Not too long ago #BeamMeUpScotty was trending and you may have heard major media networks claiming that “scientists have successfully teleported an object into space“. This has resulted in science fiction fans including Trekkies all over the world getting excited. After all, which Trekkie doesn’t want to teleport to Risa, the second planet of the binary star system Epsilon Ceti B, on a shore leave? Allow me to dampen your spirits just a little bit.
Below is an excerpt from a paper by Chinese Physicists who made this said breakthrough:
“An arbitrary unknown quantum state cannot be precisely measured or perfectly replicated. However, quantum teleportation allows faithful transfer of unknown quantum states from one object to another over long distance, without physical travelling of the object itself. Long-distance teleportation has been recognized as a fundamental element in protocols such as large-scale quantum networks and distributed quantum computation…
Here, we report the first quantum teleportation of independent single-photon qubits from a ground observatory to a low Earth orbit satellite – through an up-link channel – with a distance up to 1400 km…
We demonstrate successful quantum teleportation for six input states in mutually unbiased bases with an average fidelity of 0.80+/-0.01, well above the classical limit. This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet.”
What this paper implies is that “qubits” or “quantum bits” have been teleported, which means “quantum information” has been exchanged thanks to “quantum entanglement”. Quantum information can refer to the “state” of the photons itself so this may not necessarily mean that teleportation in the sense that science fiction, especially Star Trek, has come to explain may be possible. So scientists didn’t actually teleport an ‘object’ into space.
This is the first time that such an experiment has succeeded over a long distance. This had already been achieved over shorter distances on earth.
This does not in any way imply that Star Trek like teleportation is around the corner so please calm down. However, these are encouraging signs for global scale quantum-internet because theoretical Physics is already pretty clear on this. In theory, it is possible to send qubits over long distances if link efficiency and atmospheric turbulence in the up-link, along with a few other input parameters, can be controlled.
At the moment we are learning how to control these parameters. When experimental Physics meets the cutting edge of Computer Science nothing seems impossible. So don’t be too disappointed. Nobody actually knows what the future holds.
Live long and prosper.