If you have read sci-fi novels or watched sci-fi flicks, then you have heard about cosmic strings. If you have dabbled in physics and astronomy you have probably heard about string theory. But, really, what the heck is a cosmic string? What do they do? Do they really exist? Are they space garbage that can be recycled for another purpose?
You know how Enterprise always seems to encounter some kind of space “anomaly” that causes all sorts of mayhem and the crew doesn’t know what the heck it is? That’s pretty much what life is like for space explorers now. We really have no idea what kind of stuff is out there in outer space. Cosmic strings are just one such anomaly.
Cosmic strings exist. They’re weird. They have different textures. They have walls that define their domains. They’re powerful, possibly containing the energy-mass of our Sun within a tube about one billion of a billionth the size of an atom. And scientists don’t know much more about them.
The gringa supposes that it’s a good thing that there are not very many of them, as far as we know. Running into such a weird anomaly could be disastrous for astronauts that don’t know what they are dealing with. But some scientists are not above guessing, er, um, theorizing about cosmic strings.
Physicist J. Richard Gott introduced the novel idea of using cosmic strings for time travel. Scientists suspect that these stringlike objects had something to do with how the early universe formed. They are left-over tidbits whose job is all done. Or not. Perhaps they could be upcycled to warp space-time near a black hole making time-travel possible. Is Gott for real?
Cosmic strings are skinnier than an atom. And they are taut, like a rubber band, because they are under immense pressure. So, just like when you launch a spitball by pulling back a rubber band, Gott thinks the same concept could be applied to cosmic strings. But we wouldn’t actually strap a spaceship to a cosmic string and slingshot it across the Universe.
To make Gott’s theory work, he proposes relocating two strings so that they are close together. Because of the great pressure they are under, putting two close together would create a massive gravitational pull on anything that passed near them. The strings would basically suck in a spaceship at such an incredible speed that the crew would experience time dilation.
Time dilation is a fancy way of saying you have changed the passage of time. On Earth, six months may have passed. For astronauts on a cosmic string launched spaceship bound for Mars, the trip might only take one month. They return home to find everyone a couple of years older yet maybe they only experienced the passage of a few months. Yep. Cosmic strings are weird.
The gringa can imagine the rich and the famous exploiting cosmic string travel as the next great fountain of youth treatment. Maybe we could blast across the galaxy our worst criminals on multiple trips. This could essentially leave them for the next generation to sort out. We could find all sorts of crazy uses for time dilation travel.
But Gott’s theory goes further. If the strings were positioned near a black hole, he thinks we could warp time-space and create what he calls a “closed timelike curve”. This would make true time-travel possible. Currently, time-travel is theorized to only be possible to make trips into the future that are one-way. A person cannot travel back into the past, only forward into the future. But Gott thinks he has found a way to yesterday.
The compounded effects of gravity on a spaceship by two cosmic strings and a black hole could create a loop with the cosmic strings. This powerful loop would propel the spaceship back through time. But there’s a catch. To re-visit a previous birthday just one year prior, a loop of cosmic string powerful enough would need the mass-energy of our entire galaxy. So, basically you sacrifice the life of everyone and everything in the present just to return to life of a year ago. Not so sure it’s worth it. Today doesn’t seem so bad.
Sources: Astronomy Cafe
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Video Credits: FloatingUniversity