Of Particular Significance

Send Your Dog Through a Wormhole?

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

ON 12/09/2022

A wormhole! What an amazing concept — a secret tunnel that connects two different regions of space! Could real ones exist? Could we — or our dogs — travel through them, and visit other galaxies billions of light years away, and come back to tell everyone all about it?

I bring up dogs because of a comment, quoted in the Guardian and elsewhere, by my friend and colleague, experimentalist Maria Spiropulu. Spiropulu is a senior author on the wormhole-related paper that has gotten so much attention in the past week, and she was explaining what it was all about.

  • “People come to me and they ask me, ‘Can you put your dog in the wormhole?’ So, no,” Spiropulu told reporters during a video briefing. “… That’s a huge leap.”

For this, I can’t resist teasing Spiropulu a little. She’s done many years of important work at the Large Hadron Collider and previously at the Tevatron, before taking on quantum computing and the simulation of wormholes. But, oh my! The idea that this kind of research could ever lead to a wormhole that a dog could traverse… that’s more than a huge leap of imagination. It’s a huge leap straight out of reality!

I’ve been trying to train our dog, Phoebe, to fetch a ball through a wormhole. She seems eager but nervous.

What’s the problem?

Decades ago there was a famous comedian by the name of Henny Youngman. He told the following joke — which, being no comedian myself, I will paraphrase.

  • I know a guy who wanted to set a mousetrap but had no cheese in his fridge. So he cut a picture of a piece of cheese from a magazine, and used that instead. Just before bed, he heard the trap snap shut, so he went to look. In the trap was a picture of a mouse.

Well, with that in mind, consider this:

  • Imaginary cheese can’t catch a real mouse, and an imaginary wormhole can’t transport a real dog!

As I explained in my last post, the recent wormhole-related paper is about an artificial simulation of a wormhole… hence the title, “Traversable wormhole dynamics on a quantum processor”, rather than “First creation of a wormhole.” Actually, they’re not even simulating the wormhole directly. As I described, the simulation is of some stationary particles — not actual particles, just simulated ones, represented in a computer — and the (simulated) interactions of those particles create a special effect which acts, in some ways, like a (simulated) wormhole. [The math of this is called the SYK model, or a simplified version of it.]

This is a very cool trick for artificially simulating a wormhole, one that can be crossed from one side to the other before it collapses. The trick was invented by theorists in this paper (see also this one), following on this pioneering idea. But it is not a trick for making a real wormhole. Moreover, this is a simulated wormhole in one spatial dimension, not the three we live in. In this sense, it is a cartoon of a wormhole, like a stick figure, with no flesh and blood.

Even if this were a real one-dimensional wormhole, you cannot hope to send a three-dimensional dog through it. You could not even send a three-dimensional atom through a one-dimensional wormhole. Dimensions don’t work that way.

I thought maybe I could ease her into the idea by starting with a wormhole that was simpler and less scary — just one-dimensional instead of three-dimensional. But she wouldn’t budge.

Remember, this wormhole does not exist in the real world; it is being represented by the bits of the computer. In a sense, it is being thought — represented in the computer’s crude memory. Try it: imagine a wormhole (it doesn’t matter how accurate.) Imagine a dog now going through it. Ok, you have just done a simulation of a dog going through a wormhole… an imagined dog moving through an imagined wormhole. Naturally, your brain didn’t do a very accurate simulation. It lacks all the fancy math. Armed with that math, the computer can do a professional-quality artificial simulation.

But just as you cannot take your real dog, the one you pet and play fetch with, and have it travel through the wormhole you imagined in your brain, you cannot take a real dog and pass it through a computer simulation of a wormhole. That would be true even if that wormhole were three-dimensional, rather than the one-dimensional cartoon. Nor can you take a real atom, or even a real photon [a particle of light], and send it through an imaginary, artificially simulated wormhole. Only an artificially simulated photon, atom or dog can pass through an artificially simulated wormhole.

So then, thinking it might reassure her, I tried showing her how wormholes work by simulating one on a computer. She watched attentively, and then she licked her paw.

