Teleportation Takes Quantum Leap

<< Back to Page 1   Page 2 of 2

Teleportation was long considered impossible because it violates the so-called uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. As the principle goes, the act of measuring a tiny particle destroys it. So theoretically, an exact replica of a particle can never be made.

But in 1993 scientists showed a way around the problem by using a complex concept known as entanglement, an area of physics that Albert Einstein referred to as "spooky action at a distance."

Since then, numerous experiments using photons have proved that quantum teleportation is possible. Scientists have teleported quantum bits along more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) of fiber-optic wire inside laboratories.

The science is not new, said Mark Kuzyk, a physics professor at Washington State University in Pullman. But this is the first time "researchers have demonstrated that teleportation works in the kinds of real-life conditions that are found in telecom applications."

No Eavesdropping

The most obvious practical application for quantum teleportation is in cryptology. Scientists say quantum physics can provide a completely secure method of communication between two distant correspondents. Sending photons entangled in a quantum state makes it impossible for an eavesdropper to intercept a message.

"There is no copy [of the information], so there is nothing to intercept," Ursin said.

The problem, for now, is that the quantum technology only works over limited distances. Physicists are now laying the groundwork for so-called quantum repeaters. Used in regular communications, these devices would allow messages to be transmitted around the world.

Commercial applications remain far off. "But this is really the step toward a real-world implementation of a long-distance quantum teleportation protocol," Ursin said.

So what are the chances of developing a transporter that can beam people from one location to another, Star Trek-style?

"Nothing we do will help us build Scotty's apparatus," Ursin said. "The reason is very simple: A human body contains too much information to scan and build all replicas."

For a human to be teleported, a machine would have to pinpoint and analyze the trillions and trillions of atoms that make up the human body. Only recently have scientists taken preliminary steps toward teleporting even a single, whole atom.

For more teleportation news, scroll down to bottom.

<< Back to Page 1   Page 2 of 2




NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.