Scientists have developed a quantum experiment that allows them to study the dynamics of wormholes, theoretical entities of space-time from Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity in 1915, or general relativity.
Rather than creating an actual wormhole, a rip in time and space that is theorized to bridge one distant region of space with another, the team built a wormhole model to run on a quantum processor. This allowed them to study the physics of wormholes and their potential connection to so-called “quantum gravity”.
“We have found a quantum system that exhibits the key properties of a gravitational wormhole, but is small enough to be implemented on today’s quantum hardware,” said program principal investigator Maria Spiropulu. US Department of Energy’s Quantum Communication Channels for Fundamental Physics Research (QCFP). in a report (opens in a new tab). “This work is a step towards a larger program of testing the physics of quantum gravity using a quantum computer.”
Related: What is Quantum Gravity?
Co-author Samantha Davis, a graduate student at Caltech, said in the release that it took “a very long time to arrive at the results” and the team was surprised by the result which suggests that the hole-like behavior worm can be explained. from the point of view of quantum physics and general relativity.
Spiropulu, also a Shang-Yi Ch’en professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology, added that while this new model does not replace direct quantum gravity probes, it does provide a powerful way to investigate quantum gravity ideas in the laboratory.
Einstein’s general relativity is the best description scientists have of the universe on truly massive scales, while quantum physics is the most accurate picture of the subatomic world. The problem is as robust as these two areas of physics have become since their inception in the early 20th century, they do not unite.
Indeed, there is no description of gravity on the scale of quantum physics, and gravity, on the other hand, is the primary concern of general relativity. This makes the discovery of a “quantum theory of gravity” an urgent concern for physicists and the key to a long-sought “theory of everything” in physics.
The wormhole created by the quantum team could be a step in the right direction in this quest.
Scientists have been theorizing about wormholes since 1935, when Albert Einstein took his 1915 general relativity equations and, along with Israeli-American physicist Nathan Rosen, described them as tunnels through the very fabric of the planet. space-time.
Acquiring the nickname “Einstein-Rosen bridges,” these spacetime tunnels were later named wormholes by black hole expert John Wheeler in the 1950s.
In 2013, a connection was forged between wormholes and entanglement, the element of quantum physics that suggests that two particles can be linked in such a way that changing one instantly changes the other, regardless of how far apart they are, even if they are opposite each other. sides of the universe from each other.
Physicists Juan Maldacena and Leonard Susskind linked the two disparate worlds of general relativity and quantum physics when they hypothesized that wormholes amounted to entanglement in that they both described a connection between distant regions of the universe. “It was a very bold and poetic idea,” Spiropulu said.
In 2017, the idea advanced by Maldacena and Susskind was further developed by Harvard University physicist Daniel Jafferis, co-lead author of this current research, and his colleagues.
They developed a concept in which negative repulsive energy holds a wormhole open long enough for something to pass through, creating a traversable wormhole.
The concept of a traversable wormhole was analogous to another feature of quantum physics, quantum teleportation, which uses the principles of entanglement to transport information over great distances using fiber optics or through the air.
This current research takes the potential link between wormholes and quantum teleportation and explores it in greater detail as the Caltech-led team performs the first experiments that probe the idea that information traveling from one point of space to another can be described either using the language of gravity established by general relativity or by quantum entanglement — the language of quantum physics.
Read more: The hunt for wormholes: how scientists search for space-time tunnels
The team began work by developing a baby Sachdev-Ye-Kitaev (SYK) quantum system and entangling it with another SYK system, resulting in a model built to preserve gravitational properties.
This model was then reduced to a simplified form with machine learning on conventional computers, after which scientists were able to observe wormhole-like dynamics on Google’s Sycamore quantum processor.
“We used learning techniques to find and prepare a simple SYK-like quantum system that could be encoded in current quantum architectures and would preserve gravitational properties,” Spiropulu said. “In other words, we simplified the microscopic description of the SYK quantum system and studied the resulting effective model that we found on the quantum processor.”
In the experiment, the team introduced a qubit, the basic unit of quantum computing equivalent to a standard bit in traditional computing, to one of the SYKs. They then watched the information emerge from the other SYK.
This meant that information traveled from one quantum system and emerged from another via quantum teleportation in the language of quantum physics. In the language of gravity, however, it replicated traveling through a traversable wormhole.
The main features of a traversable wormhole only manifested when the team attempted to open their bridge model in spacetime using pulses of repulsive negative energy. This mirrors how real wormholes should behave in deep space if they ever turn out to exist.
The test performed by the team was the first experiment of its kind and was only made possible by using the high fidelity of Google’s quantum processor.
“If the error rates were 50% higher, the signal would have been entirely obscured. If they were half, we would have 10 times more signal! said Spiropulu. “It is curious and surprising how optimizing one feature of the model preserved the other metrics. We are planning further tests to get better insights into the model itself.”
These future tests will involve shifting work to even more complex quantum circuits – although the advent of full quantum computers may still take years to materialize.
“The relationship between quantum entanglement, spacetime and quantum gravity is one of the most important questions in fundamental physics and an active area of theoretical research,” Spiropulu concluded. “We are excited to take this small step towards testing these ideas on quantum hardware and we will continue.”
The team’s research will be published Thursday (December 1) in the journal Nature.
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