An apparent contradiction in what most physicists believe about black holes—the ‘firewall problem’—is making some very good physicists reach for some very crazy-sounding ideas to find a way out. In particular, Maldacena and Susskind have come up with the idea that any pair of quantum-entangled particles is actually connected by a wormhole.
Entanglement is a spooky way for far-away particles to be correlated, but you can’t use it communicate faster than light. It’s been seen in the lab, but it’s only possible thanks to quantum mechanics. The first people to make a fuss over entanglement were Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen, back in 1935.
A wormhole is a spooky way for far-away regions of space to be connected by a kind of ‘tunnel’—but you probably can’t use it to communicate faster than light. Nobody has ever seen one, but they’re theoretically possible thanks to general relativity. The first people to make a fuss over wormholes were Einstein and Rosen, back in 1935.
So, superficially, it makes sense that there should be a connection between wormholes and entanglement. But when you learn enough physics, you’ll see that Maldacena and Susskind’s proposal sounds completely hare-brained.
But when you learn more physics—maybe more than enough?—you might decide there’s some merit to this idea after all. At the Centre for Quantum Technologies last summer, Jamie Vicary and I noticed some interesting connections between wormholes and quantum entanglement. We now have a paper out!
In it, we study quantum gravity in a universe where space is just 2-dimensional, not 3-dimensional like ours. It’s not realistic, but it has one huge advantage: there’s a working theory of what quantum gravity could be like when space is 2-dimensional, so you can calculate stuff!
So, we calculate what happens when a wormhole forms, and we show the ends look like a particle and its antiparticle (this was already known), and we note that this particle-antiparticle pair is entangled. In fact it’s completely entangled: any piece of information you might want to know about one can also be found in the other.
However, in a sense that Jamie and I make precise, this entanglement is ‘fake’. The reason is that the two ends of the wormhole are not independent things. They’re just two views of the same thing… and, technically, it doesn’t count as entanglement when something is ‘entangled with itself’. This fact is crucial to how Maldacena and Susskind want to get around the firewall problem.
For more details, try this:
• Wormholes and entanglement, The n-Category Café.
This has links to other stuff, including our paper, but also some blog articles explaining the firewall problem, the paper by Maldacena and Susskind, and the original Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen and Einstein–Rosen papers (in English).
Since this quantum gravity stuff is more suited to the n-Category Café than here, I won’t enable comments here. If you want to talk, please go there. Sorry!