Entanglement and the Continuity of Space-Time

By Shawn Radcliffe

image by Jai Youn Ryu

Quantum entanglement and wormholes may give rise to the fabric of reality, according to a new idea proposed by physicists. Tying these phenomena together, along with black holes, could also pave the way toward a theory of everything.

Like many things in quantum physics, this concept has its roots in Albert Einstein’s work. In 1935, he and Nathan Rosen wrote a paper showing that what appeared on the outside to be two separate black holes might actually be connected on the inside. This connection became known as an Einstein-Rosen bridge, or a wormhole.

More recent work by physicists found that these kinds of wormholes can only exist if the surfaces of the black holes are quantum entangled. If the entanglement is severed, then the wormhole will break. This suggests that entanglement binds space-time together.

“The continuity of space-time, which seems to be something very solid, could come from the ghostly properties of entanglement,” theorist Mark Van Raamsdonk of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, told New Scientist.

Entanglement is a well-known aspect of quantum physics, in which particles can be connected even when they are on opposite sides of the universe—what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.”

Entanglement, though, is not all-or-nothing—it can occur in different degrees. In the case of the connected black holes, entanglement could be reduced slowly until the wormhole breaks. Reinstating the entanglement between the surfaces of the black holes would restore the wormhole.

The physicists who came up with the new idea— Juan Maldacena and Leonard Susskind—suggest that wormholes and quantum entanglement actually describe the same phenomena in different ways.

In addition, since entanglement represents a type of information—and it gives rise to the fabric of reality—“space-time is a manifestation of quantum information,” Maldacena said in an interview with New Scientist.

Their work, however, raises certain questions. Is every pair of entangled particles—including the ones frequently created in laboratories around the world—connected by a tiny wormhole? Are we living in a universe that, at its foundation, consists only of quantum bits of information?

Currently, physicists don’t know the answers to these questions. But Maldacena and Susskind are certain that entanglement and wormholes will play a role in an eventual theory of everything.

“We are sure that these things are going to be part of the final story,” Susskind told New Scientist. “But I don’t think we have a clear picture of what that final story is yet.”

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