We’ve all seen sci-fi movies that show people traveling across deep space at a moment’s notice. Usually, those spaceships make use of a jump to lightspeed, hyperspace or even some way of jumping across space with ease. Well now, a team of scientists from the UK has outlined a way to create wormholes that might let us one day hop across the cosmos in this way.
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According to a report from Vice, researchers from the University of Bristol’s Quantum Engineering Technology Labs in the UK have “proposed a mind-blowing experiment that could potentially create the first-ever traversable wormhole.”
Hopping through the wormhole would allow people to effectively teleport from one side of space to another. But the team of researchers, led by Hatim Salih, a quantum physicist and honorary research fellow at the university, don’t call this method of travel “teleportation.” Instead, it’s known as “counterportation,” as Vice explains:
“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.”
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Now that we know the name of this kind of transportation, let’s talk about how the heck it could become a reality. Surprisingly, the team’s approach is reliant on a lot of existing tech, starting with a special kind of quantum computer.
Quantum computing holds the key to all this. Photo: Sven Hoppe/picture alliance (Getty Images)
To transport information across space and time, the researchers would first send light through a quantum system. The light hits detectors and is then reconstructed at the other end of the system. This means the information is transmitted without any electricity or particles being sent from origin to destination. As Vice explains:
“In other words, it’s more like the kind of teleportation we are familiar with in science fiction, in which objects appear to vanish in one place and reappear in another, with no sign of any exchanged particles at all.”
According to Vice, Salih has been working on this way of transporting matter across space for a decade. So far, the research team has demonstrated its workings in a lab, and a team of scientists in China has also sent a bitmap image from one location to another without the exchange of particles.
The next step in advancing this means of data transfer will all come down to the next-generation quantum computers. These computers could then be used to “harness the power of counterportation to produce a traversable wormhole,” according to Vice. But if this could become a reality, don’t expect instant travel across space to happen right away, as Vice explains:
“Unlike fictional wormholes, the experimental version would not allow for instantaneously faster-than-light travel to distant locations, because counterportation crawls along much more slowly than the speed of light.”
That doesn’t mean such a technology is useless. Far from it: Researchers could use the means of traveling into a wormhole to send signals or objects through a real bridge across spacetime. It could even offer a first-person view inside a wormhole, which would be pretty damn cool.