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Brief Wormhole Physics
Bellow is my brief attempt to describe what is, super-science in a way that those with little or no scientific background can understand and use. In this paper, it is my purpose to give you, the basic tools you will need to understand the Stargate. By the time you’re done reading this, you should understand how and why wormholes behave the way they do, and what you can and can’t do with them. Over the course of this paper, I’ll talk about naquadah as it applies to the construction and operation of the Stargate, Goa’uld and Ancient crystal technology as it applies to the DHD, Goa’uld energy weapons as they apply to the interaction between the Stargate and the wormhole, and what little we know about the wormholes themselves. My primary sources are excesive analytical watching of Stargate episodes, modern science etc.
The device we know as the Stargate (a plain translation provided by Dr. Daniel Jackson of the Goa’uld word ‘chappa’ai’) is a ring-shaped device, roughly 22 feet wide from outside edge to outside edge. On the front face is a ring of symbols that rotates behind 9 “chevrons.” The ring of symbols rotates, and the chevrons can lock encode that symbol, storing it in the Stargate’s memory. This is how addresses are dialled, much similar to a phone number. A Stargate address generally consists of seven different symbols or sometime an eighth, which represent star constellations, galaxies and provide a point for which to designate a position within three-dimensional space. When six of these points are designated, the destination is determined. To chart a course, the last symbol, the point of origin, is locked in, and the wormhole opens. In order for the Stargate to form a stable wormhole, it must have power. Commonly, this comes in the form of electrical energy supplied by the crystals of a DHD, but the Stargate can accept standard direct current, a lightning strike, and energy generated organically-based cold fusion as well. The Stargate’s ability to store and use this energy is closely tied to its composition: a metal refined from an ore called naquadah.
Naquadah in the Stargate
Naquadah is a mineral ore based on a previously unknown element (approximately number 234 on the periodic table, but naquadah is far too valuable, classified, and dangerous to be subjected to standard atomic testing, so this has yet to be confirmed.) The mineral ore naquadah does not exist anywhere in our solar system, and is rare beyond it. Only certain solar systems are composed of the necessary materials to create naquadah, and only certain planets have naquadah as a natural part of their makeup. Naquadah is the primary building block of all Goa’uld technology, and is used by advanced races such as the Asgard in great quantity. It is naquadah’s unique interaction with energy that makes it so valuable. Naquadah can store electrical energy within its matrix, like a battery. It can conduct many forms of energy with higher efficiency than many other conductors. It can also amplify the effects of destructive energy, such as conventional and nuclear explosions, as well as some energy weapons, by a factor of several hundred. It can even be used to generate electrical energy when used as part of a naquadah reactor. It can also be blended with other metals, such as steel or trinium, to form very strong alloys.
The naquadah that makes up the Stargate is used for two purposes. First, it stores the electrical energy required for the Stargate to form a stable wormhole. The naquadah in the gate acts as a capacitor, building up and harnessing the electrical energy, storing it until the wormhole is ready to open. Once charged, the Stargate can remain charged indefinitely. The other purpose of the naquadah is to focus the subspace field through which wormholes travel, locking the wormhole into place.
Once the naquadah in the Stargate has enough energy, and the address has been correctly dialled, the wormhole begins to form. Each step of the forming wormhole is covered below.
The “flush,” to use Gen. O’Neill’s term, is really an unstable vortex of energy, probably a proto-wormhole restrained by the subspace field generated by the charged naquadah of the Stargate. This unstable proto-wormhole will destroy any matter caught within its path, breaking apart atomic bonds and reducing formerly solid matter to free electrons. Interestingly enough, if a barrier of sufficient size is placed only a few microns over the forming event horizon (The Iris) the unstable vortex does not materialize. The reason for this is as yet unknown. The unstable proto-wormhole expands out from the forming event horizon, approximately 30 feet long and 18-20 feet in diameter, roughly cantered on the gate. It expands out for about two seconds, and then retracts back into the event horizon in about a second. The proto-wormhole is assimilated into the event horizon.
