Set your phasers to stunned — researchers in the Netherlands have made a landmark breakthrough in the field of quantum teleportation that could one day see human beings getting beamed from one point in space to another. While that level of technology is still a long way off, the science community is abuzz with the results of a new experiment published this week.
The details behind the tests take some effort to get your head around, but essentially a team from the Delft University of Technology has successfully passed quantum data between electrons with 100 percent accuracy for the first time. This is only the states of particles we’re talking about, and only over a distance of 10 feet, but it’s still significant.
“If you believe we are nothing more than a collection of atoms strung together in a particular way, then in principle it should be possible to teleport ourselves from one place to another,” team leader Professor Ronald Hanson told the Telegraph. “In practice it’s extremely unlikely, but to say it can never work is very dangerous. I would not rule it out because there’s no fundamental law of physics preventing it.”
The findings contradict one of Albert Einstein’s fundamental beliefs that “entanglement” — one atom’s ability to reliably affect another across any distance — was not a valid phenomenon in quantum mechanics. The Dutch team is just one of several research groups looking into the possibility that entanglement is indeed something that can be harnessed.
According to Professor Hanson, any kind of Star Trek-style teleportation devices are “far in the future,” but the technology could be used much earlier to create an Internet many times faster and more secure than the one we are familiar with today. “One application nearest to a real life application is secure communication,” says Professor Hanson. “What you’re doing is using entanglement as your communication channel… the information is teleported to the other side, and there’s no way anyone can intercept that information. In principle it’s 100 percent secure.”
The next step is to reproduce the same results over a longer distance, something the scientists will be attempting in July.