This little 2D wormhole could finally solve physics’ biggest problem

A group of physicists have just built a tiny model of a wormhole on a quantum computer and sent a qubit – a unit of quantum information – into it.

It’s a small step, but it could be the first step not only towards teleportation, but also towards resolving the differences between the two fundamental sets of laws that govern our universe. The physicists published their results in the journal Nature.

What’s new – CalTech physicist Maria Spriopulu and her colleagues have built a very small and very simple quantum physics system on a quantum computer chip. They added a data qubit to one part of the system, and then they saw their data qubit emerge from a completely different part of the system, which had been quantum entangled with the first part.

“It moves quantum information onto the chip, but it’s a shortcut that it creates itself,” said Fermilab physicist Jospeh Lykken, co-author of the paper, during a conference of hurry.

This shortcut is what physicists call “emergent space,” and it’s essentially the small two-dimensional equivalent of a wormhole: a shortcut between two points in space. If you look at the math that describes what happened on the quantum computer chip, it’s exactly the same as the math that describes a wormhole, also called an Einstein-Rosen bridge (a term Marvel Cinematic Universe fans might recognize), between two distant points in space.

“He looks like a duck, he walks like a duck, he quacks like a duck,” Lykken explains. “In terms of the properties we’re looking at, it looks like a wormhole.”

But it’s complicated.

“That doesn’t mean we created a space-time rift inside the computer,” Spiropulu said at the press conference. At least not yet.

Instead, they built a tiny system that quantum teleported a qubit of information in a way that could be described with the same set of equations physicists would use to describe something moving through a hole. worm. The tiny, short-lived quantum tunnel on the computer chip of Spriopulu and his colleagues sits at one end of a very long continuum of things that can be described with these equations, with a full-fledged wormhole traversing space. -time at the other end.

VICTOR de SCHWANBERG/SCIENTIFIC PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Here is the background – The experiment worked thanks to a link between wormhole physics and the physics behind a phenomenon that Albert Einstein described as “spooky action at a distance”, or quantum entanglement. What physicists know is that sometimes subatomic particles, like photons, form inexplicable connections even over great distances, so whatever happens to one particle also happens to the other, even if they are physically distant. And it turns out you can describe quantum entanglement using the same set of equations that describe wormholes, and vice versa.

“The physics, whether you describe it one way or another, is equivalent,” says Spiropulu.

In a 2019 paper, Harvard physicist Daniel Jafferis, also a co-author of the paper, suggested that two models of a quantum system, if entangled, should behave in a way that, on the paper, was the same as that of wormholes. And that’s exactly what happened.

“It gives us more confidence that we’re on the right track,” says Jafferis. “It’s gravity in a small universe in a box, but it’s probably strong evidence that our universe works by similar rules.”

Why is it important – This little quantum experiment could be a huge step forward for physics.

“Quantum gravity” is what physicists call this strange duality between wormholes and quantum entanglement, and it’s a rare connection between quantum mechanics – the set of rules that describe how physics works at very, very small subatomic scales – and general relativity, the set of rules that describe how things like gravity and spacetime work on the scales we’re all used to working with.

The problem is that two fundamental sets of rules describe how the universe works at different scales – general relativity and quantum mechanics – and they inherently contradict each other. Trying to reconcile the two has vexed physicists for decades and probably will vex them for decades to come.

However, Spriopulu and co-workers’ baby wormhole, as Spiropulu calls it, could be a step towards understanding it all. Their recent experiment is the first real experiment testing quantum gravity, and they say the results are encouraging.

“So far, quantum gravity ideas are only tested in the minds of quantum gravity theorists and string theorists,” says Spiropulu. “And now we have a first attempt to ground them, using today’s quantum hardware to try to demonstrate and test these ideas.”

And after – The next step is to build a slightly larger baby wormhole.

The quantum processor chip that Spriopulu and his colleagues used contained only nine qubits, so they had to find a way to make their quantum system as small and simple as possible without losing the properties they wanted to model. And that meant they couldn’t see many details of the two-dimensional baby wormhole produced by the system; they could just see that it had happened.

“We deduce the opening of a two-dimensional space bridge where the qubit can cross, and we measured it on the other side,” says Spriopulu. But a larger system will allow physicists to observe more details of quantum teleportation and the emergence of the qubit on the other side. They’re also working on ways to measure and describe the “emergent space” inside the baby’s wormhole.

Eventually, Spriopulu and his colleagues, or others, could also try to entangle two remote quantum computers and see if something similar happens. The biggest hurdle at this point is developing quantum computing hardware that can handle the most complex work.

“Tweak this technology a bit, and you could do a very similar experiment where quantum information disappeared in our lab at Harvard and reappeared in the lab at Caltech,” Lykken says. “That would be more impressive than what we’ve actually done on a single chip, but really, the physics we’re talking about here is the same either way.”

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