The Event Horizon
What we perceive as the surface of the wormhole is the event horizon. Not exactly a part of the actual wormhole, it acts as a kind of buffer between our dimension and the subspace reality through which the wormhole travels. It also acts as a kind of “waiting room” for matter about to enter the wormhole. One can place parts of objects into the event horizon and remove them without any ill effect. Entering the event horizon is not entering the wormhole. Basically, the “other side” of the event horizon, the “waiting room,” is a one-dimensional space in which matter exists “between” the event horizon and the wormhole. You can, for example, place your hand through the event horizon, entering this one-dimensional waiting room. You can then remove it, and suffer no ill effects. If, however, more than fifty percent of an object’s mass passes through the event horizon, the event horizon actually pulls that object in. Once the entirety of an object’s mass is through the event horizon, it is shunted into the wormhole and transferred to the other end of the wormhole (and the accompanying opposite event horizon). The event horizon can accomplish some interesting feats, such as the phenomenon of “shovelling” into a Stargate. On several Goa’uld-occupied worlds, naquadah ore is delivered by human slaves who pick up a shovel-load of ore, place it in the event horizon, dump the ore, and pull the shovel back out. In this instance, the ore — once dropped from the shovel’s basket — is translated into the wormhole and sent to its destination. The shovel, which never left the event horizon, is pulled back out to claim another load.
Another example can be found when part of an object is in the event horizon when the Stargate disengages. As happened to Major Kawalsky after his infection by a juvenile Goa’uld, the matter existing within the event horizon is destroyed as the Stargate is disengaged and the wormhole and accompanying event horizon collapses. This appears to violate the Law of Conservation of Matter, which states that matter cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in phase and potentially converted into energy. So far, I have yet to find a way to explain where the destroyed matter goes, or how it would be converted to energy, or into what type. The only available solution is to say it is destroyed, and keep looking for a theory that adequately meshes with both the known scientific law and observed fact.
A third interesting observation about the event horizon entails its ability to send part of an object through the wormhole to the destination, so that the object exists on both sides of the Stargate — a clear violation of the “all or nothing” policy the Stargate generally seems to operate under. It is, as yet, unclear under which conditions this can happen. I’ve only seen it once, when Teal’c used a rope to climb “up” through a horizontal destination gate, but clearly, the phenomenon exists.
The Back of the Stargate
What we perceive as the “back” of the event horizon is, in simplest terms, not actually there. The actual “back” of the event horizon doesn’t exist in our multi-dimensional space-time, but in the one-dimensional subspace field that connects the event horizon to the wormhole proper. What we see when we look at the rear of an active Stargate is simply a visual representation of the subspace “fracturing” of our multi-dimensional reality as it is compressed by the event horizon into the one-dimensional subspace “waiting room,” mentioned above. Gen. O’Neill has asked me a few times why we can’t go in the back of the Stargate. Simply put, we can’t enter the back of the Stargate because it doesn’t have one. We can only enter the wormhole through the event horizon, and we can only enter the event horizon through the front of the Stargate, as that is the only part of the event horizon that actually exists in our reality as we perceive it.
The wormhole is the actual guts of Stargate travel, the thing that transports you nearly instantly from one point to another light-years away, automatically matching relative velocities. Keep in mind that even though to us the Stargate is a stationary object, it rests on a planet that rotates at nine hundred miles an hour, and orbits the sun at around nineteen miles a second. The sun itself moves at nearly one million miles a day, and the galaxy itself, or at least the part we’re in, spins at almost forty thousand miles an hour. When you compare all these different velocities and directions of movement, it’s quite a wonder that we don’t go flying off the planet we step through to at a truly obscene rate of speed. The only vector and velocity the gate takes into account is subjective speed and direction of movement. If you walk straight into the gate at an average walking speed of 6 kilometres per hour, you’ll exit the gate on the opposite side going straight ahead and travelling at 6 kilometres per hour, relative to that Stargate. This is something you can use to your advantage, since speed is a constant through the wormhole to the other side. An object neither gains nor loses momentum from entering one event horizon to exiting the other. The wormhole works by breaking down matter into patterns of energy, and sending that energy along a matter stream that’s conducted via subspace. Exactly how that works is still a mystery to human science. When we understand how it works, we’ll probably be able to build our own Stargates. Matter can only travel one way through a wormhole, if it tries going “against the flow,” the matter is destroyed. I believe that the matter stream is directional, flowing from point to point like lightning. An energy pattern travelling the wrong way is smashed and disintegrated by the matter stream going against it.
