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#157 - Ghina Halabi - Wormholes

This week on the Podcast we talk to Ghina Halabi about her journey in astrophysics and storytelling in science. Astronaut of the week Jan Davis. We also talk about detecting wormholes, the return of X37B, Space Selfie madness, Solar Orbiter news and Apollo street names.




Ghina Halabi BSci MSci PhD

Ghina Halabi is an explorer of the cosmic and the earthly, a Space Scientist at University of Cambridge, Programme Director at Cambridge Judge Business School's Entrepreneurship Centre, and public speaker.

Being the first person to obtain a doctorate in astrophysics from a Lebanese university fuels her gender advocacy work and duty as role model.. As founder and managing editor of Scheherazade Speaks Science, She is helping make science accessible and women in STEM more visible, one story at a time.




“A mathematician makes plans to travel backwards in time through a wormhole to a parallel universe when he can't even make it to Mars with the fastest rocket on hand today.”



Come see us at the spacestore in oxford for podcast 158 live artemis special.


Happy 66th Birthday 1953 – Jan Davis - Astronaut of the week.


Former astronaut on three Space Shuttle missions, engineer, NASA executive, industry VP, Girl Scout troop leader, first quilter and ice skater in space

Jan Davis earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Auburn, a bachelor's degree in applied biology in biomechanics from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and master's and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.


A Texaco Engineer who left to work for Marshall space centre to become an Aerospace engineer.


  • In 1986, she was named as a team leader in the Structural Analysis Division

  • was responsible for the structural analysis and verification of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the HST maintenance mission, and the Advanced X-Ray Astrophysics Facility.

  • In 1987, she was also assigned to be the lead engineer for the redesign of the solid rocket booster external tank attach ring. Challenger Disaster

  • Davis did her graduate research at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, studying the long-term strength of pressure vessels due to the viscoelastic characteristics of filament-wound composites.

  • She holds one patent, has authored several technical papers and is a Registered Professional Engineer.

  • Davis became an astronaut in June 1987. Her first assignment was in the Astronaut Office Mission Development Branch, where she provided technical support for Space shuttle payloads.

  • Davis was a CAPCOM in Mission Control, responsible for communicating with Shuttle crews for seven missions

STS-47 Endeavour, Spacelab-J, was the 50th Space Shuttle mission September 12, 1992

  • Davis's then-husband Mark C. Lee was payload commander

  • responsible for operating Spacelab and its subsystems and performing a variety of experiments

STS-60 Discovery First Mir flight and the second flight of Spacehab (Space Habitation Module) Launched on February 3, 1994,

  • first Space Shuttle flight on which a Russian cosmonaut was a crew member.

  • responsible for performing scientific experiments

STS-85 Discovery August 7, 1997

  • Davis was the payload commander.

  • Davis deployed and retrieved the CRISTA-SPAS payload, and operated the Japanese Manipulator Flight Demonstration (MFD) robotic arm

  • Davis was assigned to NASA Headquarters as the Director of the Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS), Independent Assurance Office for the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance.

In July 1999, she transferred to the Marshall Space Flight Center as Director of the Flight Projects Directorate, which was responsible for the International Space Station (ISS) Payload Operations Center, ISS hardware and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Program.

  • After the Columbia accident, she was named head of Safety and Mission Assurance at Marshall, where she assured the safe return to flight of the Space Shuttle.

  • Davis retired from NASA in 2005, and worked for Jacobs Engineering Group as a Vice President and Deputy General Manager.

  • She currently works for Bastion Technologies, Inc. as the Safety and Mission Assurance Support Contract Program Manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

The Return of the X-37B;


The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility Oct. 27, 2019. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force)

Touch down at Kennedy Space Centre, the small, possibly evil, baby child of the space shuttle, returns after almost 780 days in space, a record of sorts.

This is the fifth and longest mission, we covered the launch way back in May 2017 as it launched on a Falcon 9 a real coup for SpaceX at the time. And makes the mission notable as the whole launch was reusable, but the second stage of the falcon and the fairings.

