Beam Me over, Scotty? A Quantum Leap in Quantum Teleportation

By Fuller-Wright, Liz | The Christian Science Monitor, August 16, 2013 | Go to article overview

Beam Me over, Scotty? A Quantum Leap in Quantum Teleportation


Fuller-Wright, Liz, The Christian Science Monitor


Quantum teleportation has taken a great leap forward - but without moving through space, so it's less of a leap and more of a, well, teleportation, for lack of a better word.

Quantum research defies easy language. How do you describe jumping from one spot to another without passing through the space between? Quantum theory works outside of space. In the subatomic realm, all the usual metaphors for progress - a "step," a "leap," a "milestone," a "higher level" - have run off to hide in the box with Schrodinger's cat.

Here's the crux of the matter: While most of physics has to follow the same rules - planets and apples are subject to the same laws of motion - all of those rules fall away when you get down to the subatomic level.

For instance, these vanishingly small particles can become "entangled." When two particles are entangled, then whatever you do to one particle instantaneously affects its entangled twin, regardless of the distance between them. Whether they're only a millimeter apart or separated by an entire galaxy, if you alter one, its twin feels it.

Recently, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) used entanglement to teleport information not across a quarter inch. That sounds easy. After all, the internet sends information thousands of miles in fractions of a second. But this time, the information wasn't carried through the intervening space.

"In telecommunications, information is transmitted by electromagnetic pulses. In mobile communications, for example, microwave pulses are used, while in fibre connections it is optical pulses," explained Andreas Wallraff, professor of physics at ETHZ and head of the study, in a press release.

Quantum teleportation, on the other hand, skips the information carrier - the pulse - and sends only pure information, from one entangled particle to another. Once the particles are entangled, giving information to one means the other instantaneously knows it, too.

It's "comparable to 'beaming' as shown in the science fiction series 'Star Trek,' " said Dr. Wallraff. "The information does not travel from point A to point B. …

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