Wormholes are tunnel-like structures that link regions of spacetime.
In effect, they are shortcuts from one part of the universe to another. Theoretical physicists have studied their properties for decades but despite all this work, nobody quite knows if they can exist in our universe or whether matter could pass through them if they did. But none of these films depict wormholes in the way they might look like in real life. All that has now changed thanks to the work of film director Christopher Nolan and Kip Thorne, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who collaborated on the science fiction film Interstellar , which was released in Nolan wanted the film to be as realistic as possible and so invited Thorne, an expert on black holes and wormholes, to help create the footage.
Thorne was intrigued by the possibility of studying wormholes visually, given that they are otherwise entirely theoretical.
Synopsis: Entangled through a Wormhole
The result, he thought, could be a useful way of teaching students about general relativity. So Thorne agreed to collaborate with a special effects team at Double Negative in London to create realistic footage. And today they publish a paper on the arXiv about the collaboration and what they learnt. Interstellar is an epic tale. It begins with the discovery of a wormhole near Saturn and the decision to send a team of astronauts through it in search of a habitable planet that humans can populate because Earth is dying.
A key visual element of the story is the view through the wormhole of a different galaxy and the opposite view of Saturn. But what would these views look like?
 Wormhole Effect in a Strong Topological Insulator
One way to create computer generated images is to trace all the rays of light in a given scene and then determine which rays enter a camera placed at a given spot. But this is hugely inefficient because most of the rays never enter the camera. A much more efficient method is to allow time to run backwards and trace the trajectories of light rays leaving the camera and travelling back to their source.
In that way, the computing power is focused only on light rays that contribute to the final image.
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So Thorne derived the various equations from general relativity that would determine the trajectory of the rays through a wormhole and the team at Double Negative created a computer model that simulated this, which they could run backwards. They also experimented with wormholes of different shapes, for example with long thin throats or much shorter ones and so on.
The results provided some fascinating insights into the way a wormhole might appear in the universe. But it also threw up some challenges for the film makers. One problem was that Nolan chose to use footage of the view through a short wormhole, which produced fascinatingly distorted images of the distant galaxy. However, the footage of travelling through such a wormhole was too short. But the journey through a longer wormhole was like travelling through a tunnel and very similar to things seen in other movies.
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Back in , researchers in Spain created a tiny magnetic wormhole for the first time ever. They used it to connect two regions of space so that a magnetic field could travel 'invisibly' between them.
Well, it depends on your definition of “wormhole” …
But the physicists managed to create a tunnel that allowed a magnetic field to disappear at one point, and then reappear at another, which is still a pretty huge deal. A wormhole is effectively just a tunnel that connects two places in the Universe. In , they managed to create tunnels that directed magnetic fields from one place to another, but these weren't true wormholes because they didn't keep the magnetic field undetectable or magnetically 'invisible' while it was travelling inside the tunnel.
This is something they managed to overcome in , by using metamaterial and metasurfaces to build their tunnel.