Chinese Scientists Channel Star Trek And Beam Quantum Entangled Photons Into Space
The Chinese team of scientists, led by Ji-Gang Ren at the University of Science and Technology in Shanghai, fired a laser from a station in Tibet to a satellite 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The laser that went to the satellite carried a photon that was entangled with another photon that remained on the ground. The scientists then entangled a third photon and measured their quantum states.
“Entangled” photons have what Albert Einstein referred to as a “spooky connection”. Whatever action is performed on one particle affects the other particle as well. Furthermore, if scientists know the state of one of the particles, they will also know the state of the others. The information between the photons theoretically travels faster than the speed of light.
Another way to better understand photon entanglement is to pretend that you have cut a coin in half and sent the pieces to different people. The receivers of the coin halves would presumably know what the other half of the coin looks like without having to communicate with one another. It is important to note that this analogy is an oversimplification of a quite complicated quantum physics concept.
Image from: "Ground-to-Satellite Quantum Teleportation", Cornell University Library
This is not the first time that this team of scientists has been entangled in photon experiments. This past June, the group sent entangled photons from the Micius satellite to two ground stations. This previous experiment demonstrated that entangled photons can be sent over long distances while the most recent experiment revealed that a photon’s quantum state can also be transmitted.
Although human beings will probably not be teleported any time soon, this experiment is a step toward quantum communication or the movement of small bits of information. It is important to note that while this study has been published online, it has yet to be peer-reviewed outside of China or replicated. You can learn more here.