A physicist has proposed a mind-blowing experiment that could potentially create the first-ever traversable wormhole, meaning a real bridge across spacetime, reports a new study.
In addition to demonstrating that wormholes can exist, the speculative technique could open up entirely new windows into the nature of reality by offering a glimpse inside these bizarre spacetime tunnels, and enable a form of teleportation that researchers call “counterportation.”
Wormholes are hypothetical structures that can connect two points in spacetime, a feature that makes them especially popular in science fiction stories that include faster-than-light travel. But wormholes have also been a topic of serious scientific research for a century, as they appear to be consistent with Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
While researchers have made recent breakth roughs with simulated (or “holographic”) wormholes, nobody has ever generated a real one in the laboratory, or identified one in the cosmos.
Now Hatim Salih is a quantum physicist who also serves as an honorary researcher at the University of Bristol’s Quantum Engineering Technology Labs. He has outlined a roadmap to help achieve this long-awaited goal.
“Imagine if someone’s consciousness, like a strong AI, is copied into a quantum object,” Salih told Motherboard in a call, describing a speculative future application of this technology. “If you counterport each one the qubits, transport them from one place to another–and if this thing has a subjective experience–then it possibly could tell you what it feels like to go through a wormhole.”
Salih, who is also co-founder of the startup DotQuantum, envisions making a traversable wormhole with a special kind of quantum computer that could provide “smoking gun for the existence of an underlying physical reality,” according to his new study in Quantum Science and Technology.
” The key is that it uses existing technology and current components,” Salih said in reference to his experiment. “The hope is that within the next three to four years, we will have built this thing .
The fundamental concept behind the new study is “counterportation,” which is a portmanteau that Salih coined from the words “counterfactual” and “transportation.” While the transportation part is fairly straightforward, the counterfactual component is derived from a concept called counterfactual communication, which is a way to send messages between two points without exchanging any particles. By way of a simple real-world example, consider a dormant car engine light. It’s not emitting anything, but it still signals information: that your engine is fine. That’s counterfactual communication.
Counterportation is somewhat similar to quantum teleportation, which occurs on the tiny scales of atoms. A quantum world can cause a particle to become strangely attached to another particle at great distances. This allows it to transfer or teleport its information to other particles. It essentially copies itself elsewhere before disintegrating back at its origin. Scientists must first entangle and distribute quantum objects, such as photons, to show quantum teleportation. This involves moving particles through space.
Counterportation, in contrast, achieves the same disembodied transport across space, without the pre-entanglement setup. In essence, scientists send light (which is a wave in the quantum realm) through a quantum system that’s been frozen in an “off” state by constant observation, where it hits detectors in a predictable manner, standing in for bits. Scientists can reconstruct the information from the other end of the system without having to turn it on or send any particles or electricity. It’s very similar to the teleportation described in science fiction. In this case, objects disappear in one location and then appear again in another. There is no evidence of exchanged particles.
“Counterportation gives you the end goal of the object being reconstituted across space, but we can verify that nothing has passed,” Salih explained. “This is key for other important considerations or consequences, because if we can strictly say nothing has passed, then we can examine some questions in physics, for example, afresh in a different light.”
Salih first started developing his concept of particle-free communication a decade ago, and it has since been demonstrated in laboratory conditions. This experimental breakthrough was achieved by a team of scientists in China who were able to send a bitmap image from one location to another without any meaningful exchange particles.
In the wake of this success, Salih has been working on applying the framework to one of the most anticipated technologies currently in development: quantum computing.
Quantum computers could theoretically use quantum mechanics to outperform current computer processing speed by millions of times. This would allow them to tackle a wide range of challenges that is currently unsolvable.
These next-generation computers are built around qubits, which are quantum bits of information that are analogous to the binary bits used in existing computers. While most quantum computer scientists work to exchange electrons in computations, Salih is working on a counterportation-free machine that could be used in another class of processors.
“Quantum computing has one main goal: faster. That’s it,” Salih said. “This is not faster. It’s actually much slower than this exchange-free quantum computation. It’s not like that. What it does is this thing where the inputs don’t talk to each other, and then you can see effects that regular quantum computing doesn’t show.”
The exchange-free computer could potentially harness the power of counterportation to produce a traversable wormhole, though this bridge would operate on a strictly local level. Contrary to fictional wormholes the experimental one would not be able to travel faster than light through distant places. Counterportation is slower than light and does not move at the same speed.
However, assuming the wormhole could be created, it could provide an opportunity to send signals, or objects, through a real bridge across spacetime. Such a setup would enable scientists to probe our fundamental reality–and might even offer a kind of first-person account of the view from inside a real wormhole.
“You can send a quantum object imprinted on an atom” that is “reconstituted across” the wormhole, Salih said. “This can be generalized because if you have an object made of a network of these [objects], and you counterport each one of them, you would have counterported in the whole thing. You can scale it up that way.”
Sending objects, or even AI consciousnesses, through a wormhole are obviously wild possibilities that would basically blow the entire genre of travel writing into a new dimension. However, it will take more research and experimentation to see if this vision of a real wormhole can become a reality. Salih believes that this project will eventually lead to a new type of quantum computing that can be used for a variety of scientific purposes.
” This exchange-free quantum computing is very different,” he said. We can use it to build this wormhole and use it to examine fields of physics, so this potentially could be one of the first practical uses of quantum computing.”
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