So, as I've mentioned in previous questions, I am writing a series in which the four young main characters encounter natural, traversable wormholes that connect the present time to another one. I've vaguely figured how I want them to work and how this way connects (mostly) to the real theoretical science behind it (specifics will be explained below for those curious and if it connects to my question). My question now is this; If I want to continue being vaguely scientifically accurate, how would a speculative wormhole look to humans looking at it from outside? For someone stepping through it to the other side? How many artistic liberties can I really take while still being scientifically accurate? Thanks so much for taking the time to speculatively answer this question and have a good day!

(For those interested, the wormholes tend to stick near objects with larger gravity to keep our intrepid little explorers from stepping through one and ending up somewhere out in space and suffocating. They tend to occur most on the time equivalent of "fault lines" where time 'tears' more easily, like weak points on a blanket. Yes, I do know it's definitely more complicated than that, but I'm simplifying things a bit so it makes more sense. They also can connect places in both place and time, so they can end up from a little town in modern day Oklahoma to the volcanic jungles of Early Cretaceous China. Finally, they are also traversable by simply stepping through since the main characters are just a few teenagers who stumble across them and don't exactly have resources to get a vessel to take them through Interestellar style.)


6 Answers 6


What you most likely want is an Ellis wormhole. The picture in A. Forty's answer most likely shows exactly that; and as others have mentioned, Interstellar is about as good a visualization a wormhole as you're going to get from Hollywood. However, I don't think Interstellar got all the details right.

From the outside, the wormhole would look very much like A. Forty's image. Moving through the wormhole, the image of the other side of the hole would appear to expand around you, swallowing you up, and then you're on the other side.

If you were to look left or right (or up or down, for that matter) while in the middle of the wormhole, you would see the back of your own head. The hole has no walls; each side just wraps around to the opposite side. I believe Interstellar goofed on this one.

Shown here is what an Ellis wormhole in a 2-dimensional universe might look like from the outside:

Cross section of an Ellis wormhole, taken from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellis_wormhole

Interstellar showed something like what you would see if you piloted a spaceship along this surface and through the hole in the middle, from one side to the other. However, in reality, the wormhole would be three-dimensional. You'd never actually see anything even remotely resembling the above surface- because we're inside it.

Imagine taking a 2-dimensional spaceship and sliding it around on that surface. Try to visualize what the ship's pilot would see, looking at the wormhole. Near the hole, his lines of sight would be bent toward it, so objects behind the hole would appear distorted and stretched out at the edges of the hole. Closer to the hole, rays of light could wrap around the hole multiple times before coming back out without going through, so the pilot would see all 360° of his surroundings (including the front of his own ship) reflected back and forth, squeezed into tighter and tighter rings.

Just inside that, an infinitesimally thin black ring coinciding with the black ring in the image, where light (and anything else) can zip around and around forever.

And inside that, he'd see into the world on the other side of the wormhole.

In the center of the wormhole, his line of sight would fold back around, like the black line on the right-hand side of the image. Off-center, the space would bend the pilot's line of sight at a much larger angle, so he'd get a (very distorted) 360° view of the other universe. The effect would closely resemble an image taken with a strong fish-eye lens, like the ones used in those 360° cameras. As before, all of those 360° would be repeated over and over, compressed into tighter and tighter rings approaching the black ring representing the halfway point.

Now compare all that to A. Forty's image.

Now, imagine that the pilot takes his ship through the wormhole. What does he see?

Well, first thing, as he approached, the fish-eye view of the other side would start occupying more and more of his field of view, as would the distorted space around the hole. Upon reaching the halfway point, light emitted from the left side of the ship would circle around the hole to the ship's right side. So by looking out either window, he's just see the outside of the ship from the opposite side. The black ring is now whatever color his ship is. Watching out the back window while exiting the hole would look much the same as going in did, except that the pilot's original universe now fills the fish-eye view in the center.

In three dimensions, the wormhole experience would be fairly similar, except the halfway point would be a spherical surface (which would appear as an infinitesimally thin black ring) around which light can orbit.

If these wormholes somehow exist in a gravitational field (because they're on Earth's surface, say), that should still work without any completely broken physics or anything. I'm not completely sure how it would work, but I have a guess.

