As a curious species, humans have long dreamed of traveling to the farthest depths of space. That's the major theme of the upcoming science fiction epic Interstellar, which will take Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway to the places we hope to one day reach ourselves. Except for that tiny hiccup called deep space travel.
The universe is big. And along with its enormous size, it's also incredibly spread-out; any neighboring planets, stars, and galaxies are depressingly distant. Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, for example, is 4.22 light years away. If the fast-moving Voyager spacecraft attempted to reach Proxima Centauri, it would take the tiny probe more than 80,000 years to get there.
So how are we supposed to explore the universe in a way that won't take us thousands of generations? Among the many concepts researchers have devised, one technique has remained particularly popular, especially in the realm of science fiction: shortcuts, or theoretical tunnels known as wormholes.
In theory, wormholes are tunnel-like connections made out of spacetime, offering a shorter distance between two vastly separated areas of the universe. The idea is that space travelers can use these tunnels to make space commutes much shorter than thousands of years. Numerous books, TV shows, and films have utilized the wormhole concept for deep space travel—from Dr. Arroway's mysterious alien-filled journey in Contact to the Bajoran Wormhole, which allows access to the unexplored Gamma Quadrent in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.