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In science fiction—think movies and TV like “Interstellar” and “Star Trek”—wormholes in the universe act as portals through space and time for spacecraft to easily traverse unimaginable distances. If only it were that simple.
Scientists have long sought a deeper understanding of wormholes and now seem to be making progress. Researchers announced Wednesday that they rigged two simulated mini black holes — those celestial bodies so dense with gravity so strong that not even light can escape — into a quantum computer and transmitted a message between them through what amounts to a tunnel in space-time.
It was a “mini-wormhole,” said Caltech physicist Maria Spiropolou, co-author of the paper published in Nature. She said scientists are still a long way from being able to send people or other organisms through this portal.
“Experimentally, for me, I’ll tell you it’s very, very far. People come up to me and ask, ‘Can you put your dog in a wormhole?’ So, no,” Spiropolo told reporters during a video briefing. “This is a huge leap.”
“There is a difference between something being possible in principle and possible in practice,” added physicist and study co-author Joseph Leiken of Fermilab, America’s particle physics and accelerator laboratory. “So don’t hold your breath about sending your dog through a wormhole. You’ve got to start somewhere. And I think it’s exciting to me that we’re able to get our hands on this at all.”
The researchers observed the wormhole dynamics on a quantum device at Alphabet at Google called the Sycamore Quantum Processor.
A wormhole – a rip in space and time – is a bridge between two distant regions of the universe. Scientists refer to them as the Einstein-Rosen bridges after the physicists who described them – Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen.
These wormholes are consistent with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which focuses on gravity, one of the fundamental forces in the universe. Physicist John Wheeler coined the term “wormhole” in the 1950s.
Spiropulu said the researchers found a quantum system that exhibits the key properties of a gravitational wormhole but is small enough to be applicable to current quantum devices.
“It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it squawks like a duck. That’s what we can tell at this point — that we have something that in terms of the properties we’re looking at, it looks like a wormhole,” said Lyken.
No ruptures in space and time in physical space were created in the experiment, the researchers said, although a wormhole appeared to be traversable based on quantum information teleported using quantum codes on a quantum processor.
“These ideas have been around for a long time and they are very powerful ideas,” Laikin said.
“But ultimately, we’re in experimental science, and we’ve been struggling now for a very long time with a way to explore these ideas in the lab. And that’s what’s really exciting about this. It’s not just, ‘Okay, wormholes are cool.’ This is a way of actually looking at These are very basic problems of being in a laboratory environment.”