Wormholes are shortcuts through space and time – and up to now purely a product of science fiction and theory. More precisely, their existence can only be deduced and calculated from current theories. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they actually exist. And it certainly doesn’t mean that they can be used to travel through space. But what would they look like and what shape would they have? This has been calculated by the Ukrainian physicist Roman Konoplya – or more precisely: he has shown how the shape of a wormhole can be calculated from its physical data.

To apply these findings, first a real wormhole would be needed. Then measurements would be needed on the redshift it produces on light and the gravitational waves emitted by it. These values could then be used to determine its exact shape – without having to see the wormhole directly. This method is based on confirmed assumptions from quantum theory and geometry.

In his work, Konoplya dealt with spatially symmetric wormholes of the Morris-Thorne type. Not only do they connect two points in spacetime, but theoretically they could also allow movements between these two points. “In general terms, a quantum-mechanical approach leads to many solutions for the geometry of a wormhole,” says Konoplya. “Our approach of working with real measurement data can be expanded in several ways. For the sake of simplicity, we only considered electromagnetic fields. Our results may be applied to rotating wormholes as well, provided they are symmetrical enough.”

And if wormholes don’t exist at all – would there be any point to this work? Actually, it would still be very practical, because by measuring gravitational waves, this technique can now better distinguish between possible sources. So far, however, it has not often been possible to definitively rule out wormholes as sources, because these sometimes behave similar to certain black holes.