Wormholes in nature are about real gravity. Wormholes in a computer are about mathematically simulated gravity. Real gravity pulls real things and might or might not make real wormholes; it has to obey the laws of nature of our universe. Imaginary gravity pulls imaginary things and can create imaginary wormholes; it is far less constrained, because the person doing the simulation can have the computer consider all sorts of imaginary universes in which the laws of nature might be very different from ours. Imaginary wormholes might behave in all sorts of ways that are impossible in the real world. For instance, the real world has (at least) three dimensions of space, but on a computer there’s no problem to simulate a universe with just one dimension of space… and that’s effectively what was done by Spiropulu and her colleagues, following the proposals of this paper and others by quantum gravity experts.

So let’s not confuse what’s real with what’s artificially simulated. And by the way, just because a quantum computer was used instead of an ordinary one doesn’t change what’s real with what is not. Real dogs are quantum; quantum computers are real; both have to obey the laws of the real world. But anything simulated on a quantum computer is not real, and need not obey those laws.

“Maybe she needs to see that it’s not dangerous,” I thought, so I showed her a simulation of a one-dimensional dog safely passing through my simulated one-dimensional wormhole. She looked at me, then wagged her tail and lay down in a bored three-dimensional heap. I guess the one-dimensional ball wasn’t enticing enough.

What about real wormholes?

Setting aside these simulated wormholes — could real wormholes exist, and could you send your dog through one?

Until recently there was a lot of debate as to whether wormholes actually make sense; maybe, it was thought, they violate some deep principles and are forbidden in nature. But in the last few years this debate has subsided. I’ll discuss this in more detail in my next post. But here are a few things to keep in mind:

It has been shown (most directly here, by Maldacena and Milekhin) that in some imaginary universes that are not so different from our own, it is possible for wormholes to exist that are large enough for dogs and humans to travel through. BUT:

  1. A person in that universe could not use them to travel faster than light from point A to point B — i.e., there is no chance that these wormholes could be used to go instantly halfway across the universe, and thus communicate faster than a message sent by radio waves outside the wormhole from A to B. Nor could they be used for time travel to the past.
  2. To avoid travelers being torn apart by tidal forces, the openings to these wormholes must be immense — far, far larger than a human. They’re not like the round doorways you see in science fiction movies.
  3. Although the wormhole traveler would feel the trip to be short, the travel time from the point of view of those outside the wormhole would be spectacularly long. If you did a round trip through the wormhole and back, your friends and family would all be long dead when you returned.
  4. The region inside the wormhole could easily become very dangerous; any photons that leak in from the other side will become extreme gamma rays bombarding the traveler passing through. To avoid this and other similar problems, the wormhole’s huge openings must be kept isolated and absolutely pristine.
  5. It’s hard to understand how to produce stable wormholes like this in a universe whose temperature is as high as ours (2.7 Kelvin about absolute zero).
  6. It is hard to imagine how such a wormhole could be created through any natural or artificial process. (I wrote here about why real wormholes, even if they can exist in our universe, are extremely difficult to create or manage; and that’s true not only for macroscopic ones large enough for a dog but for microscopic ones as well. The same is true for black holes, which definitely do exist in our universe.)
  7. For these and/or other reasons, large traversable wormholes of this sort may not be possible in our universe; the specific laws of nature we live in may not allow wormholes worthy of the name, or at least not large ones. This is an open question and may depend on facts about our universe that we don’t yet know.

So you will not be sending your dog on any such journey. It’s wildly unrealistic.

One final note — if it becomes possible, decades or centuries from now, to attempt the fabrication of real, microscopic wormholes in an Earth-bound lab, it should not be attempted without a thorough safety review. Real black holes and wormholes aren’t easily handled and can potentially be very dangerous if anything goes wrong. It would be a terrible thing if one got away from you and ate your dog.

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28 Responses

  1. LOL, good article Matt. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the Einstein digital papers where he talked about how gravity works – he referred to Huygen’s principle and talked about “the refraction of light rays by the gravitational field”. Or Einstein and Rosen’s 1935 paper “The particle problem in the theory of general relativity”. They talked about a mathematical representation of space wherein a particle is represented by a bridge connecting two sheets. It isn’t anything to do with the science-fiction wormholes we read about today. They grew out of David Finkelstein’s 1958 paper “Past-future asymmetry of the gravitational field of a point particle”. He was talking about point particles and antiparticles, and saying an antiparticle was some kind of white hole, which it absolutely isn’t. If you read the original papers, I think you will come to the firm conclusion that wormholes are science fiction, and not science fact.

