Scientists create ‘baby’ wormhole as science fiction approaches fact

Scientists create ‘baby’ wormhole as science fiction approaches fact

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In science fiction — think movies and TV like Interstellar and Star Trek — wormholes in space serve as portals through space and time for spacecraft to traverse unimaginable distances with ease. If only it were that simple.

Scientists have long sought a deeper understanding of wormholes, and now they appear to be making progress. Researchers announced Wednesday that they forged two miniature simulated black holes — those extremely dense celestial objects with gravity so powerful that even light can’t escape — into a quantum computer and relayed a message between them through what amounts to a tunnel in space-time.

It was a “baby hole,” according to Caltech physicist Maria Spiropoulou, co-author of the study published in the journal Nature. But scientists are far from being able to send humans or other living things through such a portal, she said.

“Experimentally, for me, I’ll tell you, it’s very, very far. People come up to me and ask me, ‘Can you let your dog down the wormhole?’ So no,” Spiropoulou told reporters during a video briefing. “It’s a huge leap.”

“There’s a difference between something being possible in principle and being possible in reality,” added physicist and study co-author Joseph Liken of Fermilab, the US particle physics laboratory and accelerator. “So don’t hold your breath to send your dog through the wormhole. But you have to start somewhere. And I think it’s just exciting to me that we can even get our hands on it.”

Researchers observe wormhole dynamics on a quantum device at Alphabet’s Google called the Sycamore quantum processor.

A wormhole – a rift in space and time – is thought to be a bridge between two distant regions of the universe. Scientists call them Einstein-Rosen bridges after the two physicists who described them – Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen.

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.

Spiropoulou said the researchers discovered a quantum system that exhibits key properties of a gravitational wormhole, but is small enough to be implemented on top of existing quantum hardware.

“Looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck. That’s what we can say at this stage — that we have something that, in terms of the properties we’re looking at, looks like a wormhole,” Lyken said.

The researchers said that no space-time rift was created in physical space in the experiment, although a traversable wormhole appeared to appear based on quantum information teleported using the quantum processor’s quantum codes.

“These ideas have been around for a long time, and they’re very powerful ideas,” Liken said.

“But at the end of the day, we’re in experimental science, and we’ve been struggling for a very long time to find a way to explore these ideas in the lab.” And that’s what’s really exciting about it. It’s not just “Well, wormholes are cool.” It’s a way to actually look at these very fundamental problems of our universe in a laboratory setting.

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