The new theory connects quantum entanglement with Einstein’s general relativity
Wormholes and entanglement—two of science fiction’s favorite concepts from modern physics—may in reality be two sides of the same coin, physicists say. The findings may offer a way to solve puzzling mysteries about black holes and perhaps help reconcile theories of gravity and quantum physics, which has been the dream of physicists since the mid–20th century.
Wormholes are hypothetical shortcuts through spacetime, also known as Einstein–Rosen bridges, after Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen, who predicted them in 1935. Entanglement is another way of connecting two distant objects: When two particles are entangled, they retain a connection even when separated over great distances, so that actions performed on one affect the other. Entanglement has been demonstrated in quantum physics experiments with particles, but wormholes, which arise from generalrelativity, are purely theoretical. The two phenomena were long thought to be unrelated.
Then physicists Leonard Susskind of Stanford University and Juan Maldacena of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. began to think about entangling two black holes to one another. Entanglement is generally thought to occur between tiny particles, not giant cosmic objects. But if two black holes were entangled, and then separated from one another, the result, the physicists reasoned, would be a wormhole connecting them. Susskind and Maldacena postulated such a link between wormholes and entanglement earlier this year.
Two independent teams have since found support for the idea. They show theoretically that entangled quarks are indeed connected by a wormhole within a stripped-down version of reality. In this model it’s as if the wormhole exists in our real 4-D world (three dimensions of space and one of time), but the quarks are entangled only in a flattened 3-D simulacrum of reality. (This kind of modeling is akin to using a two-dimensional hologram to represent a 3-D object.) “What Maldacena and Susskind want to say is that literally whenever you have entanglement, you have wormholes,” says Andreas Karch of the University of Washington, co-author of one of the two new papers.