  2. I am a few things, and am NOT a great many more things: I do enjoy all manner of science stuff, lots of which I can barely comprehend, and so was glad to rediscover your blog, as you seemed to stop posting a bit ago, and I did not notice when you resumed. I am not \

    of a dog person. However, I do have a couple dogs in my social situation and we all acknowledge each others membership in the pack. Soon I am tasked with taking care of one of the dogs for a couple days, a dog which -would- be anxious in the absence of her human, but I have discovered the secret to managing this situation, and I guess I would describe it as Dog-Heroin. Its not Heroin, its my special homemade beef jerky. Honestly, its a little like heroin to me as well, in any case, I can keep Rica (the dog) happy and not anxious by judiciously giving her bits of beef jerky-heroin on a pretty long basis. The reason I suggest this is that I guess that Rica would be happy to plunge into and thru a one, two, three, …. ten, …. n dimensional wormhole, simulated or not, traversable or not if there were some of my Super Secret Recipe Beef Jerky at the other end. In the interests of science I would be willing to share with you the making of this jerky. Cheers, and I enjoy your writings.

  3. Glad to see that you have a sense of humor… even if your dog doesn’t share in the sentiment.
    This reminded me of the mid 2000s computer-game, “Portal”, which quite consistently simulated a sort of spontaneously re-framable physics that could be utilized to accomplish all kinds of simulated tasks not actually doable in the “real” world. Fascinating, nevertheless.

  4. Professor, you tell us a many times that the simulation are dont real and no rules at our real physics laws. Then, what is the proposed they do on those many simulations? What the scientific world gain about this fake simulations, as you said? Im confused about those computer experimentals. What the real proposition? Finally, if they no use our real physics laws, then, what “fake” laws they used? Thanks

    1. I’ll answer your question clearly in my next post. The point is to gain some insight into quantum gravity, about which we know very little.

      The details of the “fake” laws are ones I mentioned in a previous post, https://profmattstrassler.com/2022/12/06/how-do-you-make-a-baby-cartoon-wormhole-in-a-lab/. I referred to “Jackiw-Teitelboim gravity”, which involves gravity in two spacetime dimensions (which has very little content) plus a spinless field (which adds the needed content.) This is being simulated, roughly, through the use of the SYK model, which involves the simple quantum mechanics of a bunch of motionless interacting spins. The hope is that even though these systems are far from the real world, they may still teach us something important and universal about how quantum gravity works in all possible worlds. That hope may or may not be borne out, but at least this is a method that can be attempted in the coming years, whereas most efforts to study quantum gravity, via theory, experiment, or simulation, are far beyond reach at the moment.

    1. I think so… (though “tunnel” has a specific meaning in quantum physics; I think you want to say “can be transported” rather than “tunnel”. It’s a slightly unfortunate terminological problem.) I am not sure if it has been proven yet that traversable wormholes can be formed in all dimensions — proofs probably only go up to 7 spacetime dimensions at the moment — but the conceptual argument is so powerful and robust that I have trouble thinking of a reason why it would fail. Admittedly I might be naive because I have never thought seriously about gravity in more than 10 space-time dimensions.

  5. So, are wormholes similar to superconductivity? In other words the EM waves are so colinear that there is little or no interference between them, i.e. energy in that “bridge”, channel would be travelling at absolute speed of light c, maybe even faster???

    Could billions, maybe trillions, maybe infinite, of these channels, wormholes, exist all around us?

  6. I simply don’t get this criticism that borders on hysteria. “But, oh my.” Really? Why? She has answered many people’s questions by “no, it’s a huge leap,” as you revealed. She has arguably done more than you ever did to lead the people to the knowledge that you can’t send real dogs through that “wormhole”. Her “huge” is larger than any of your boring vague words. So why do you frame the text as if you criticized her for a “yes”? She didn’t say “yes”, did she?