Despite this, some kinds of energy, such as low-frequency radio waves, can be translated backwards through a wormhole. Heat energy, radiation, and even gravity can all be translated through an outgoing wormhole from the destination gate. This means that some worlds, such as P3W-451, are inherently dangerous to dial. P3W-451 was destroyed (or will be destroyed, depending on your frame of reference) by a black hole. Any gate dialling that gate will have the gravity waves translated back through the open wormhole, experiencing all the various negative effects: extreme gravity, time dilation, etc.
Once through the event horizon, a traveller is shunted through the wormhole, into the event horizon of the destination gate, where the energy pattern is reconverted to matter in the one-dimensional space of the “waiting room.” Once reintegrated, the traveller exits the event horizon at the same relative velocity and trajectory as he entered the origin event horizon. The part of the Stargate that is, in essence, a crystalline supercomputer receives the energy pattern transmission. This transmission includes the instructions for properly reintegrating the energy patterns into matter as they pass out of the wormhole and into the event horizon. Theoretically, it is possible for this computer to fail, and for the energy patterns to be reintegrated into matter in an incorrect way. The consequences of this failure range from the embarrassing to the grotesquely painful to the horrifically fatal. So far, there is no way to safeguard against such malfunctions; one can only trust the Ancients and pray.
Each Stargate contains a buffer, a sort of “hard drive” where it stores the energy patterns of all the travellers. This buffer is overwritten every time a new wormhole is established, preparing it for the massive amount of data required to successfully disintegrate and reintegrate matter, thumbing its crystalline nose at Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. As far as we know, the buffer has no upper limit as to the amount of data that can be written on it, and thus there is no practical upper limit as to the amount of matter that can be translated through a wormhole at one time. Bear in mind, however, that the practical upper limits have yet to be tested. In all likelihood, we will be limited more by the physical size of the gate itself, rather than the size of the buffer.
The “Rough Ride”
When we first activated the Stargate, travellers experienced what came to be known as the “Rough Ride,” an extremely disorienting, chilling, nauseating sensation. The reason for this was improperly locked wormhole coordinates. Stellar drift caused the planets’ locations to change, and thus render the locations of the points that defined their position in space according to the addresses unusable. Between Earth and Abydos, relatively close to each other, the Stargates could still lock on to each other, though the lock was imperfect. The wormhole had to “stretch” from its intended exit point to reach a Stargate, causing a number of effects. One of the most common was an added momentum to objects going through the gate; one would enter a wormhole from the origin side at a slow walk, and exit the destination side at a brisk run. Additional side effects were a severe drop in the body’s surface temperature, so severe it would cause frost to form on the person’s cheeks. Headaches, dizziness, and nausea were also common. The new dialling program compensates for stellar drift by adding a “bending” calculation to the address system. In essence, the program takes the symbols that designate the target world, and tells the Stargate to “bend” the meeting point to get a lock on the world’s actual location. This not only revises the coordinates to prevent the “Rough Ride” between Earth and Abydos, but it allows us to get flawless locks on other planets. Most of the time. If you do experience a “Rough Ride,” somewhere, went wrong with the calculation, and the wormhole had to “stretch” to lock onto the Stargate. In the next part of this paper, I’ll discuss a few other points of interest regarding gate travel, its effects, and things to look out for.
