Artwork depicting a quantum experiment that observes traversable wormhole behavior

A quantum experiment to observe the dynamics of wormholes

Wormholes are pathways through spacetime that connect two distant places. Although they have not been observed experimentally, scientists have been theorizing about their existence and characteristics for almost a century. The idea that wormholes and quantum physics, precisely entanglement, may be related was first proposed in theoretical research in 2013. Physicists hypothesized that wormholes were equivalent to entanglement.

Later in 2017, the idea of ​​wormhole entanglement was extended not only to wormholes, but also to traversable wormholes. Scientists have imagined a scenario in which a wormhole is held open long enough for something to pass through with negative repulsive energy. Scientists have demonstrated that the quantum teleportation method is identical to the gravitational description of a traversable wormhole. Information is sent into space using the principles of quantum entanglement in quantum teleportation. This protocol has been demonstrated experimentally over significant distances over fiber optics and over the air.

New work from the California Institute of Technology explores the equivalence of wormholes with quantum teleportation. For the first time, scientists have developed a quantum experiment that allows them to study the dynamics, or behavior, of a special theoretical wormhole.

Instead of producing an actual wormhole, a rift in space and time, the experiment allows scientists to explore the relationships between theoretical wormholes and quantum physics, which is a prediction of what the is called quantum gravity.

Scientists performed the first experiments that probed the idea that information traveling from one point in space to another can be described either in the language of gravity (wormholes) or in the language of quantum physics (quantum entanglement).

Maria Spiropulu, principal investigator of the US Department of Energy Office of Science Quantum Communication Channels for Fundamental Physics (QCCFP) research program and Shang-Yi Ch’en Professor of Physics at Caltech, said: “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. This work is a step towards a larger program of testing the physics of quantum gravity using a quantum computer. It does not replace direct quantum gravity probes in the same way as other planned experiments that may use quantum sensing to probe the effects of quantum gravity in the future. Yet it offers a powerful test bed for putting quantum gravity ideas into practice.

In this study, physicists used a baby-like SYK model prepared to preserve gravitational properties. They observed wormhole dynamics on a Google quantum device, namely the Sycamore quantum processor. The team used machine learning technologies on conventional computers to convert the SYK model into a reduced form.

Spiropulu said, “We used learning techniques to find and prepare a simple SYK-like quantum system that could be encoded into current quantum architectures and that would preserve gravitational properties. 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. It is curious and surprising to note how the optimization of a characteristic of the model has preserved the other metrics! We are planning further tests to get better information about the model itself.

The scientists inserted a qubit into one of their SYK-like systems and watched the information emerge from the other system. Quantum teleportation allowed information to move from one quantum system to another; alternatively, in the language of gravity, quantum information flowed through the traversable wormhole.

Alexander Zlokapa (BS ’21), former Caltech undergraduate, said: “We performed a sort of quantum teleportation equivalent to a traversable wormhole in the gravity picture. To do this, we had to simplify the quantum system to the smallest example that preserves gravitational characteristics to implement it on Google’s Sycamore quantum processor.

Co-author Samantha Davis, a graduate student at Caltech, adds, “It took a long time to get to the results, and we surprised ourselves with the result.”

John Preskill, Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech and Director of the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM), said: “The short-term importance of this type of experiment is that gravitational perspective provides a simple way to understand an otherwise mysterious multi-particle quantum phenomenon. What I found interesting about this new Google experiment is that is that, through machine learning, they could make the system simple enough to simulate on an existing quantum machine while still maintaining a good caricature of what the gravitational picture predicts.

In the work, physicists describe the behavior of wormholes predicted by quantum theory and gravity. Despite the fact that quantum information can be transported or sent through the device in several different ways, the experimental procedure has been shown to be at least somewhat similar to what would happen if the information were to pass through a hole. of worm.

Scientists have tried to accomplish this by using either pulses of opposite positive energy or pulses of negative and repulsive energy to “open the wormhole”. It wasn’t until the equivalent of negative energy was used that they noticed the distinctive signs of a traversable wormhole, which is consistent with how wormholes are supposed to work.

Spiropulu said, “The high fidelity of the quantum processor we used was key. If the error rates were 50% higher, the signal would have been completely obscured. If they were half, we would have ten times the signal! »

“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. We are excited to take this small step towards testing these ideas on quantum hardware and we will continue. »

Journal reference:

  1. Daniel Jafferis, Alexander Zlokapa, Joseph D. Lykken, David K. Kolchmeyer, Samantha I. Davis, Nikolai Lauk, Hartmut Neven, Maria Spiropulu. Dynamics of traversable wormholes on a quantum processor. Nature, 2022; 612(7938):51 DOI:10.1038/s41586-022-05424-3

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