    Your statement that it is a “leap out of reality” is really strictly speaking incorrect because black holes, including entangled ones that are physically identical to ER bridges, are allowed by the laws of physics in this reality. And if the number of qubits were 10 to 70th power and not 53, one could send simulated macroscopic objects through it without killing them. This is a simulation, but a quantum one which is needed to create a physically truly equivalent system (a classical simulation simply cannot be equivalent to a quantum system because classical degrees of freedom are always qualitatively different from both wave functions and non-commuting quantum observables). And it is a simulation of a SYK model-related wormhole which has a different (and lower-dimensional) gravitational spacetime than our 3+1-dimensional one; and the SYK model isn’t quite proven to be a part of a fully consistent theory of quantum gravity, either; and as I wrote, the number of qubits is still low for macroscopic objects to survive although it is already much higher than one. But all these choices were done exactly because something like that was needed to achieve a qualitative goal and the right choice of these details is a testimony to the cleverness of the authors.

    It’s a simulation which is not the “real” thing but “reality” is largely a philosophical matter, and often an ill-defined word from the physics viewpoint. The strict dog of yours couldn’t be sent but if it were “uploaded” as some quantum information, it could be said to continue the dog’s life and that continuation could be sent if the other technical properties of the wormhole were fixed as well. “It’s a huge leap” is really the adequate appraisal of the situation because none of these achievements are planned, not even in anyone’s lifetime, not even with a lot of wishful thinking. But many things of this kind are possible by the laws of physics and this simulation isn’t necessarily the last step although it surely sounds like you want this to be the last one and the whole research of all similar kinds to stop. This is a damn expensive quantum processor but what is your better usage than to occasionally use it for similar amusing things?

    For a decade or many decades, the media have been filled with totally wrong sensational claims by self-described “quantum information researchers” who have allegedly falsified quantum mechanics and proved that Heisenberg and Bohr were morons, who sent the information faster than light, showed that the wave function was a real wave, and all similar garbage, and I think that you have written nothing or almost nothing to defend science against this pseudoscience. Why is it exactly now, when an interesting collaboration with interesting theoretical and experimental ideas emerged, and when all the authors are correctly answering all the basic questions, when you decided that it was the right time to attack the scientists? Is the reason actually any different than it is in the case of similarly behaving individuals shamefully harbored by Columbia University?

    1. Oh, for goodness sake, Lubos. You only show up at the weirdest times. You totally missed the tone of this post, which has pictures of a dog; I can’t believe you wrote four paragraphs about it. I am *not* criticizing the research… only the hype about it. As I have said from the beginning, the work itself is nice, fun, cool, and promising — though not earthshaking.

      In any case, the next post is to explain why this research field is so important. Daniel Jafferis is down the hall from me and he’s one of my favorite scientists, as is Lenny Susskind. Spiropulu and Lykken are old friends of mine, and though I disagree with their press tactics, their research skills are not in question.

      But the world is now full of people who think researchers are making wormholes and that this is the wave of the future. That was already true before this research was published, and they have been fed some raw meat. Have you not seen the conspiracy theories about CERN? What about all the folks who are concluding that high-energy physicists lie all the time? Or that all scientists do? Hype like this is damaging to the field, and to the reputation of quantum gravity theorists.

      As for why I criticize some scientists or journalists and not others — one reason is that sometimes I don’t have time to write; I do have other work to do, and I can’t do this full time. And another reason is that this research field, and this research direction, is important enough to be worth talking about… which a lot of the crap is not. Sometimes, in order to bring reality into focus, you have to first demystify it; and that’s what I’m doing here. Let’s be clear about what we do, and why we do it; the purpose of quantum gravity research is NOT to build wormholes you can send dogs through. It is far deeper than that.

      1. I haven’t really addressed your comments “why this is [supposed to be] damaging”.

        I am sorry but an honest scientist simply cannot react in the way that you proposed and he or she cannot censor his research, statements, or excitement for the reasons that you described as important. People have freedom of speech and they may criticize what they want. The people who are chronic critics of everything in high energy physics have a shared reason to do so – they have nothing inside their skull and they have no character, either. High energy physics is obviously at least one of the most crucial disciplines of science. Every sane person understands that. Surely everyone who is in high energy physics should understand this fact and its reasons and he or she must not be influenced at all by brainless haters of high energy physics as a whole.

