Big News in Quantum Science!

Welcome all to my 800th post! Woot woot! I couldn’t possibly think of anything to special to write about to mark the occasion, as I seem to acknowledge far too many of these occasions. So instead I thought I’d wait for a much bigger milestone which is on the way and simply do a regular article. Hope you enjoy it, it is the 800th one I’ve written 😉

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C2012 saw quite a few technical developments and firsts being made; so many in fact that I had to dedicate two full posts to them! However, one story which didn’t make many news cycles, but may prove to be no less significant, was the  advances made in the field of quantum science. In fact, the strides made in this field during the past year were the first indication that a global, quantum internet might actually be possible.

For some time now, scientists and researchers have been toying with the concept of machinery that relies on quantum mechanics. Basically, the idea revolves around “quantum teleportation”, a process where quantum states of matter, rather than matter itself, are beamed from one location to another. Currently, this involves using a high-powered laser to fire entangled photons from one location to the next. When the photons at the receiving end take on the properties of the photon sent, a quantum teleportation has occurred, a process which is faster than the speed of light since matter is not actually moving, only its properties.

quantum-teleportation-star-trails-canary-islands-1-640x353Two years ago, scientists set the record for the longest teleportation by beaming a photon some 16 km. However, last year, a team of international researchers was able to beam the properties of a photon from their lab in La Palma to another lab in Tenerife, some 143 km away. Not only was this a new record, it was significant because 143 km happens to be just far enough to reach low Earth orbit satellites, thus proving that a world-spanning quantum network could be built.

Shortly thereafter, China struck back with its own advance, conducting the first teleportation of quantum states between two rubidium atoms. Naturally, atoms are several orders larger than a quantum qubit, which qualifies them as “macroscopic objects” – i.e. visible to the naked eye. This in turn has led many to believe that large quantities of information could be teleported from one location to the next using this technique in the near future.

And then came another breakthrough from England, where researchers managed to transmit qubits and binary data down the same piece of optic fiber, which laid the groundwork for a conventional internet that runs via optic cable instead of satellites, and which could be protected using quantum cryptography, a secured means of information transfer which remains (in theory) unbreakable.

quantum_compAnd finally, the companies of IBM and the University of Southern California (USC) reported big advances in the field of quantum computing during 2012. The year began with IBM announcing that it had created a 3-qubit computer chip (video below) capable of performing controlled logic functions. USC could only manage a 2-qubit chip — but it was fashioned out of diamond (pictured at left). Both advances strongly point to a future where your PC could be either completely quantum-based, or where you have a few quantum chips to aid with specific tasks.

As it stands, quantum computing, networking, and cryptography remain in the research and development phase. IBM’s current estimates place the completion of a fully-working quantum computer at roughly ten to fifteen years away. And as it stands, the machinery needed to conduct any of these processes remains large, bulky and very expensive. But miniaturization and a drop in prices are too things you can always count on in the tech world!

^So really, we may be looking at a worldwide, quantum internet by 2025 or 2030. We’re talking about a world in which information transfers faster than the speed of light, all connections are secure, and computing happens at unheard of speeds. Sounds impressive, but the real effect of this “quantum revolution” will be the exponential rate at which progress increases. With worldwide information sharing and computing happening so much faster, we can expect further advances in every field to take less time, and breakthroughs happening on a regular basis.

Yes, this technology could very well be the harbinger of what John von Neumann called the “Technological Singularity”. I know some of you might be feeling nervous at the moment, but somewhere, Ray Kurzweil is doing a happy dance! Just a few more decades before he and others like him can start downloading their brains or getting those long-awaited cybernetic enhancements!


11 thoughts on “Big News in Quantum Science!

  1. Matter Transportation. That’s all I want. I want Star Trek transporter beems or those transport circles on that show with Earth: Final Conflict. I want a faster way to get home after work than going through traffic. Not to mention, Dui’s, Dwi’s, and accidents and deaths from drunk driving would vanish. But mostly, I hate driving home after work. Just have regular transport stations at a set interval. I can walk a little ways from a station to home.

    1. Haha, the articles I drew this from made it a point to say that wasn’t quite what these were about. However, it’s a step in that direction, and could yield a system whereby matter itself is transmitting by simply beaming its properties into a terminal which recreates you, atom for atom. That is the way it’s done, isn’t it?

      1. Yes, which is why I also understand McCoy’s complaint, if it recreates you and destroys the original you, who is it that arrives on the other end and has the ‘real’ you died. Of course he didn’t say it that way. But it might be worth it to get out of traffic. I have a small problem with stop and go traffic and road rage.

    1. Not this way. If you send photons to a location, and someone tries to read them, the interrupt is detectable. No one can hack your transmissions without it becoming immediately apparent, and I believe the source is immediately visible too.

  2. Ack! Matter teleportation scares the hell out of me. I’d be dead and some other random person with all my memories would walk off. No thanks. I actually had to stop reading Rapture of the Nerds bc of this – the part where they take the protag. apart and upload him to the cloud. I was done.

  3. Exciting and terrifying news all at once. I’m exceedingly eager for genuine advancement in the field of quantum physics/mechanics in any form, but at the same time concerned that it will have an effect on our currently quasi-predictable exponential rate of technological advancement. My expiration date is slightly longer than ‘release date plus 18 months’ (very hopefully) and I would not like to see the beginning of the end. Moore is not always more! Then again, the hubs and I often debate the virtue of this holding true for quantum computing… I fall on the side of an initial slow-down period, that will then jump start an increased and less predictable spiral effect, whereas the hubs (gods love his computer engineering soul – yes,I’m a Battlestar fan, I said gods) believes that once the tech hits a ‘consumable’ state, the human factor will maintain the current consistency of speed (or lack there of, depending on how you look at it).

    As to matter transference/teleportation – holy friggin’ yeah, Batman, + Ack,like Raven said!

      1. LMAO! Sir, we stand shoulder to shoulder on this issue! I say poppy-cock to Moore’s law – thus the crux of much of the aggressive banter that goes on between a science geek and a computer geek living together for over 20 years! I will admit, it makes for some very late nights, and plenty to ‘talk’ (always as calmly as possible – at mind numbing decibels) around here. The neighbors think we’re nuts, we think they believe everything they see on the Discovery Channel! 😉

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