“Beam me up, Scotty?”
Well, not quite yet. But scientists in China have taken a major step towards the Star Trek transporter.
The first breakthrough using what’s known as ‘entanglement’ came last decade when scientists achieved teleportation of sorts with individual photons of light. When they tweaked one photon another photon at a distance responded as if it had also been tweaked.
What Einstein once called “spooky action at a distance” is today known as entanglement—a property of matter and energy found at the quantum level. When two things are entangled—like two photons—they’re connected by an invisible quantum wave. The connection is like a thread between the two objects. Therefore, when one object is stimulated both react.
In essence what happens is the quantum state of one thing is instantaneously transferred to another.
Earlier experiments successfully entangled objects a few hundreds of feet apart. The Chinese scientists at Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at Microscale have managed to entangle two objects ten miles from each other. They teleported the information to the Department of Modern Physics, University of Science and Technology of China, also located in Hefei.
Approximately 89 percent of the information was transmitted successfully, the highest figure to date. The achievement, a major breakthrough, is completely unprecedented. Unlike earlier experiments where entanglement was achieved employing the beaming of a photon through a fiber optic channel, the Chinese team used a 10 mile ‘free-space’ tunnel.
Entangled particle communication has huge potential for the future of the communications industry. Experts are watching the progress closely. All agree that while photons are good for transmitting information, encrypted messages would have to be carried on ions. Quantum ion waves can be encoded far easier than simple photons.
Communication using a quantum entanglement system would be instantaneous no matter the distance. Instead of transmitting information, the information would be teleported through a quantum wave from point of origin to the point of reception.
In that respect, this emerging information technology does mirror the technology of the Star Trek universe. While not the basis for a matter transporter, this information teleportation is the basis for what Gene Roddenberry envisioned as ‘subspace’ communication.
It is highly probable that some day a future Starfleet Command will communicate with starship captains halfway across our galaxy in real time using quantum entanglement communications. The rudiments of such a system are being tested right now. And they work.
Captain Kirk would be pleased.