- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - They may not be able to ask Scotty to beam them up
yet, but California researchers said Thursday they had completed the first
"full" teleportation experiment.
- They said they had teleported a beam
of light across a laboratory bench. They did not physically transport the
beam itself, but transmitted its properties to another beam, creating a
replica of the first beam.
- "We claim this is the first bona
fide teleportation," Jeff Kimble, a physics professor at the California
Institute of Technology, said in a telephone interview.
- Kimble thinks the experiment can eventually
transform everyday life.
- Scientists hope that quantum computers,
which move information about in this way rather than by using wires and
silicon chips, will be infinitely faster and more powerful than present-day
- "I believe that quantum information
is going to be really important for our society, not in five years or 10
years, but if we look into the 100-year time frame it's hard to imagine
that advanced societies don't use quantum information," Kimble said.
- "The appetite of society is so voracious
for the moving and processing of information that it will be driven to
exploit even the crazy realm of quantum physics."
- Quantum teleportation allows information
to be transmitted at the speed of light -- the fastest speed possible --
without being slowed down by wires or cables.
- The experiment depends on a property
known as entanglement -- what Albert Einstein once described as "spooky
action at a distance."
- It is a property of atomic particles
that mystifies even physicists. Sometimes two particles that are a very
long distance apart are nonetheless somehow twinned, with the properties
of one affecting the other.
- "Entanglement means if you tickle
one the other one laughs," Kimble said.
- In the weird world of quantum physics,
where the normal ideas of what is solid or what is real do not apply, scientists
can use these properties to their advantage.
- What Kimble's team did was create two
entangled light beams -- streams of photons. Photons, the basic unit of
light, sometimes act like particles and sometimes like waves.
- They used these two entangled beams to
carry information about the quantum state of a third beam. The first two
beams were destroyed in the process, but the third successfully transmitted
its properties over a distance of about a yard, Kimble's team reported
in the journal Science.
- Last December a team of physicists in
Innsbruck, Austria and a month later another team in Rome said they did
a similar thing, with single photons. But Kimble said his team was able
to verify what they had done, and also used full light beams as opposed
to single photons.
- "Ours is an important advance beyond
that," he said.
- Although the Caltech team worked with
light, Kimble thinks teleportation could be applied to solid objects. For
instance, the quantum state of a photon could be teleported and applied
to a particle, even to an atom.
- "Way beyond sex change operations
and genetic engineering, the quantum state of one entity could be transported
to another entity," Kimble said. "We think we know how to do
- In other words, an object's individual
atoms would not be transported, but transmitting its properties could create
a perfect replica.
- Could this mean the transporters of the
television and movie science-fiction series Star Trek, which beam people
and objects for huge distances, could one day be a reality?
- "I don't think anybody knows the
answer," Kimble said. "Let's don't teleport a person -- let's
teleport the smallest bacterium. How much entanglement would we need to
teleport such a thing?"
- Would such a teleported bacterium actually
be the same bacterium, or just a very good copy?
- "Again, no one knows for sure,"
Kimble said. But his team is working on it.