Say the people on one side of one of these wormholes decide to build a bridge through it, so they can just walk through, from one side to the other, without having to jump through it or anything, because that sounds hard. This should be doable; there might even be normal gravity all the way through. If you were to fall off the bridge inside the wormhole, you'd just drop out of the hole on one side or the other. If you fell off the exact center of the bridge, you might wind up in a sort of gravitational saddle point. You'd feel as if you were being stretched in one direction (along the X axis, call it, toward the mouths of the wormhole), but gently compressed in the other two (Y and Z). You could float there as long as you were perfectly balanced in the X direction, but just a little bit off and you'd fall straight out the bottom of one side of the wormhole.

And finally, as to what being in one of these wormholes might feel like. Note how, in the image above, all of the space in and around the hole is curved kind of like a saddle or a Pringles chip, so if you drew two intersecting "straight" lines on the surface, they could curve in opposite directions. For instance, the two black lines shown. The center ring curves toward the hole in the center, while the line on the right curves away. This means the space has negative Gaussian curvature. A funny thing about negative-curvature surfaces is that there is less space inside any shape drawn on the surface than you'd expect, based on its perimeter. This will do... weird things... to anything put into the wormhole.

Imagine you're sliding a small square of paper around on the surface shown above. If you try to slide it to the hole, you'll find that it won't stay flat on the surface. Either the center of the paper will pop up above the surface, or it'll just kind of crinkle. If you wanted it to lay flat, you could cut a notch from the edge of the square to the center, so it could spread out a bit and sit flatter on the surface.

Now... what would you happen if you put your hand into one of these wormholes? Quite suddenly, there would no longer be enough space inside your hand for all the bone and muscle and such that is there. Your skin would suddenly feel very tight, and some of the blood in your hand would be squeezed back into your arm. The bones in your fingers and hand probably wouldn't take kindly to being distorted in this manner, either. Like the piece of paper, they might just crack.

Best make these wormholes quite large, so these effects aren't strong enough to cause harm to something the size of a human.

  • $\begingroup$ Sorry this is a little late, but I love this explanation. Only question now is whether there's a way to find out how big 'quite large' is? Is there a way to find out how large they'd have to be in order to, you know, not murder the kids from the inside out when they step through? $\endgroup$ Aug 13, 2017 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @TheTimeVoyager There is indeed a way to find out how big the wormhole would have to be- but it requires running the math of general relativity to compute the curvature of the space within a wormhole of a given size, and then compare that to the material properties of bone and the sizes and shapes of the largest bones in the human body. I suspect first to crack will be the skull, the pelvis, or the femur- but I'm not sure. The details of all this stuff are well beyond my comprehension. $\endgroup$ Aug 14, 2017 at 6:49

Wormholes can be manifested similarly to black-holes, but I think this image sums up what a transversable wormhole would look like under your criteria:

simulated using 4D raytracing and whatnot

The light would also probably be redshifted a small bit, but this simulation is appealing enough.

Furthermore, you're asking how it would look to step through it. Depending on a few factors, I'd say Interstellar is a good source. A short burst of warped space-time and light, then you're out the other side.

  • $\begingroup$ That's a really interesting visualization. I like the way it warps the area around it while showing a hint of what lies on the other side. $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2016 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ The caption on that image from Wikipedia is also very insightful: Image of a simulated traversable wormhole that connects the square in front of the physical institutes of University of Tübingen with the sand dunes near Boulogne sur Mer in the north of France. The image is calculated with 4D raytracing in a Morris–Thorne wormhole metric, but the gravitational effects on the wavelength of light have not been simulated $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 5, 2017 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ @TheTimeVoyager More about the simulation of the traversable wormhole. Edit: do not miss the videos avalable there. $\endgroup$
    – Theraot
    May 22, 2018 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon gravitational in terms of the Earth's gravity or the warped spacetime? It is worth noting that it is space that bends not light so it is helpful here to know which warping wasn't factored in. (I came here because it pops up on google as the first image for wormhole visualization) $\endgroup$
    – user64742
    Aug 30, 2018 at 4:18
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    $\begingroup$ @TheGreatDuck My assumption is that they are referring to the gravity associated with the distortion of spacetime that is the wormhole itself. This would make sense, because Earth's gravity would cause a trivial shift in frequency, but the massive gravity associated with a wormhole would have more profound effects on frequency. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Aug 31, 2018 at 3:31

Wormholes are purely hypothetical, but would probably appear similar to a black hole. Take a look at the artistic interpretation of a black hole, from the movie Interstellar here, and that of a wormhole here.

