Most of the news I’m hearing today about the current wormhole publicity stunt is that physicists who could do something about it are instead blaming any problem on journalists and defending the stunt as some sort of progress forward.
I’ve been wondering what the future for this kind of thing looks like, got a partial answer by looking at this presentation today by the director of Fermilab. On page 67 she explains
Future experiments with better QC and with QCs connected through quantum networks, such as those under development at Fermilab, could provide better insight through better resolution and adding non-trivial spatial separation of the two systems.
So, next generation wormhole publicity stunts will involve, beyond going from 9 qubits to more, putting two quantum computers in two places and connecting them by a quantum network. The press reports will explain that physicists not only created a wormhole on a chip, but created a wormhole connecting two different labs.
I started looking for more information about these next-generation wormhole publicity stunts, and found instead something I hadn’t been aware of, an older such stunt, described in Towards Quantum Gravity in the Lab on Quantum Processors, which got attention last spring not at Quanta, but in the much lower profile Discover Magazine, where one reads:
The team developed quantum software that could reproduce wormhole inspired teleportation on both quantum computers and then characterized the results. “We have designed and carried out “wormhole-inspired” many-body teleportation experiments on IBM and Quantinuum quantum processors and we observe a signal consistent with the predictions,” say Shapoval and co.
One reason for the lack of significant attention to this publicity stunt as opposed to the current one surely is the decision of the authors to claim not “wormhole teleportation” but “wormhole-inspired teleportation”.
The past is the past, but it looks like the field of quantum gravity research is from now on going to be dominated by these wormhole publicity stunts, using more qubits and more quantum computers. This kind of research project is nearly ideal: you can get lots of funding from conventional sources like DOE, or even better, funding from and access to equipment at large tech companies like Google and IBM. You can convince the director of your lab or institute that you’re doing research of significance comparable to the discovery and testing of general relativity 100 years ago and your work will be vindicated by cover stories in Nature and all over the rest of the media.
Back in 1996, in The End of Science, John Horgan worried that this kind of science would end up in a “speculative post-empirical mode”, and quantum gravity theorists have for years now worried about accusations of not being connected to experiment. The solution to this problem is now clear: no one will take your wormholes seriously if they’re just on paper, so the thing to do is to get them realized in an algorithm that you run on the most twenty-first century experimental hardware available, a quantum computer in a tech company lab.
Update: There was a hoax comment posted here last night, supposedly from Natalie Wolchover, which had me fooled for a while. Whoever was doing this seems to have been making excellent use of ChatGPT, together with manipulating other aspects of how the comment was posted that helped fool me.