Space Warp Propulsion – Part 3

[This is the third part in the Space Warp Propulsion series.  Part 1 presented the Space Warp Dynamics’ Bluebird IIvehicle and Part 2 examined the Alien Reproduction Vehicle (ARV).  Part 3 presents the wormhole theory of interstellar travel.]

by T. L. Keller 

black hole                               the invisible remains of a collapsed star, with an intense gravitational field from which neither light nor matter can escape.  First postulated by Einstein and first photographed in 2019.

brane                                      our Universe, consisting of three spatial dimensions and one time dimension.  A shortening of the word “membrane.”

bulk                                         hyperspace (hypothetical).  The region outside our brane.  The bulk consists of four spatial dimensions and one time dimension.

bulk being                               In Interstellar,a being of an ultra-advanced civilization. In the film, such a being is referred to as “They.”  “They” created the wormhole in orbit around Saturn.

c                                              the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second.  Thus, c/3 would be one-third the speed of light or about 62,000 miles per second. c/4 would be about 47,000 miles per second.

deflection                                the change in course direction of a spacecraft  due to the gravitational attraction of a planet, star or black hole.

exotic matter                          In Interstellar, a type of matter used by highly-advanced civilizations to maintain an open wormhole (i.e., not pinched off).  An open wormhole would allow an object to fully traverse a wormhole.

“fifth dimension”                    String theory hypothetically has 10 dimensions.  Kip Thorne defines the “fifth dimension” as consisting of the remaining six dimensions of string theory.    For simplicity the “fifth dimension” is shorthand for string theory’s six dimensions beyond the three spatial dimensions and time (time being the fourth dimension).

gravitational lens                  a massive celestial body, especially a galaxy or cluster of galaxies, having enough gravity to refract light waves from a more distant object so that an observer sees an amplified or multiple image.

gravitational slingshot          an orbital maneuver using the gravitational attraction of a planet, neutron star or black hole to change the velocity of a spacecraft and/or to deflect the spacecraft into a different direction.

gravitational waves              ripples in the curvature of space-time that propagate as waves outward from their source at the speed of light and without mass (i.e. massless).

neutron star                            a collapsed star of extremely high density composed almost entirely of neutrons.  Pulsars are generally thought to be rotating neutron stars.

space-time                              any mathematical model that fuses the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time into a single four-dimensional continuum.  Also called spacetime.

string theory                          a theory that attempts to consolidate quantum physics (particle theory; theory of the very small) and cosmology (theory of the very big).  String theory equations have 10 dimensions.

time dilation                           under Einstein’s relativistic laws of physics, time is affected by gravitational forces.  Time passes more slowly near a black hole than it does on Earth.

wormhole                               a wormhole may connect extremely long distances such as a billion light years or more; short distances such as a few feet; different universes; and/or different points in time.   This is proposed in Einstein’s general theory of relativity where the combination of space and time into a single space-time continuum could theoretically allow one to traverse both space and time using a wormhole with the correct conditions.  Also known scientifically as an Einstein-Rosen bridge.  Wormholes are theoretical and have not as yet been detected.

wormhole mouth                    One of two openings into a wormhole.  An object passes through one wormhole mouth to enter and passes through the other wormhole mouth to exit.


Recently, while visiting my local bookstore, I found a book titled The Science of Interstellar.    The author, Kip Thorne, Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology, and a colleague of the late Stephen Hawking, was a well-known name to me.  Aha!, I thought, here’s a book to explain in simpleterms the science of the 2014 film, Interstellar.   Having seen it in its original theatrical debut, my hope was that the book would reveal the many, totally baffling scenes in that movie.  I was not disappointed, but . . . it’s not exactly simple. 

Kip Thorne’s The Science of Interstellar [1]

This 324-page scientific treatise of Interstellar is excellent.  It’s printed in full color throughout and has a series of explanatory drawings revealing the details of black holes, time dilation, wormholes and interstellar space travel.  Kip Thorne won the 2017 Nobel prize in physics.

The Science

If you saw the 1997 film Contact, starring Jodie Foster, you will remember that her character, Dr. Ellie Arroway, is transported through space and time to meet and converse with an ETI being who was shape-shifted to appear as her late father. Dr. Arroway was transported through a wormhole.  That wormhole, in the film story, was created artificially.  The drawing below, from a book by the late Stephen Hawking, illustrates what theoretically would be a wormhole connecting Earth (point A) to Alpha Centauri (point B).  The distance from Earth to Alpha Centauri is shown as 20 million million miles (4.4 light-years) in linear space (yellow line).  But, if an artificial wormhole (purple) could be created near Earth and ending near Alpha Centauri, a speedier shortcut could be provided.  The spacecraft (in this case Ellie Arroway’s capsule) could enter the wormhole and exit at the destination in far less time than traveling that distance through linear space.  In short, a wormhole is a shortcut through a higher dimension.