        If you or someone else becomes incapable of pushing research in a direction that you concluded was right, or communicating your conclusions from the research, just because someone doesn’t like it and someone threatens you that “you will lose your credibility in his eyes” and similar things, then you simply don’t have the required amount of scientific integrity to be a scientist (because you don’t have the spine to rigidly transfer the science and its results to your behavior and speech). I don’t write it with any happiness because I surely know that you have lots of mental power to do science but this kind of scientific integrity is more important. It’s really the fundamental issue in all similar wars. People with no ideas about science who are just screaming, hating, and psychologically (and sometimes financially etc.) blackmailing scientists must have *zero* influence over the scientific process. You are helping them to distort science, to make it controlled by obnoxious activists instead of the results of research, so you are really on the wrong side of the most important barricade.

    2. p.s. it would be fine with me if you’d like to be converted into quantum information and transported through the wormhole; let me know when you get back. Until that conversion becomes practical for an object with 10^29 atoms at finite temperature, I don’t think your critique holds water. Prove to me that you can do that conversion without killing the creature, or indeed do it successfully for any macroscopic object; then we can talk about it.

      [Note Added]: Actually, I think it’s worse than that. You are imagining the dog can be converted and travel through the simulated wormhole. But the trip will kill it. Imagine the simulated wormhole is semiclassically large and that the converted dog can actually experience the travel as a semiclassical experience. Well, unless you make it impossible during the trip for the dog to interact with the world inside the wormhole, its body will inevitably discover that the laws of nature inside the simulated wormhole aren’t exactly the same as those that governed its body when it was in the real world. You can try to isolate it, but it still emits quanta due to its internal heat, knows about the mass of the electron (assuming electrons even exist in that universe), and interacts with the vacuum of this simulated universe. In other words, you can’t send a uploaded dog through a simulated supersymmetric semiclassical wormhole.

      The only way around this is to have the laws of nature in the simulated wormhole be identical in all respects to those in the real one… in which case I agree it’s a real wormhole, a la Randall-Sundrum/Verlinde. The universe is a quantum simulation of the universe. And there’s no need to upload the dog.

      1. Dear Matt, I appreciate your pretty dog, I am sometimes petting and feeding similar ones, it is so straightforward to bribe dogs. […] I wouldn’t like to be uploaded even if it were a real but new technology. […] Dan Jafferis whom I remember as a brilliant student at Harvard for years has also visited me in Prague some years later. Can you beat it? I’ve met Spiropulu a few times, she is a natural condensation nucleus for science that requires some organization. I’ve watched Lykken for a long time, not sure whether we have ever met. As you know very well, I wasn’t hungry about getting this experiment done and I still don’t see what I could learn from it (and more generally, I believe that everything may be better answered by our if not my pure thought with the exception of true energy frontline collider collision; and my interest about the SYK model and its dual is generally very low, and so on and so on) but there would be no experiments if this strict criterion of “my desire’ (or your desire!) were used.

        You say it is about your “criticism of the hype” and only of the hype. But should “the hype” be criticized? What I see is a genuine excitement of some folks by some theory and experiments. What is wrong with it? Read Wolchover’s text at the fresh Not Even Wrong text (of course it is obviously her text, the doubts about it are just pathetic attempts to label her view as a heresy). She makes it clear that this is a real wormhole for her and that is actually not just a pure emotion because the real reason is that this is a quantum simulation. One may argue and I have argued – and I do think it is important – that any classical system, like the classical information running in a classical computer, unavoidably fails to be truly equivalent to any natural system, the latter is quantum. So the classical systems don’t have the same consciousness. But if a quantum computing setup is equivalent to a physical system, it could be assigned the same consciousness etc. I don’t know whether I like to identify quantum simulations (including those of dogs near black holes, and this particular model cannot do it because the AdS-like dual of the SYK model doesn’t allow dogs as excitations of the vacuum LOL!) with “real things”, it is largely a terminological issue for me.