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    $\begingroup$ black hole != wormhole $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2016 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa what's that thing next to Jupiter again? Interstellar produced two papers on the subject... From what I remember... $\endgroup$
    – Aron
    Dec 5, 2016 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Aron: Interstellar featured both a wormhole and a black hole. The thing near Jupiter was a wormhole. But AFAIK the depiction of both should be realistic in Interstellar. IIRC the "Interstellar papers" were about black holes. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Dec 5, 2016 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ This is a good answer, the simulations done for the insterstellar movie are among the best ever made, if not the best for the black hole. That is what Hollywood money can do! $\endgroup$ Dec 10, 2016 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ Answers should be able to stand on their own without external links, since there's no guarantee that those images will remain in place long term. It would be best to embed the images into the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Azuaron
    Apr 5, 2017 at 17:09

It seems to me that a photograph of a non-lethal wormhole will look exactly like two photographs, one on top of the other. The one on top will have a circular hole in it. The two should be the same scale, that is no magnification, nor should their be any distortion.

Why? Because if the light is being distorted, then there would have to be tremendous gravitational tidal forces involved, which would do bad things to matter, specifically to living matter. You could surround each hole with some sort of "leakage" - maybe a glow, or sparks, or some mild sort of distortion (like mirages - you know - wavering).

And of course while the hole would look circular, as you changed your position, the view would change as well. As you moved around the hole, the view through the hole would rotate as well. So, it would basically be a spherical TV screen. In fact, we could probably make one today that came pretty close (some TVs have horizontal curvature so you could make a ring out of a bunch of them.

Two problems with that:

  1. The screen is concave, and you want convex
  2. Screens available today don't have both horizontal and vertical curvature (as far as I know)

But anyway, a polygon with enough faces is very close to looking like a sphere, so just picture a ball with monitors stuck to it. Reduce it to the size you want your hole to be (4 ft radius?) and imagine the cameras showing the entire 4π steradians of from the (multiple) cameras viewpoint.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Nice start, have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Apr 5, 2017 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ The other answers seem to reflect a belief that a wormhole will look like a sphere.  You seem to believe that it will look like a disc (à la Stargate and Alice Through the Looking Glass). Do you have any particular reason for preferring this model? $\endgroup$ Apr 5, 2017 at 22:34

if you've seen the film interstellar, it gives a pretty accurate representation of a wormhole

the argument goes something like this:

in 2-D models of wormholes, you have a bit of paper (our universe), you drill two hole in it with paper, then fold the paper to make the holes line up - wormhole

but a 2 d hole in 3 d becomes a sphere - which is what a wormhole would probably look like

  • $\begingroup$ I live in a cave.  I connect to the Internet by TCP over carrier pigeon.  I haven’t seen the film Interstellar. Can you describe what you’re talking about, and/or find a screen grab? $\endgroup$ Apr 5, 2017 at 22:39

My postulations:
1. What the wormhole looks like depends on how light interacts with it/ passes through it.
2. If matter can pass through it trivially (i.e. simply stepping through with no ill-effect), light should act in very much the same way.
3. As mentioned by others, a wormhole is simply a 3D hole (most likely spherical).

In this case, I would imagine that the "look" of a wormhole will be surprisingly simple - in fact you would not see it at all! All you would see is a circular view of the destination the wormhole connects to, with no distortion, refraction (disregarding differences in air pressure on either side), etc. It would actually look a lot like an open door, except without a door or a frame.

The peculiarity would only show when you tried to walk around it - the hole will remain a perfect circle no matter how you tried to walk around it, and what you saw in it would be a 360-degree view of what was on the other side. Imagine if you had a wormhole from your current location to the inside of a museum, for instance - by just walking around the wormhole you would be able to see the entirety of the museum's displays.


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