Nasa / Space

Star Trekian quantum teleportation breakthrough

Scientists recently used photonic teleportation to move information a record breaking 9.9 miles. There is still no talk of being able to teleport objects or people yet, but it seems, Scotty wasn't too far off the mark.

A study published in the June 2010 issue of the scientific journal Nature Photonics describes how scientists in China were able to push telecommunications technology forward in a very Star Trekian way. Scientists believe this new breakthrough in photon science will lead to worldwide unbreakable, encrypted communication.

These scientists used photonic teleportation to move information a record breaking 9.9 miles (16 kilometers). They managed to entangle bits of light and matter and then use the properties of that entanglement to move information. Entangling minuscule bits of light and matter, called quantum teleportation, isn't new -- the problem is that they've never been able to do much with it. The bits become untangled after moving only a few yards; the trick is to keep the light and matter together as long as possible.

This is the science behind it: When bits of light and matter become entangled, what happens to one particle happens to the other; when they get untangled. Scientists are only able to move information as far as the atoms remain entangled, so keeping them together for nearly 10 miles is staggering.

The Chinese scientists used a blue laser, a semiconductor, and a beta-barium borate crystal to entangle two light photons. They then sent the photon with more energy from Beijing to a site in Hebei province (9.9 miles away). They managed to get one photon to change polarization when the other photon did.

The science minded among us are likely already impressed. But those of us to whom the above information is a bit like stereo instructions, here's the really neato part: They did this through free space. Now we see why scientists the world over are looking at this new development for a next-gen satellite telecomm network that would use quantum teleportation.

But a phone call on this network wouldn't be much faster than calls are now. While the quantum teleportation-based call would travel faster than the speed of light, the necessary decoder key would travel at the usual rate. Scientists are touting that it would be impossible to eavesdrop on a phone call that uses quantum teleportation; this is because the entangled photons won't entangle with any other photons. It's like photons coupled for life. So even if the message was noted, the eavesdropper would need to have the decoder key that was communicated over traditional telecomm infrastructure.

The project's scientists think that this technology will be particularly useful for communicating with orbiting spacecraft. There is still no talk of being able to teleport objects or people to said spacecraft, but it seems, Scotty wasn't too far off the mark.

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28 comments
AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

It has all the traditional parts. You just have to eavesdrop on the normal channels to get the key, so what's unbreakable about it?

cdnjay
cdnjay

Is there anyway to do this without the decoder key I wonder? How much faster then light does the signal move, could we have live conversations with Mars?

grayknight
grayknight

So besides eavesdropping the normal channels, you would need physical possession of the photon that is entangled. No other photon would work. So there is no sending the message onto its intended receipients. And the data transfer occurs outside of space-time as we know it. It takes no time regardless of distance.

seanferd
seanferd

That is, you can't use entanglement without creating the entanglement in the first place. And setting up entanglement in the first place is limited by the speed of light, but in practice, likely slower than light's top speed. There is no "signal", entanglement is instantaneous "spooky action at a distance". Changing the state of one entangled particle instantly "affects" the state of the other.

robo_dev
robo_dev

Although I thought that anything traveling at the speed of light is, by definition, light?? So are these clever scientists converting matter into light, and back again? If so, then tele-portation would be possible. The logical issue with human teleportation using light, besides the obvious issue of data-integrity failures or packet loss leading to a gruesome death, would be that it would be possible to replicate anything, as the process could be recorded and played-back. So an army of clones could be created quite easily.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

does it say that intercepting the signal is useless without the key? That alone suggests that the signal may end up in the wrong hands. So, that's what I'm on about. There was just another thread about quantum crypto cracking, where they got the key off usual channels.

pbowes55
pbowes55

I thought nothing could go faster than the speed of light - am I missing something?

robo_dev
robo_dev

I assumed that anything traveling at the speed of light is, by definition, light. So entanglement happens at slightly less than light speed. Which is a contradiction, since anything traveling slower is not light.

dogknees
dogknees

There's a no-cloning law in quantum mechanics. Essentially it isn't possible to make an identical copy of a quantum state. Hence, no clone army. Light usually doesn't even travel at the speed "C". It slows as it goes through matter or gravitational fields (which are basically everywhere).

Slayer_
Slayer_

The transportation is still destroying the person, then remaking them elsewhere

Roger Bamforth
Roger Bamforth

My understanding is that the law isn't that nothing can travel faster than light but that nothing (except light) can travel at the speed of light. So travelling faster than light is fine so long as you can work out a way of going that fast without going through the speed of light on the way.

janakee
janakee

"SPEED OF LIGHT" versus "LIGTH SPEED" The creation of photons take place in pairs. Each pair has the same polarity or spin. In 1964 John Stewart Bell - a Northern Irish physicist, and the originator of Bell's Theorem -hypothesized the idea that if you change the spin or orientation of one of the photons in a pair that the other photon would instantly also change its orientation or polarity. At that time there was no technology to test this hypothesis. The scientific community by and large ignored this hypothesis. However, as technology evolved this theory could be tested. It was found to be true. Thus was born the concept of Quantum Entanglement, Non-locality or quantum non-local phenomenon. What this means simply is: Lets take the birth of our Sun as a frame of reference. Now lets choose any photon pair from this birth process. Until now, that photon pair has travelled away from the sun, in the form of light (at the speed of light), for 5 billion years. The 2 photons in this pair could be millions of light years apart from each other. If we now change the polarity of one of the photons the other photon will instantaneously change. This is "LIGHT SPEED". The big question is how and why does this happen. * How does the one photon know that its twin photon has changed polarity? * Why does the second photon also change polarity to be in harmony with the first photon. The answer to this wake-up call to Stephen Hawkings can be found at the following link. www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-03/computer-processes-faster-speed-light#comment-60212

seanferd
seanferd

It is a weird (to us) property of the universe.

seanferd
seanferd

A perfect vacuum gets you an average wavefront velocity of c. The speed of light in air or water (I mention media allowing transmission of optical wavelengths for experience one can relate to) is slower. If the speed of light was totally invariant, we wouldn't get all sorts of cool optical effects. But ignoring that, entanglement for use in human endeavors also depends on actually setting up useful entanglements, so that whole process takes time in and of itself. edit: Or, you may be thinking of the fact that if it isn't light, it can never propagate @ c.

RipVan
RipVan

No soul? Simple solution. Until they move the technology along, they could just use it to move IRS bureaucrats around, (or our future "government healthcare professionals,") at least until the technology evolves.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

God, doesn't anyone read good science fiction anymore? Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series. Soul is indestructable, and moves instantaneously to rejoin the body that matches its pattern. PJF used it as a means of getting out of a locked box, and as a means for random transportation; but never really explored it as a genuine transportation methodology. The problem was the more times you did it, the weaker the attraction of the soul to the body. Entanglement doesn't allow duping at the moment. Take two particles, entangle them, then try to take one particle and entangle it with another and you change its state, unentangling it from the first one.

NexS
NexS

To Jango and his army. I wouldn't be complaining TOO much.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

An army of "soulless" clones may just be what you need! No remorse, follow orders, no hesitation...where have we seen this type of army before? Hmmmm...sounds familiar... Oh yes, Nazi Germany!! Then again, maybe we don't want soulless clones for an army?

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

There goes my army of clones idea! World domination will hae to wait. Guess I'll be working on the robot army instead, duct-taping a laser pointer to a Roomba.