As science fiction approaches reality, scientists are creating “baby” wormholes

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In science fiction movies and TV shows like Interstellar and Star Trek, wormholes in space provide portals to the universe to easily traverse unimaginable distances through space and time. If only it were that simple.

Scientists have a deeper understanding of wormholes and now it seems they are making progress. Researchers announced Wednesday that they had created two miniature simulated black holes — unusually dense celestial bodies with such strong gravity that not even light can escape — on a quantum computer and sent messages between them through a space-time tunnel.

It was a “baby wormhole,” said Caltech physicist Maria Spiropoulou, co-author of the study published in the journal Nature. But scientists are far from sending humans or other living beings through such portals, he said.

“I’ll tell you, it’s a long shot for me as an experiment. People come up to me and say, “Can you put your dog in a wormhole?” asks. 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 practice,” added study co-author Joseph Lykken, a physicist at Fermilab’s American Particle Physics and Accelerator Laboratory. “So don’t hold your breath trying to send your dog through the wormhole. But you have to start somewhere. And I think it’s really exciting that we’ve been able to get our hands on that.”

The researchers observed the wormhole’s dynamics on a quantum device called Alphabet’s Google’s Sycamore quantum processor.

A wormhole, or rift in space and time, is considered 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 general theory of relativity, which focuses on gravity as one of the fundamental forces in the universe. The term “wormhole” was first coined by physicist John Wheeler in the 1950s.

Spiropoulou said the researchers found a quantum system that showed the fundamental properties of a gravitational wormhole, but was small enough to be implemented in existing quantum devices.

“It looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck. So what we can say right now is that we have what looks like a wormhole in terms of the properties we’re seeing, Likken said.

Although the researchers claimed that no discontinuity of space and time occurred in physical space during the experiment, a wormhole appears to have appeared based on teleported quantum information using the quantum code on the quantum processor.

“These ideas have been around for a long time and are very powerful 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 to find ways to explore these ideas in the lab. It’s really exciting. It’s not like, ‘Well, wormholes are cool.’ It’s a way to really look at fundamental problems in a laboratory setting.”

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