        Science cannot quite tell you what you should be excited about. I often think that you are not excited by anything (which may be a good thing in many situations but you know, it’s on the cold extreme and I guess I can’t be the first person who has summarized your personality for you!). Some people including Wolchover herself are excited about the trend of “making increasingly interesting and realistic advances concerning wormholes”. I think it is a perfectly sensible reason to be excited because those are among the most interesting developments in all of science of recent years. What is your alternative? What is your better way of using the Google processor that has already been paid for?

        So most importantly, I think that the choice of what hype you criticize and all these inconsistencies are what bothers me. Every day, we are drowning in megatons of insane hype (especially) about the imminent end of the world because of this or that, superstitions that are not only dumb and profoundly misleading but also push people to waste trillions of dollars. I think that you have never dared to criticize those things even though you must know why all these things are pure nonsense. You chose to criticize “hype” which actually involves no clearly incorrect statements from the researchers, and almost no clearly incorrect statements by the journalists, and is instead a rather nontrivial advance using a combination of both theoretical concepts and experiments that were not available a decade ago (but the hardware has already been paid for and built). It is just right for some people to be genuinely excited, even if many laymen are confused and exaggerating where physics has gotten (which has always been the case of every important enough advance!). At the end, whether you like it or not, the excitement of *someone* that is related to the research is ultimately the most important justification for the scientific process as a whole, at least in pure science. For all these reasons, I cannot escape my suspicion about what is actually driving you to criticize this “hype”. The word starts with a J and ends with a Y.

        1. Oh, Lubos, you do make me laugh a lot. Why would someone like you not just spell out a word like “jealousy” or “envy”? In any case, that’s a silly thought; you are projecting, because this is the only reason why *you* would act this way. I have different concerns. What drives me to fight the hype is a deep concern about the following.

          In the old days, if there was a huge amount of press coverage, that usually meant that something truly important had happened… cf the front page headlines about the 1919 eclipse that disfavored Newton’s law of gravity in favor of Einstein’s. More recently we saw this with the Higgs boson discovery, whose importance was properly covered. In both cases the physics was mangled, but the hype was absolutely deserved. Those two discoveries were major achievements and deserved front page news. What we are seeing nowadays, though, is that every step forward, no matter how minor, gets equal billing. This is very bad for science, because (a) it makes people confused about what is really important and what is not, (b) it makes people jaded, because they see things get hyped and then a few weeks later no one is talking about it anymore, and (c) it makes people think scientists are in this business to get publicity and financing, just like politicians, and that they’ll do whatever it takes to get the press coverage — and that undermines trust in science. You don’t have to agree with me, but I think this is a rational concern.

          Now, the idea that I never get excited about things is ridiculous! I do err on the side of caution rather than hype, partly because I want people to know that when I am enthusiastic, that actually means something. I gave the Higgs discovery, the gravitational wave discovery, and the image of a black hole a lot of positive and enthusiastic coverage, making it clear these were major achievements, decades in the making. I gave BICEP-2 a lot of coverage too, since that would have been huge had it survived scrutiny.

          Meanwhile, despite current appearances, I am also very excited about the possibilities of quantum wormholes from the theoretical perspective (and I plan to write about it next week.) Personally I view the discovery that traversable wormholes are equivalent to quantum teleportation as one of the most fantastic theoretical discoveries of the century so far. I have *not* given the theoretical work on wormholes the coverage it deserves; this was partly my own failure to follow it properly during the covid period, when I was a bit disconnected from it, but also because I didn’t think it was quite ready for prime time. I still don’t, but prime time has discovered it anyway, so it has to be written about.

          The issue that I think you are disregarding is that most non-experts think of wormholes based on what they learn in science fiction: as portals to other parts of the universe. Some of them are very frightened of the idea that people might secretly be building them on Earth; these are people who view scientists as irresponsible and dangerous. And if indeed they were correct that our friends were *actually* building wormholes with real-world gravity, they would be right to be frightened. Sometimes this kind of irrational and confused fear leads to serious distrust, and even terrorism. For instance, https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1063/1.3070732?journalCode=pto . CERN actually needs to worry about this, and that’s a sad thing. Frankly, Spiropulu and others on that paper might be a target now for crazies.