But what was it up to? Well, massive alarm bells here. It looks like the USA have severely damaged a treaty of declaring satellite deployment. (United Nations Registration Convention) as Jonathan McDowell pointed out immediately on Twitter.

Randy Walden, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office director said that as well as carrying out a load of onboard experiments, the X-37B was a rideshare for smallsats!

The cargo bay is nothing like the Hubble Telescope accommodating bay of the shuttle and is more like the size of an estate vehicle like the mighty Rover 75 Tourer. And probably hosts experimental sensor technology for the airforce.

But as the militarization of space continues this is certainly part of the equation, a quick response nimble vehicle that is capable of multiple orbit positions and latitudes etc.


How to detect a wormhole

How would you go about detecting if you had found a wormhole? Well, Dejan Stokovic and De-Chang Dai at the University of Buffalo and Yangzhou University think they have found a method.


Essentially object this side of a wormhole should feel forces like gravity from object on the other side of the wormhole, so if you had a giant star orbiting near the mouth of the black hole it’s gravitational perturbations should be felt the other side of the wormhole and could possibly be detected by looking at an object that could potentially be affected by such a gravitational perturbation. As the paper puts, If the wormhole is traversable, then the flux (scalar, electromagnetic, or gravitational) can be conserved only in the totality of these two spaces, not individually in each separate space.

Guess what there is a star called S2, about 15 times bigger than the sun, that is orbiting Sgr A* and its orbit takes it within about 120AU of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. This might mean if we can measure this star’s motion accurately enough we could use it to detect objects the other side of sgr A* if indeed it turns out it is a wormhole connecting the centre of our galaxy to another region in space-time. Sgr A* is about 4 million times the mass of the Sun, but the event horizon is only a diameter of about 7.9 million miles, making it only about 6 times bigger than the sun.

The researches predict that the equipment and sensors may be sensitive enough in about a couple of decades!!! Of course, it can’t prove it as something else may be going on but anything that could hint at something so fantastical could be mind-blowing.

This is not the only time a wormhole detecting method has been devised, Cramer et al suggested in 1995 that you could use the detection of negative energy, what is required to keep the throat open, to find these highly theoretical objects. The negative gravitational lensing of light would be strange in a wormhole and you would see two spikes of light and a dip in the middle as the wormhole transitted a star in the background.

Anyway even if we find that sgr A* is a wormhole t may not be traversable so don’t expect alien spaceships to come blasting through, but at any rate phenomena of gravitational effect from another space-time would be insanely interesting as if sgr A* isn’t interesting and complicated enough.


The Samsung Selfie Space Stunt

You can fly your selfie into space as part of a Samsung competition, displayed on a Samsung S10 5G. “Our ethos is Do What You Can’t and the Samsung SpaceSelfie is just that. We continually break the boundaries of what is possible with innovation and tonight’s SpaceSelfie launch is no different.”

Nancy Mumby-Welke of Michigan was startled to find a satellite looking device crashed on her farm after it had carried a Cara Delevingne selfie into space. It was a high altitude balloon, with a mock satellite attached. Apparently Samsung planned to land it round about there and was sorry for any inconvenience.


I saw Solaris, it was excellent, surprisingly funny and well-staged, so get down you still have a few days.


Engineers at the IABG test centre near Munich, Germany have completed their rigorous testing of ESA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft in preparation for launch early next year. The spacecraft is due to be packed into an Antonov cargo plane on 31 October for shipping to Florida. Launch on an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, is planned for February 2020.

Equipped with a suite of ten instruments, Solar Orbiter will capture the closest-ever pictures of our star, the first images of its poles, and make detailed observations of solar activity. Its specially designed heatshield is capable of enduring temperatures of more than 500 degrees Celsius.


A chat we had on the Discord this week is housing estates with apollo themes.

So I found one in my county of Devon in Exeter, and there is an Armstrong road, Aldrin Way and a Collins Street etc, but to our horror, we found many other places around the world, had chosen to ignore Collins!!! Despite having orbit way or Apollo street ….so let us know if you know any such situation near you and whether they include collins or not … an angry letter to your local MP required.

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