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From Time Crystals to Wormholes: When Is a Quantum Simulation Real?


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The work is forcing us to ask challenging questions about the nature of quantum reality.

Credit: Ula Šveikauskaitė

When scientists reported they had created a space-time wormhole in November last year, the world's media were all over the story, even though they struggled to make sense of it. A journalist for the website UNILAD put it neatly when they wrote: "So, you might have to bear with us here a bit, because it's all very complicated and new."

As far as many observers could see, physicist Maria Spiropulu at the California Institute of Technology and her colleagues had in fact merely used a quantum computer to simulate a wormhole. Good luck flying a spaceship through that. What confused matters was that the team insisted the work amounted to more than just a simulation. The quantum computation, the researchers said, was fully equivalent to the creation of a wormhole.

If you find that hard to swallow, you aren't alone. Ask other physicists about Spiropulu's claims and you tend to get a lot of long pauses, chin-stroking and disagreement. It seems there is genuine confusion about if and when a quantum computation can create real entities or just simulate them.

From New Scientist
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