Moving a Stargate
A Stargate does not need to be in a specific place to function. In fact, it can operate over a vast distance. Considering that the Earth orbits at one AU (about 100,000 miles) from the sun, Earths orbit alone caries it over a nearly 200,000 mile differential from one point to another over the course of a year. Add that to the fact that we’ve had Stargates activate while in orbit above a planet or in a moving spacecraft, and it becomes clear that the wormhole can lock onto a gate over a relatively vast area of space. At this time, it’s unknown how far a gate must be carried before it can no longer lock on to its co-ordinates, but I assume a differential of 3 AUs is required. Also, a Stargate need not be on the planet it was built for to function. The gate on board Apophis’ ship was able to establish a wormhole to another planet from Earth’s orbit, and Earth itself has had two different Stargates on it for several thousand years. The tricky part is being able to chart a new point of origin, or force the gate to use an existing one. The latter is much easier; the Stargate will lock onto the point of origin it is at if one hits the normal POO symbol on the DHD. For example, the POO symbol for the planet where Apophis’ ships rallied is not the same as the POO for Earth, yet the gate aboard Apophis’ ship locked onto Earth’s POO when Dr. Jackson punched in the gates regular POO. In the former case, one must actually go into the DHD’s programming and tell it to alter its POO symbol from the previous location to the new one. This would be done if you were, say, moving a Stargate from a world to a world previously without a Stargate.
The Iris is Earth’s defensive measure against incoming attacks through the Stargate. The iris in its current form is a trinium-reinforced titanium shutter that irises closed over the Stargate. When closed, the iris rests three microns above the event horizon, so close that matter is not allowed to reintegrate. Essentially, anything travelling through the gate and striking the iris has its molecules squashed against the barrier. This is, of course, a drastic oversimplification, but it gets the point across. The iris, as mentioned before, prevents matter from reintegrating, but it won’t impede the progress of energy waves, subatomic particles, etc. Radio waves, gravity waves, radiation, energy weapon blasts, and the like can reintegrate, but the iris is structurally strong enough to withstand most attacks. The iris won’t affect the formation of an incoming wormhole, but it will stop the formation of the unstable proto-wormhole (“The ‘Flush”.) The reason for this remains unknown. There are other barriers which can operate like an Iris. Molten rock covering an active Stargate can create the same effect, as could Goa’uld and Ancient force-fields.
A wormhole is essentially an energized tunnel travelling through subspace. An analogy for this is a lightning strike. Lightning occurs when static electricity of one charge builds up in a cloud, and a source of static electricity of the opposite charge drifts close enough. The oppositely charged electrons attract each other, and the electrons that have built up in the cloud stream down to the oppositely charged electrons in the object. A wormhole functions in a similar manner. The matter stream is attracted to the destination gate by opposite electrical charges. The wormhole then follows the path of least resistance to arrive at the destination. As such, a sufficient overload of power can cause the matter stream to jump to an alternate location. This appears to be one of the gate network’s many safety protocols. The electrical charge sufficient to cause the wormhole to jump by its very nature causes instabilities in the ability of both gates to maintain functional wormholes. Since the only gate that matters in this equation is the destination gate, the Stargate network decides to “jump” the wormhole to the nearest viable gate. As Gen. O’Neill and I painfully found out, on a world with two Stargates, this would be the non-Primary gate. On worlds with only one Stargate, the wormhole will jump to the nearest planet with a Stargate. The farther away the world is, the less likely the wormhole is to jump there. Many other factors can affect to which world a wormhole will jump. Most seem to rely on when during transit the energy surge that caused the wormhole to jump occurred. The energy surge also seems to affect several other variables within the wormhole. One of the most noticeable is velocity. An energy surge of this magnitude increases the velocity of travelling objects by a varying degree. In the first encounter with such a surge, Dr. Daniel Jackson exited the wormhole so fast that he didn’t even remember hitting the ramp. Gen. O’Neill and Dr. Carter likewise thrust forcefully out of the event horizon, so hard that Gen. O’Neill broke a leg and a few ribs.
A stable wormhole cannot be maintained longer than 38 minutes. This is because the Stargates cannot store enough energy to maintain the wormhole’s integrity for any longer than that. (When one considers the astronomical amount of energy required to open and maintain a stable wormhole, it’s amazing the Stargates can keep them open for that long.) When the Stargate begins to run out of energy, the wormhole begins to destabilize. As a safety precaution, the gate shuts down rather than allow others to risk themselves travelling through an unstable wormhole. During the crisis on P3W-451, it was my considered opinion that the Stargate was drawing power directly from the black hole. A Tok’ra, Mapep, that this is impossible. According to everything he’s learned about the Stargate, it is not possible for the gate to draw energy directly from its environment. It is his contention that the time dilation was such that, even though our gate had passed the 38 minute window, the gate on P3W-451 hadn’t. The time dilation could have been so severe that the gate on P3W-451 could have had days, months, or even years left on its “38 minute” window, relatively speaking. NOTE: It appears a gate can draw energy from outside sources, as happened on the Waterworld the Russians reached with their Stargate. The energized “water” managed to power the Stargate for days, and could probably have powered it indefinitely. It is Mapep’s opinion, however, that the energy needed to be deliberately conducted into the Stargate; he still maintains that the Stargate cannot simply draw on an energized environment, no matter how energized it might be. I have to admit, given the naquadah bomb test on the Waterworld; his theory does hold water (no pun intended).
