It’s a science fiction mainstay, it’s tiny and doesn’t exist in physical space, but researchers say they’ve created what is theoretically a wormhole.
Researchers have announced they have simulated two tiny black holes in a quantum computer and transmitted a message between them through a tunnel in spacetime.
They said a traversable wormhole appeared to have formed based on the teleported quantum information, but that no physical rupture of space and time was created in the experiment, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
A wormhole – a breach in space and time – is thought to be a bridge between two distant regions in the universe. Scientists refer to them as Einstein-Rosen bridges after the two physicists who described them: Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen.
“It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck. So that’s what we can say at this point – that we have what looks like a wormhole in terms of the properties we’re looking at,” said physicist and study co-author Joseph Lykken of Fermilab, America’s particle physics and accelerator laboratory .
Caltech physicist Maria Spiropulu, a co-author of the research, described it as having a “baby wormhole” and now hopes to create “step-by-step wormholes for adults and toddlers.” The wormhole dynamics were observed on a quantum device at Google called the Sycamore quantum processor.
Experts not involved in the experiment warned that it was important to point out that no physical wormhole had actually been created, but pointed to the possibilities in the future.
Daniel Harlow, physicist at MIT, said the New York Times The experiment was based on modeling so simple it could just as easily be studied with pencil and paper.
“I would say that doesn’t teach us anything about quantum gravity that we didn’t already know,” Harlow wrote. “On the other hand, I find it exciting as a technical achievement, because if we can’t even do that (and we haven’t been able to do that before), then simulating more interesting quantum gravity theories would certainly be off the table.”
The study authors themselves made it clear that scientists are still a long way from being able to send people or other living beings through such a portal.
“Experimentally, for me, I’ll tell you it’s very, very far away. People come up to me and ask me, ‘Can you put your dog in the wormhole?’ So no,” Spiropulu told reporters during a video briefing. “… That’s a giant leap.”
Lykken added: “There is a difference between something that is possible in principle and something that is possible in reality.
“So don’t hold your breath when you send your dog through the wormhole. But you have to start somewhere. And I just think it’s exciting that we’re even getting our hands on this.
Such wormholes are consistent with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which focuses on gravity, one of the fundamental forces in the universe. The term “wormhole” was coined by physicist John Wheeler in the 1950s.
“These ideas have been around for a long time and they are very strong ideas,” Lykken said. “But at the end of the day, we’re in experimental science and we’ve been struggling for a very long time now to find a way to study these ideas in the lab. And that’s what’s really exciting about it. It’s not just “Well, wormholes are cool”. This is a way to actually look at these very fundamental problems of our universe in a laboratory setting.”