The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

I'm busy cutting some slices of bread when Ed pops his head into the kitchen. "Do you know what an Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen bridge is?"

"Uh-oh," I observe, putting them in the toaster.

"Harsh," says Ed, the man the light from whose greatest mistakes will not reach Earth for another two million years. What a day that was.

"All right. Yes I do. Where is it, where does it lead, and how can we safely dispose of it without endangering the universe?"

"Come and have a look."

"I'll come down when I've made my omelette," I reply, whisking the eggy mixture one last time and pouring them into the frying pan. Ed leaves.

Ten minutes later I descend into the basement, fork in one hand, food in the other. Ed is standing next to what appears to be a medium-sized red plastic hula-hoop. It is mounted in a large set of metal circles allowing it to rotate in all planes. It is also surrounded with black and yellow tape at a distance of roughly four feet - arm's length.

"That's it?"

"This is it," says Ed. I'm tempted to ask where the machinery is, but knowing him it's probably in Palo Alto, or squeezed into a small side-universe parallel to this one.

"Where does it go?"

"Well, unfortunately, it can't go anywhere yet. There needs to be a receiver device, which I haven't built yet. It's like the first telephone - useless until you invent the second one. However, what I can do is make it lead to itself, sometime in the future. Ten seconds into the future, to be precise."

"Hmm. Cool. Why is it cordoned off?"

Ed switches the thing on and the surface turns pitch black. "It basically functions like a trapdoor ten seconds forwards in time. Nothing can come back the other way - that would result in an effect preceding a cause, which would cause the universe as we know it to cease to exist, with potentially devastating consequences. So from this side of the wormhole, it will always appear pitch black, because no photons can come through from the other side, dig? The reason it's cordoned off is in case you stick your finger through. Nothing comes back. Not even the electromagnetic forces which hold molecules together in solids. You stick your finger through, you pull it back, you've lost your finger. Ten seconds later, if you're quick, you can catch your severed finger in a bucket of ice as it reappears at the far end."

"What if you jumped through really quick?" I ask, taking a bite of toast.

"Blood flow in half of the veins and arteries in your body would be momentarily forced to stop, you might end up misshapen or missing a limb or with transcription errors a la Timeline, so even if you did survive, it'd probably be like a hammerblow through your entire body. But worse than that, nerve impulses and synapse firings in your brain would all be momentarily stopped as your head passes the wormhole terminus. I'm not a brain specialist-"

No kidding, I think, mouth full.

"-but I think it would probably kill you."

"Comforting to know. Well, more comforting than not knowing it could kill you," I remark pointedly.

"Oh, come on. I told you, that wasn't my fault. Those Haitians sold me impure palladium. Anyway. We've had this argument. Watch the tennis ball," says Ed, throwing a ball through the portal. It flies into the blackness and vanishes.

We go around to the other side. "At the other side of the hoop, we can see everything that was happening on the far side of the hoop ten seconds ago. Sound, being a longitudinal pressure wave, doesn't come through very well, but light seems to work okay," says Ed, as the Ed on the other side says something to the Sam on the other side, picks up a tennis ball, and throws it through. I catch it. It's the strangest experience. Like catching a ball that flew out of your television.

"Funky," say I. "And the applications?"

"Well, there's one I thought of. Nothing passes through in the opposite direction, right? Including gravitons. Gravity can't penetrate the wormhole. It's not very obvious when the ring is vertical, but..." Ed manipulates a remote control and turns the hoop horizontally, so the wormhole leads downwards. "This way, it's easier to see. The way to think about it is as if the whole Earth was glowing white, and the ring is your only shadow. So you can see there's a small cone-shaped area above the wormhole which is in gravity shadow. Zero gravity." He demonstrates, picking up the ball with a long set of tongs and gently placing the tennis ball in mid-air over the middle of the hoop. It stays there, rotating gently in mid-air. "So you see, we could make huge rooms that are completely weightless just by constructing a big ring wormhole underneath. The gravity even becomes smoothly stronger towards the edge. Funky indeed."

"But also astoundingly dangerous."

"That's what you say about everything," counters Ed. "There was one other cool application I thought of. In fact, this was why I started building it in the first place. Imagine you had like twenty of these rings, and you stacked them up into a cylinder, and then you turned it horizontally. What have you got?"

