“Counterportation” – Landmark Quantum Breakthrough Paves the Way for the World’s First Experimental Wormhole

Wormholes, often considered a staple of science fiction, are hypothetical cosmic structures that act as shortcuts or tunnels through the fabric of spacetime. Rooted in the theory of general relativity, these enigmatic bridges could potentially connect two separate points in space and time, enabling faster-than-light travel and transcending the vast distances of the universe. While the existence of wormholes is still purely theoretical, their study continues to intrigue scientists and arouse curiosity about the unknown territories of the cosmos.

An innovative method overcomes significant hurdles in scaling quantum prototypes.

A practical application for the long-awaited but underutilized quantum computing technology is within reach due to an innovative method that overcomes the significant challenge of scaling up these prototypes.

The invention, by a University of Bristol physicist who named it ‘counterportation’, provides the first practical plan ever to create a wormhole in the laboratory that demonstrably bridges space, like a probe into the inner workings of the universe.

By implementing a new computer scheme, revealed in the journal Quantum Science and Technology, which exploits the fundamental laws of physics, a small object can be reconstituted across space without any particles crossing. Among other things, it provides a ‘smoking gun’ for the existence of a physical reality that supports our most accurate description of the world.

Study author Hatim Salih, Honorary Research Fellow at the university’s Quantum Engineering Technology (QET) Labs and co-founder of startup DotQuantum, said: “This is a milestone we have been working towards for many years. It provides a theoretical as well as a practical framework to explore new enduring mysteries of the universe, such as the true nature of spacetime.”

Traversable local wormhole

Image illustrating traversing local wormhole. The space is represented horizontally. Time runs vertically, upwards. The two quantum objects, one on each side, start at the bottom. The complex quantum object to be counterported is the one on the right. As time passes, the local wormhole gradually folds, then unfolds, space—allowing the object on the right to be reconstituted across. The saturation of the red color between the two objects represents the degree to which the space is folded. The orange and green vertical lines, corresponding to two local journeys in observable spacetime, indicate that no detectable information carriers were exchanged. Credit: Hatim Salih

The need for detectable carriers of information that travel through when we communicate has been a deeply rooted assumption among scientists, for example a stream of photons traversing an optical fiber or through the air so that people can read this text. Or indeed the countless neural signals that bounce around the brain when they do.

This is true even of quantum teleportation, which, apart from Star Trek, transfers complete information about a small object so that it can be reconstituted elsewhere, indistinguishable in any meaningful way from the original, which is disintegrating. The latter ensures a fundamental limit that prevents perfect copying. Notably, the recent wormhole simulation on Google’s Sycamore processor is essentially a teleportation experiment.

Hatim said: “Here’s the stark difference. While counterportation achieves the ultimate goal of teleportation, namely liberated transport, it remarkably does so without any detectable carriers of information traveling across.”

Wormholes were popularized by the megahit film Interstellar, which included physicist and Nobel laureate Kip Thorne among its cast. But they only came to light about a century ago as odd solutions to Einstein’s gravity equation, as shortcuts in the structure of spacetime. However, the defining task of a traversable wormhole can be neatly abstracted as making the space traversable disjoint; in other words, in the absence of any travel through observable space outside the wormhole.

The ground-breaking research, fittingly concluded to Interstellar’s spine-tingling background score, lays out a way to accomplish this task.

“If counterporting is to be realized, an entirely new type of quantum computer must be built: an exchange-free one, where communicating parties do not exchange particles,” Hatim said.

“Unlike large-scale quantum computers that promise remarkable speed-ups that no one yet knows how to build, the promise of exchange-free quantum computers of even the smallest scale is to make seemingly impossible tasks—such as counterporting—possible. , by incorporating space in a fundamental way together with time.”

Plans are now underway, in collaboration with leading UK quantum experts in Bristol, Oxford and York, to physically build this wormhole in the world-resonating laboratory.

“The goal in the near future is to physically build such a wormhole in the laboratory, which can then be used as a test bed for rival physical theories, even those of quantum gravity,” Hatim added.

“This work will be in the spirit of the multi-billion ventures that exist to see new physical phenomena, such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), but for a fraction of the resources. Our hope is to ultimately provide remote access to local wormholes for physicists, physics hobbyists and enthusiasts to explore fundamental questions about the universe, including the existence of higher dimensions.”

Tim Spiller, professor of quantum information technologies at University of York and Director of the Quantum Communications Hub in the UK National Quantum Technologies Program said: “Quantum theory continues to inspire and amaze us. Hatim’s recent work on counterporting provides another example of this, with the added bonus of a path towards experimental demonstration.”

John Rarity, Professor of Optical Communication Systems at University of Bristolsaid: “We experience a classical world that is actually built of quantum objects. The proposed experiment can reveal this underlying quantum nature, showing that completely separate quantum particles can be correlated without ever interacting. This correlation at a distance can then be used to transport quantum information (qubits) from one place to another without a particle having to traverse space, creating what could be called a traversable wormhole.”

Reference: “From counterport to local wormholes” by Hatim Salih, 2 March 2023, Quantum Science and Technology.
DOI: 10.1088/2058-9565/ac8ecd

The research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC).

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