          For these reasons, I want people to fully understand that wormhole research has nothing to do with actually building these objects, and that instead it has to do (as you and I understand implicitly, but most non-experts do not) with using them as a conceptual tool for understanding space and time in the quantum context. It’s very important that it be widely understood that there is absolutely nothing dangerous about this research.

          1. I avoided the full spelling of the J-Y word because I am tired of being called names and I know that if I soften the text by avoiding such explicit words, the attacks against me drop. It’s that simple. But it’s great to see that you have solved the puzzle.

            Also, I am leaning to the conclusion that you are just wrong concerning the comparison with the 1919 Eddington result (isolated from the other GR-related events). The top people who followed the science as much as I or you do today *also* knew what the result of that experiment would have been (well, more than today because it was all simpler). Classical GR had been established for several years. Of course the Sun had to bend light. In fact, the experiment in 1919 could have been doubted in analogous ways as this experiment is doubted today. Some later research has indicated that these doubts were legitimate and Eddington probably didn’t have the precision that was needed.

            But just think about the number of people who learned GR enough to have a qualified opinion about the bending light between 1915 and 1919. In 1915, Einstein completed the GR and some others, like Hilbert, were close. In 1916, it was out. And there was enough evidence to know that it had to be correct. GR logically followed from the well tested special relativity plus the Newtonian limit; and it had already predicted the precession of the Mercury perihelion etc.

            There were legends that 12 people understood GR but as Feynman has said, it was nonsense. There were lots (at least hundreds) of people including some who were not even working as professional physicists who sufficiently understood Einstein’s results and could have either reproduced the bending light calculation completely, or they understood calculations by others to be pretty sure that the angle is “twice the most naive Newtonian calculation with the light corpuscles”. So what was really new about the 1919 experiment? Eddington has used a telescope and a photographic plate. It had to work. His work was also promotional to quite some extent. He knew that an experiment related to the famous theory would have been famous. He found one. Here, the really new class of devices called quantum processors was used instead. It is more new when it comes to the devices than the 1919 result.

            In 2012, the Higgs discovery was announced. The existence of the Higgs boson became extremely likely when the theory emerged in the 1960s, and the near-certainty emerged in the 1970s and following decades. Something had to subtract e.g. a wrong term in a high-energy WW scattering amplitude etc. which you know more intimately than I do, these things were known. So some scalar particle had to exist. The mass about 125 GeV had been almost certain since late 2011 when the excess near 125 GeV had been safely above 3 sigma. Combined with the theoretical certainty that the Higgs had to be somewhere in a window 100-1000 GeV, the 3-sigma excess was a real signal selecting the mass. I knew it and wrote it in 2011, maybe some others didn’t but they were just proven wrong. The July 4th 2012 Higgs fireworks were mostly fabricated PR because nothing truly qualitative had changed in the previous 6+ months.

            Even if I agreed that the whole progress and especially theoretical progress was more fundamental in the case of GR and the Higgs mechanism, and I do agree with it, we just don’t live in 1919, 1960s, or 2012 now. We live in 2022. People have some annual budget of emotions to divide among events that occur in 2022. This is a perfectly sensible frontrunner to grab a big part of these emotions.

            Your claim that you are preventing people from being terrified that a wormhole eats them is a truly bizarre explanation. I haven’t seen such a person. Even if they believed that a true real-life wormhole were built, most people imagine them as harmless static objects, like the Big Dig in Boston. But even if some people were afraid of another scenario for the end of the world, then what? People are bombarded by tons of similar things and millions are afraid of nonsensical ends of the world. Why exactly the end of the world associated with a Google-Jafferis wormhole should have been banned? There is absolutely no justification. Also, the fear is partly what makes research important. Some people were afraid of the destruction of the Earth by the LHC. I and we could have argued that this was extremely unlikely but the probability of a problem wasn’t quite zero. We cannot rigorously disprove such scenarios because natural science isn’t mathematics. There are lots of assumptions in any argumentation. But the potential to destroy the Earth was a part of the reason why the LHC has deserved to swallow the billions of dollars. It was really qualitatively new in some respect. So even if the fear that some people are terrified by a real wormhole were justified, and it is not, your decision to fight against the research and interpretation of research would be counterproductive. It is right for the people to be somewhat terrified by the power of science because science is powerful.