"Uh... a portal two hundred seconds into the future?"

Ed glares at me. "No... I can change the time displacement to anything I want, actually. Keep guessing."

"Oh come on, man, I can't see into your mind. Stop-motion photography? A way of temporarily storing really long things in a really short space? Ooh! You set the timer for a few months and you've got a way to keep your kids from opening their Christmas presents ahead of time!"

"No! Think about it! You put something inside the cylinder of wormholes, turn them on for a fraction of a second, turn them off again... what have you got?"

"...The world's most ludicrously advanced bread-slicer?"

Ed grins the enthusiastic grin of the irretrievably insane.

Next: Be Here Now

Discussion (9)

2013-11-27 01:28:44 by MichaelSzegedy:

What's always bothered me about this one is that wouldn't sticking a network solid through cause the atoms to immediately dissociate and therefore come out on the other side as some kind of ionized gas? I can buy sticking something as small as a proton through, maybe even a nucleus, but if you're sticking something macroscopic through, that has molecular bonds in it held together by electrons or photons (depending on whether it's covalent or ionic). As the portal passes between the molecular bond, then bonding electrons can't pass through, or the electrostatic field that keeps the ionic material together can't pass back through, like with gravity. The atoms would separate as they come over to the next side. And that's not even considering thermal noise. At best this portal is only useful to make an ionized gas out of a covalently bonded material, at worst (if it's not even quantized enough to let nuclei through properly) it's a portable nuke.

2014-07-12 06:16:16 by SubIgnition:

I figure if it's powered by a household outlet the portal ought to have a comparatively slow frequency, say, tens to hundreds of times per second. I'm imagining it more like a camcorder than a constant field, though.

2016-04-05 00:44:19 by Evonix:

What about nuculi? Wouldn't it emit constant gamma radiation?

2016-04-25 00:30:32 by @Evonix:

You mean nuclei?

2016-05-26 14:58:12 by Eragon:

I'm thinking that even though the forces holding things together wouldn't propagate backwards through the portal, they would still have an effect in the same plane. This means at worst you would end up with lots and lots of very thin slices of things going through, while at best it would probably come back out the same as it went in. Assuming, which I am, that the field is slightly fuzzy and represents a wave function, its possible that the ball could go through in chunks rather than infinitely thin slices. If the border is not well defined, there is a possibility that it will allow the whole ball through at once if, say, SubIgnition's theory is correct and it toggles a few hundred times per second. Something small enough would be able to go through just fine. Even worst case, all those components would have charge and quickly have a matching opposite charged object following them instantly afterwords. You have to remember that every particle going through would have momentum and would be moving as though there were no portal to begin with. Just now, I just realized there could be an even bigger problem. If the ball does get thinly sliced then it would stop almost instantly on exiting the portal due to air resistance. This wouldn't just be a nuke, it would be a portable fusion device as the new parts of the ball coming through appear in the same space as the previous pieces! I had a point and lost it somewhere along the way :/

2017-03-10 14:04:06 by Dr. T:

Molecules of the air in random motion would hit the portal and pass it, but could not return. This would reduce the pressure in front of the portal, resulting in a constant wind towards it. As no molecules at all can return through the portal, the effect would be equivalent to a portal-sized door into open space. Without doing any calculations: The wind would be brutally strong. At the moment of opening the portal, the molecules appearing at the other side of the portal at an effective overpressure of 1 atm would create a strong shockfront. Also the overpressure would push the portal forward, towards the poor fools standing in front of it.

2017-06-15 21:32:26 by IMADV8:

Stories like this are the best kind of sci fi: the detailed examination of an impossible premise, and exploration of all sorts of interesting implications that stem from it.

2018-12-10 22:11:32 by Eragon:

Same Eragon as above, would like to, now that I have a little bit more knowledge of how molecular forces work thanks to gen-chem in uni, retract my entire previous comment as utter crap. Carry on.

2019-08-09 00:13:27 by Minutemen:

So what if I threw the ball into the other side? Wouldn't the ball spontaneously come out of the recieving end before I even thought about throwing it in, at which point I'd throw the ball into the non-receiving side, and it would be gone forever? My head...

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