Quantum physics is a field that appears to give scientists superpowers. Those who understand the world of extremely small or cold particles can perform amazing feats with them – including teleportation – that appear to bend reality.
“Demonstrating quantum effects such as teleportation outside of a lab environment involves a whole new set of challenges. This experiment shows how these challenges can all be overcome and hence it marks an important milestone towards the future quantum Internet.”
The science behind these feats is complicated, and until recently, didn’t exist outside of lab settings. But that’s changing: researchers have begun to implement quantum teleportation in real-world contexts. Being able to do so just might revolutionize modern phone and Internet communications, leading to highly secure, encrypted messaging.
Image above: This image shows crystals used for storing entangled photons, which behave as though they are part of the same whole. Scientists use crystals like these in quantum teleportation experiments. Image Credits: Félix Bussières/University of Geneva.
A paper published in Nature Photonics and co-authored by engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, details the first experiments with quantum teleportation in a metropolitan fiber cable network. For the first time, the phenomenon has been witnessed over long distances in actual city infrastructure. In Canada, University of Calgary researchers teleported the quantum state of a photon more than 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) in “dark” (unused) cables under the city of Calgary. That’s a new record for the longest distance of quantum teleportation in an actual metropolitan network.
“By using advanced superconducting detectors, we can use individual photons to efficiently communicate both classical and quantum information from space to the ground. We are planning to use more advanced versions of these detectors for demonstrations of optical communication from deep space and of quantum teleportation from the International Space Station.”
While longer distances had been recorded in the past, those were conducted in lab settings, where photons were fired through spools of cable to simulate the loss of signal caused by long distances. This latest series of experiments in Calgary tested quantum teleportation in actual infrastructure, representing a major step forward for the technology.
“Demonstrating quantum effects such as teleportation outside of a lab environment involves a whole new set of challenges. This experiment shows how these challenges can all be overcome and hence it marks an important milestone towards the future quantum Internet,” said Francesco Marsili, one of the JPL co-authors. “Quantum communication unlocks some of the unique properties of quantum mechanics to, for example, exchange information with ultimate security or link together quantum computers.”
“The superconducting detector platform, which has been pioneered by JPL and NIST researchers, makes it possible to detect single photons at telecommunications wavelengths with nearly perfect efficiency and almost no noise. This was simply not possible with earlier detector types, and so experiments such as ours, using existing fiber-infrastructure, would have been close to impossible without JPL’s detectors.”
Photon sensors for the experiment were developed by Marsili and Matt Shaw of JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory, along with colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder, Colorado. Their expertise was critical to the experiments: quantum networking is done with photons, and requires some of the most sensitive sensors in the world in order to know exactly what’s happening to the particle.
“The superconducting detector platform, which has been pioneered by JPL and NIST researchers, makes it possible to detect single photons at telecommunications wavelengths with nearly perfect efficiency and almost no noise. This was simply not possible with earlier detector types, and so experiments such as ours, using existing fiber-infrastructure, would have been close to impossible without JPL’s detectors,” said Daniel Oblak of the University of Calgary’s Institute for Quantum Science and Technology.
Safer emails using quantum physics
Shrink down to the level of a photon, and physics starts to play by bizarre rules. Scientists who understand those rules can “entangle” two particles so that their properties are linked. Entanglement is a mind-boggling concept in which particles with different characteristics, or states, can be bound together across space. That means whatever affects one particle’s state will affect the other, even if they’re located miles apart from one another.
This is where teleportation comes in. Imagine you have two entangled particles – let’s call them Photon 1 and Photon 2 – and Photon 2 is sent to a distant location. There, it meets with Photon 3, and the two interact with each other. Photon 3’s state can be transferred to Photon 2, and automatically “teleported” to the entangled twin, Photon 1. This disembodied transfer happens despite the fact that Photons 1 and 3 never interact. Read the rest of this entry »
Undocking coverage lasts from 6:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. EDT, while landing coverage is scheduled to run from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT
Mike Wall reports: NASA will test-fire the booster of its Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket today at 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT), and three astronauts will return to Earth from the International Space Station in the evening. You can watch the space action live on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.
“What’s impressive about this test is, when ignited, the booster will be operating at about 3.6 million pounds of thrust, or 22 million horsepower. This test firing is critical to enable validation of our design.”
— Alex Priskos, manager of the SLS Boosters Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama
The SLS rocket booster test takes place at the facilities of aerospace firm Orbital ATK in Promontory, Utah, with webcast coverage beginning at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT). There will be no spaceflight involved: Engineers will fire the 177-foot-long (54 meters) booster for two minutes on the ground, in a horizontal configuration.
“What’s impressive about this test is, when ignited, the booster will be operating at about 3.6 million pounds of thrust, or 22 million horsepower,” Alex Priskos, manager of the SLS Boosters Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said in a statement. “This test firing is critical to enable validation of our design.”
Another booster test is planned for early 2016, NASA officials said.
The SLS will incorporate two of the five-segment boosters, as well as four RS-25 engines, on its first two flights, which will be capable of lofting 70 metric tons of payload to low-Earth orbit (LEO). NASA intends to scale the rocket up to deliver 130 metric tons to LEO, to enable manned missions to faraway destinations such as Mars. The first SLS flight is currently scheduled for 2018.
This evening, NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova will wrap up their nearly six-month-long mission aboard the International Space Station and come back down to Earth. Read the rest of this entry »
Apollo 17 and a piece of space history.
APOLLO 17 : The voyage of Apollo 17 marked the program’s concluding expedition to the moon. The mission lifted off after midnight on Dec. 7, 1972 from Kennedy Space Center and touched down on the lunar surface on Dec. 11. The crew spent almost 75 hours on the lunar surface, conducted nearly 22 hours of extravehicular activities (EVAs), and traveled almost 19 miles in the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). During lunar lift-off on Dec. 14, Apollo 17 Mission Commander Eugene A. Cernan remarked that the astronauts were leaving as they came, “with peace and hope for all mankind.” In this photo, taken during the second EVA on Dec. 12, 1972, Cernan is standing near the lunar rover designed by Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC