical, but John A. Wheeler and Robert W. Fuller proved these wormholes in 1962 to be unstable.

However, wormholes not only fascinated scientists, also science fiction writers increased their interest in them. Numerous writers in literature, television and films used and still use wormholes to transport whole star ships or travel through time as in Star Trek’s movie from 2009 in which Spock and Nero use (fictional) red matter to build artificial black holes and travel back in time. Contrary to physics, there are no limits in science fiction and even in Star Trek, a completely stable wormhole near the planet Bajor can be found, unique also in the Star Trek universe. A notable science fiction novel is also ‘The Forever War‘ by Joe Haldeman from 1974. In the plot, interstellar travel is possible through collapsars, another word for black holes. The plot is leaned on the theory by Einstein and Rosen, claiming that there may be bridges located in the black holes.

But coming back to Nathan Rosen; he determined the last years of his career mostly to teaching at the University of Kiev and the University of North Carolina. Rosen then moved to Israel, where he taught at the Technion in Hafia and founded the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a lecture by Dr Sean Carroll on ‘The Paradoxes of Time Travel‘, discussing the idea of wormholes connecting distant regions of space and exploring the logical structure of time travel. Dr Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in Physics at the California Institute of Technology as a theoretical cosmologist specializing in dark energy and general relativity.

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