I made this compilation of so-called “hyperspace” scenes from science-fiction movies last year with my friend, the artist and businessman Mike Merrill. Although the film was initially meant to be a catalog of these scenes, the finished product has an ambient, meditative effect that speaks to the power of the very idea of the hyperspace.
The hyperspace (or, in the case of Star Trek, “warp speed”) is an enduring concept in science fiction, seemingly because it provides a panacea for all conflict. Romulans hot on your tail? Human understanding reaching its limits? Unsurmountable distances to cross? Simply kick it into overdrive, find a wormhole, and absolve yourself from the constraints of physics as we know it. In films, hyperspace has a reality-nullifying effect, and is used as either an accidental tunnel to the unknown (see 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stargate, or Contact), or as way to escape from danger via total oblivion (the aforementioned Star Trek usage). Universally, these are moments of madness, with passengers often not knowing what (or where) they will find themselves once they reach the end.
(It’s interesting to note that hyperspaces in films aren’t limited to outer space — we see them in films like Altered States, Lawnmower Man, and Freejack as wormholes into profound “inner” (or mental) space. Harebrained theory: the function is the same, because hyperspace is a concept native to the psychedelic experiences of the human mind, one that has been ported over to sci-fi because of its capacity to be understood on some lizard-brain level as being, somehow, transcendent.)
Of course, in actual science, there’s no observational evidence for such hyperspace tunnels (or wormholes), although they are valid solutions, theoretically, in general relativity. In fact, the most legitimate scientific postulation on the subject came from Albert Einstein himself, who, with his colleague Nathan Rosen, argued in 1935 that such “bridges” between areas of space could be modeled as vacuum solutions to Einstein’s famous field equations. This “Einstein-Rosen bridge” could be done by combining models of a black hole and a white hole — but the idea was later proven to be too fundamentally unstable to work, pending the existence of some kind of exotic matter (antimatter, if you will) to hold it open.
In the intervening years, a motley of wormhole-hyperspace models have popped up: wormholes held open by cosmic strings, wormholes held together by a sphere of exotic matter, Krasnikov tubes, weird circular configurations of wormholes, and wormholes as time machines. All theoretical, of course.