In a book to be published this October, physicist Paul Halpern will explain how to build and use a cosmic wormhole as an interstellar shortcut to distant parts of the universe, or to travel backward in time.

As fanciful as this sounds, many physicists say Halpern's book is not necessarily science fiction. There is indeed serious science at work here—at least on a theoretical level—they say.

Halpern, who doesn't think such devices could be found or constructed anytime soon, nonetheless would like to see them created someday.

"I really think there is some life out there. But the current space program is very restricted. There are very few options for us if the speed-of-light barrier is not broken," says Halpern, an associate professor at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science and author of the forthcoming book Cosmic Wormholes: The Search for Interstellar Shortcuts (New York, E. P. Dutton). "If...

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