It’s a mainstay of science fiction, it’s tiny and it doesn’t exist in physical space, but researchers say they’ve created what is, theoretically, a worm hole.
Researchers have announced that they simulated two miniscule black holes in a quantum computer and transmitted a message between them through what amounted to a tunnel in space-time.
They said that based on the quantum information teleported, a traversable wormhole appeared to have emerged, but that no rupture of space and time was physically created in the experiment, according to the study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
A wormhole – a rupture in space and time – is considered a bridge between two remote 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 something that in terms of the properties we look at, it looks like a wormhole,” 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 the characteristics of a “baby wormhole”, and now hopes to make “adult wormholes and toddler wormholes step-by-step”. The wormhole dynamics were observed on a quantum device at Google called the Sycamore quantum processor.
Experts who were not involved in the experiment cautioned that it was important to note that a physical wormhole had not actually been created, but noted the future possibilities.
Daniel Harlow, a physicist at MIT, told the New York Times the experiment was based on a modelling that was so simple that it could just as well have been studied using a pencil and paper.
“I’d say that this doesn’t teach us anything about quantum gravity that we didn’t already know,” Harlow wrote. “On the other hand, I think it is exciting as a technical achievement, because if we can’t even do this (and until now we couldn’t), then simulating more interesting quantum gravity theories would certainly be off the table.”
The study authors themselves made clear that scientists remain a long way from being able to send people or other living beings through such a portal.
“Experimentally, for me, I will tell you that it’s very, very far away. People come to me and they ask me, ‘Can you put your dog in the wormhole?’ So, no,” Spiropulu told reporters during a video briefing. “... That’s a huge leap.”
Lykken added: “There’s a difference between something being possible in principle and possible in reality.
“So don’t hold your breath about sending your dog through the wormhole. But you have to start somewhere. And I think to me it’s just exciting that we’re able to get our hands on this at all.“
Such wormholes are consistent with Einstein’s theory of general 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’re very powerful ideas,” Lykken said. “But in the end, we’re in experimental science, and we’ve been struggling now for a very long time to find a way to explore these ideas in the laboratory. And that’s what’s really exciting about this. 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.”