Traveling from Earth to Alpha Centauri [2]

Of course, there are those who profess that ETI beings have traveled here via (presumably) artificially-created wormholes.  Former US Army Sergeant Clifford Stone  has stated as much:

“At present time, I believe that the government has identified several groups.  We break these down by EBE (extraterrestrial biological entities) type 1, 2, 3 — I think we are about up to 7 that have been identified.  Well . . . seven types of space travelers, or inter-dimensional travelers, if you wish.  When I refer to inter-dimensional travel, I am referring, utilizing the Einsteinian – Rosen bridges for that travel . . .  “ [see sidebar definition of wormhole]  [3]

More recently, in their book, UFOs and the White House, William J. Birnes and Joel Martin describe an event involving President Ronald Reagan.  According to them, in 1981 Reagan was given a presentation involving former Director of Central Intelligence and Vice President George H. W. Bush, Bush’s successor William Casey, Secretary of  Defense Caspar Weinberger, Reagan’s Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver and other (unnamed) briefers.  One of the briefers gave Reagan a short summary of the recovery of one living ETI being from one of the two Roswell crashes.  According to Birnes and Martin, 

“The aliens traveled to earth from the Zeta Reticuli system, the briefer explained, ‘It took the EBE spaceship nine (9) months to travel the 40 [38.42] light-years.  Now, as you can see, that would mean the EBE spaceship traveled faster than the speed of light.  But this is where it gets really technical.  Their spaceships can travel through a form of ‘space tunnel’ that gets them from point A to point B faster without having to travel at the speed of light.  I cannot fully understand how they travel, but we have many top scientists who can understand their concept.’ ” [4] [emphasis added]

Wormhole Detection

So, how does one detect the presence of a wormhole?  Gravitational waves are generated by the collision of two black holes or a black hole and a neutron star (see sidebar).  Gravitational waves can be detected using the LIGO —the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (see my article, “Gravitational Waves Discovered,” in the November 2017 issue). From the observatory on Earth, the direction of the gravitational waves can be determined.  For example, if gravitational waves were detected coming from the vicinity of Saturn, it’s not possible that they would originatethere (otherwise Saturn would be torn apart). This would mean that the waves originated from another location in the Universe (our “brane”), enter a wormhole, travel through the wormhole and exit in our Solar System.  The waves would then be detected by LIGO as coming from the vicinity of Saturn. This is illustrated below.

Gravitational waves through a wormhole [5]

A Traversable Wormhole?

When one enters a wormhole, how does one know that they will be able to exit?  For sure, the cautious astronaut needs to know prior to entering.   Although wormholes may come in various dimensions (tunnel radius, tunnel length, mouth width, etc.), the critical issue is whether the wormhole is traversable (i.e., open) or closed (what is called “pinched”)  A pinched wormhole cannot be traversed.  These two conditions are illustrated below.

Closed (“Pinched”) Open [6]

So, the question is, How do we know it’s open?  As Kip Thorne speculates, wormholes do not exist naturally.  He says that if there is no bulk (see sidebar), a wormhole left to its own devices will pinch off.  This would indicate that any wormholes are created by an ultra-advanced civilization (bulk beings; see sidebar) and that is exactly what he suggests. How do “They” keep it open? According to Thorne, “ . . . the only way to hold the wormhole open is to thread it with exotic matter that repels gravitationally.”  But if there were a bulk, then bulk fields “may do the job” and the wormhole will be open and traversable.  [7]

Thorne’s theory is that our Universe is the brane in a higher dimensional bulk.  Travel through the wormhole, then, is travel through a “fifth dimension” (see sidebar).  A wormhole, then, is a potential portal to another dimension.

Interstellar, The Film [8]

The Interstellar story line presents a near-future, dystopian Earth undergoing extreme environmental change.  Crops are blighted and the Earth cannot produce sufficient food for its human populations.  In the film, no other planets in the Solar System can support human existence, so NASA has sent out 12 teams through a wormhole in orbit around Saturn to search for habitable planets in far distant galaxy.  Communications with those teams are both rudimentary and transitory, but apparently three planets are potentially habitable.  The principal character, Cooper, has been assigned to search those three planets for survivors and evaluate their findings.  After a two-year voyage in a mother ship, known as the Endurance, a crew of four and three robots arrive near Saturn and enter the wormhole. 

The Endurance mother ship [9]

The Endurance mother ship consists of 12 modules in a ring formation.  Four of the modules are rocket propulsion systems using chemical propellants. Other modules provide cargo and propellant storage.  The central control facility is at the center of the ring supported by an extension arm from one of the ring modules.  The ring structure provides a flexible design to endure wormhole travel.   There are four available shuttle vehicles that can transport crew members to the surface of a planet.  The shuttles also are propelled by chemical rocket engines and “plasma jets.”  As a result, it takes two years to travel from Earth to the wormhole in orbit around Saturn.