Hawking radiation, named after the man who theorized it, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, is based on a rather straightforward theory, which states that there are constantly pairs of virtual particles being created and destroyed constantly throughout the universe. We never notice them because they destroy each other with exactly the same amount of energy required to create the next pair. As such, the net effect of their existence is zero. Hawking radiation would occur near any event horizon, such as the event horizon formed by a Stargate. There is a chance, due to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, that one of these two virtual particles would be sucked through the event horizon, leaving its partner to ricochet around the environment with astronomical amounts of energy behind it. As near as we can figure out, the Ancients incorporated into the gate a field to repulse these virtual particles, keeping them from entering the event horizon, and maintaining their reaction. Or course, it is possible the Dr. Hawking is wrong, but I’m certainly not going to be the one to say it.
The DHD, short for “Dial Home Device,” is the Stargate’s primary control mechanism as well as its main power source. The DHD functions on a very simple principle: punch in the symbols of the address you wish to dial, depress the central control crystal (“Big Red Button”) and the gate becomes active. In practice, however, this can become a difficult, if not virtually impossible, feat under the wrong circumstances. The DHD is both the control computer and power source for the Stargate. Without an active DHD, dialling out becomes problematic at best. The DHD may be incapacitated in a number of ways. If the master control crystal (“Big Red Button”) is damaged or destroyed, the DHD will cease to function. Though the power crystal may still be intact in this case, destruction of the control crystal effectively shuts down the DHD to prevent catastrophic power overloads. Coaxing power out of a DHD in this state is difficult at best. Alternatively, the power crystal of the DHD may be damaged or drained. In this case, if one could supply power to the DHD, one could dial out as normal. While the DHD is a flexible piece of technology, it can be damaged in other ways. Keys could be broken or missing, secondary control crystals could be damaged or destroyed, the linkages from the DHD to the gate could be severed or missing; any number of things could make an otherwise functional-looking DHD nothing more than a fancy paperweight.
On worlds with multiple Stargates, one gate will always be the Primary gate, through which all traffic returns. This is generally the gate that receives the most use. However, a gate with a DHD always trumps a gate not attached to a DHD, regardless of the traffic each gate receives. If both gates are attached to DHDs, then the Stargate Network routes wormholes to the gate with the most traffic. It is also theorized that a gate actually on the planet always trumps an orbital gate, no matter what the orbital gate has attached to it.
Alternative Dialling Methods
When the DHD is broken, unusable, or missing, there are other options to dial the Stargate. Probably the easiest is manual dialling, though it is fraught with its own complications. In order to manually dial the gate, first the naquadah in the Stargate needs to be charged with enough energy to open a stable wormhole. Only then will the inner ring unlock and rotate freely. This is a safety measure. If the Stargate were activated without enough energy, unstable wormholes could form. The effects of unstable wormholes can only be speculated, but it’s highly doubtful they would be pleasant. Once the inner ring begins to rotate, it’s simply a matter of manually turning the ring (a great feat of strength, but possible) until the appropriate symbol is in the appropriate chevron. Once the ring stops moving, the symbols will automatically lock in sequence. It’s important to keep the ring moving, to avoid accidental misdials. Once the seventh chevron is locked, the wormhole opens as normal. Also, if one has the necessary equipment, one can construct a DHD not unlike the dialling computer the SGC uses. This is, sadly, beyond the capabilities of most laptop computers, but a high-end model should be able to handle at least a low-grade dialling program. Of course, this is still contingent on the gate having enough power to open the wormhole and one being able to interface the Stargate with the laptop.