Scientists have completed the first teleportation of an object from Earth to a satellite orbiting more than 300 miles away.
Alas, those of you expecting Scotty to beam them up soon will be sorely disappointed – the object teleported was merely a single photon.
While the experiment doesn’t bring us any closer to teleporting matter, it is a huge leap forward for quantum physics.
The team of Chinese researchers behind the successful teleportation came together from a number of disciplines and included quantum physicists as well as rocket scientists.
In 2016, they launched a satellite called Micius, named after Chinese philosopher from the 5th century BC, from the southwestern Gobi Desert.
Micius is equipped with a super sensitive photon receiver which enables it to detect the quantum state of a single photon which is fired at it from the Earth.
One of the most difficult to grasp aspects of quantum physics is how observing a quantum particle forces the particle’s state to change.
This is known as the observer effect, and it is the result of the instruments necessary to measure the state of very small objects.
When quantum objects, such as photons, are entangled it means that they were formed at the same instant in space and so share the same existence.
The state of entangled particles are linked, so that if you measure the state of one particle it instantaneously affects the state of the other.
Questions arise about how long it takes, if observation of one of the entangled objects can change the state of the other object, for the other object’s state to change.
Current research describes entangled particles as being part of the same wave function, which means that regardless of the distance between the entangled objects, the quantum state change will take place immediately.
This form of immediate change is what is being described when the scientists talk about teleportation.
By tangling two photons together and observing one, the scientists are instantaneously transmitting information in a potentially unlimited way.
While this has been performed many times in a laboratory setting, the Chinese researcher’s experiments show it to be possible to teleport an object from Earth to orbit, and breaks the record for the longest distance for entanglement.