            1. I don’t really disagree with your scientific history (though I think your view of the Higgs is off-base, since the discovery was by no means guaranteed — the Higgs could easily have decayed invisibly 99% of the time to some new particles, even if I accepted every detail of your analysis.)

              But you are focused on what scientists knew at the time, not what the public understood. Indeed, this is the main difference in approach between us; you are more scientist-focused and I am more public-focused. I am targeting public understanding of what constitutes a real breakthrough in science and what does not — even if that breakthrough occurred a few years ago and is just now hitting the press.

              This difference between us is also why you have not encountered people who are truly frightened and potentially outraged at scientists reputed to be dabbling in making real wormholes in a lab. On my facebook page I have encountered a few, and I have had email exchanges with a couple as well. [Some of them showed up when I wrote this post: https://profmattstrassler.com/2022/08/17/could-cern-open-a-portal-to-somewhere-anywhere/ ] Of course I have no idea, from this anecdotal evidence, how many people there really are out there who believe this kind of stuff. But then I look at all the journalists [the bad ones, to be sure] who wrote articles saying that our friends really had made wormholes in their lab, and I am not so confident as you that confusion is not widespread. And the 1972 bombing at SLAC and rumored threats to CERN [and hacking attacks on major scientific installations, https://futurism.com/the-byte/hackers-took-down-alma-telescopes , which caused real loss to science and whose motivation I’m still unclear about], along with other political violence that has been driven by ludicrous conspiracy theories, makes me less sanguine than you that there’s no reason to fight this perception.

              If I’m over-reacting, so be it; I’d rather err on this side. As long as I am not making incorrect statements about the science, then I am contributing to a useful community conversation in my own way; you don’t have to agree with my style, any more than I typically agree with yours. As I have said several times, the next posts I’m planning are all about why wormhole research is so wonderful and important, so in the end my viewpoint will not be one-sided, and in fact will be laudatory.

              As for the last part of your final paragraph, I simply don’t agree.

              1. Dear Matt, first, I think that it is right for science and scientists’ summaries of their work to be scientist-focused. The quality should be evaluated by other scientists, that is a rule of science. They simply aren’t journalists let alone salesmen. An example is the usage of terminology. From 2012, any entangled pair of degrees of freedom may be said to be a form of a wormhole and that’s what physicists often say. They really use a layman-preferred simple word “wormhole” for a simple reason, they find it interesting for similar reasons as a well-informed layman. But the word “wormhole” makes a scientist much less emotional than what it does to sci-fi film viewers.

                Now, most laymen don’t watch any news about this simulation. But those who follow these things may still have missed a year or 10 years or 30 years of advances, so their being more excited than a physicist is often simply because they clump their learning of the news into different, usually larger, packages. I don’t think it is a mistake that needs to be wrestled with. Different people just observe the world differently and at different frequencies.

                Lots of these laymen hear about the relationship between quantum things and wormholes for the first time, so they are looking at these things from a more long-term viewpoint, and indeed, from such a long-term big picture viewpoint, it is more meaningful to think and ask about wormholes that may transfer a dog, too. The actual papers are not about preparing huge leaps like that, they know that it is a huge leap (impossible in practice from any truly foreseeable understanding of practical acts) and they are making very small steps in comparison.

                But lots of laymen just get interested or excited for reasons that are really extremely close to the reasons why physicists study any similar things at all, and I think that you seem obsessed with delegitimizing these sentiments. That is why I count you as a softcore anti-science activist.

        1. Remember that quantum teleportation requires that classical information be sent via some other method, such as radio waves or current in a wire, from source to destination; otherwise you don’t know how to extract the quantum information. So you can’t beat existing light-speed limits even for information; your method for sending the classical information outside the wormhole is still your speed bottleneck. And that seems to be an unbreakable principle.

  7. Shame that wormholes cannot be used for time travel to the past.
    A quantum computer simulation of such a wormhole might have been extremely powerful.

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