Science or Science-Fiction?

Well . . . both!  This is the first Hollywood film to accurately portray a wormhole, a black hole and, as far as we know, time travel.  This result is not accidental.  Kip Thorne, the film’s technical advisor, met with the original director (Steven Spielberg) and Lynda Obst, a science writer for the New York Times Magazine and one of the producers.  Thorne had two guidelines: [1] Nothing in the film would violate firmly established laws of physics; and [2] Any speculations about ill-understood physical laws would come from real science and ones that “respectable” scientists regard as possible. 10 Given that, I can tell you that science permeates this film.  Johnathan and Christopher Nolan were the screenwriters and due to unexpected events, Christopher Nolan was ultimately Interstellar’s director.

Space Propulsion in Interstellar‘s World

In this sci-fi film, Thorne insisted that only 21stcentury propulsion technologies would be reflected throughout the movie. Enduranceis propelled by four chemically-fueled rockets.  To cover the great distances from Earth to Saturn, the Endurance might achieve an average velocity of 20 kilometers per second.  However, it takes additional advantage of a gravitational “slingshot” around Mars to increase its velocity (see sidebar).  Once the spacecraft is in place at the wormhole, the Endurance then passes through the open wormhole and exits in a remote galaxy where the previous expeditionary crews had been directed. At that point, the Endurancecrew chooses which of three exoplanets to travel to in search of the missing crews and habitable planets.  Additionally, to cover the great distances in that galaxy, gravitational slingshots are used to deflect the Endurance around a neutron star to increase its velocity on the order of c/3 or c/4 (see sidebar).  

What Does the Wormhole Look Like?

If one is looking directly at a wormhole, it’s like looking through a “crystal ball” to the other side.  Optically, the image of the other side is distorted due to the refracted light from the other side of the “crystal ball.”  Thorne worked with the special effects staff to create a close facsimile of what a wormhole would look like in real life.  Using Thorne’s own equations in their graphics software, the image below shows the entrance to the mouth of the wormhole (disregard the artificial pink circle surrounding the “crystal ball”).  If one looks very closely, the Endurance is shown just left of the center of the entrance mouth and is shown as a small white ring.  What one sees is the refracted light from the target galaxy coming in from the wormhole’s other mouth.

Wormhole as seen from the entrance mouth [11]

Thorne claims that wormholes are notnatural.  So, in the movie, where did the wormhole come from? It was placed in orbit around Saturn 48 years earlier by an ultra-advanced civilization (beings who are from the bulk: bulk beings).  In the film, Dr. Brand says to Cooper, “And whoever They are, They appear to be looking out for us.  That wormhole lets us travel to other stars.  It came along right as we needed it.” [12]


I have to applaud the Interstellarcasting director as the film’s cast is terrific.  Mathew McConaughey (as Cooper) and Anne Hathaway (as Dr. Brand) are the two principle characters, but it also has a great supporting cast too:  Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine (as Professor Brand), John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, Matt Damon (as Dr. Mann) and Casey Affleck.

If you’re expecting a movie review, this is not one of those.  I don’t do movie reviews, but James Dyer does:

Brainy, barmy and beautiful to behold, this is Stephen Hawking’s Star Trek: a mind-bending opera of space and time with a soul wrapped up in all the science.” [13]

One should note that I recommend seeing the film first; most folks will be totally baffled.  Then readThe Science of Interstellar.  Then . . . see the movie again!  It’s amazing what you will learn from Kip Thorne’s book of the movie: wormholes, time travel, gravitational anomalies, black holes . . .  You might also like to know that Kip Thorne was also one of the executive producers.  But, spoiler alert: for some folks and myself this film is emotionally supercharged and, further, enhanced by the music of Hans Zimmer.  Interstellarwas a box office hit and Paul Franklin won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. It was also nominated for Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Author Kip Thorne (right) with “Professor” Michael Caine [14]


  1. Thorne, Kip, The Science of Interstellar, W.W. Norton & Co., 2014.
  2. Hawking, Stephen, The Illustrated Brief History of Time, Bantam Books, 2014, page 201.
  3. Keller, T. L., The Total Novice’s Guide to UFOs, 2010, page 214.
  4. Birnes, William J. and Joel Martin, UFOs and the White House, Skyhorse Publishing, 2018, page 160-163.
  5. Thorne, Kip, The Science of Interstellar, W.W. Norton & Co., 2014, page 150.
  6. Ibid, page 218.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Courtesy of Warner Bros  and Paramount Pictures
  10. Thorne, Kip, The Science of Interstellar, W.W. Norton & Co., 2014, page 4.
  11. Ibid, page 145.
  12. Ibid, page 193.
  14. Thorne, op. cit., page 213.

© 2019 T. L. Keller

T. L. Keller may be contacted at