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First “Teleportation” of Entangled Photons from Earth to Space Satellite

First “Teleportation” of Entangled Photons
from Earth to Space Satellite

© 2017 by Linda Moulton Howe

“What China did was enormously impressive.”

- Brian Greene, Ph.D., Prof. of Physics,
Columbia University, NYC

A ground transmitter beams entangled photons toward
China's Micius satellite in space. 2017 illustration
by China Academy of Sciences.


July 28, 2017 New York City, New York - A major revolution happened this year that could eventually make the world wide web obsolete! Quantum physicists are calling it “profound” and are predicting this could completely change 21st Century communication technology into a quantum internet, quantum computing and unhackable quantum cryptography.

So, what happened?


Quantum Teleportation from
Ngari, Tibet to Micius in Space

Business Insider Science, July 20, 2017.

On July 10, 2017, the Cornell University arXiv (pronounced archive) published (See Websites below) the first ever quantum “teleportation” between Earth and a satellite in space, breaking the distance record for quantum entanglement. But don't think Star Trek transporter room — at least not yet.

A few months ago, Chinese scientists gathered on a Tibetan mountain site called Ngari near China's border with India. The altitude there is 16,732 feet (5,100 meters) and the atmosphere is thin.

Image of sacred Mount Kailash in the Himalayan range of far western Tibet, near Ngari in
southwest China near the India border. The summit rises to 16,732 feet (5,100 meters),
one of the highest mountains in the Trans-Himalaya or Gangdise – Nyenchen Tanglha range that
extends for 994 miles (1600 km) west to east direction parallel to the main Himalayan range.
This mountain is considered holy by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. In ancient texts,
it is referred to as the center of the world. Image © by FengWei Photography.

The scientists spent 32 nights beaming 911 pairs of photons from the Tibetan mountain top to China's Micius quantum satellite launched a year ago on August 16, 2016. Micius was an ancient Chinese philosopher. In the experiment, each of the 911 photon pairs was entangled! Those entangled pairs are called “qubits,” which stands for quantum-entangled bits. In addition to photons, electrons can also be entangled. From a physics perspective, when two photons or two electrons are entangled, they are suddenly like clones of each other, but with opposite spins. Even when separated by great distances, if there is a change in one entangled particle, there will immediately be a change in the paired particle.

Overview of set-up for ground-to-satellite quantum teleportation of a single
photon with a distance up to 870 miles (1400 km). Illustration by Ji-Gang Ren et al.

But that implies faster than light speed, which Einstein said was impossible. So, to get around that problem, physicists have come up with the concept of an instantaneous “information transfer” between entangled particles. That's the teleportation, but there's not supposed to be any real physical teleportation of the particles themselves — which is baffling. What transports the information?

A ground transmitter beams entangled photons toward China's Micius satellite in space.
2017 illustration by China Academy of Sciences.

The Chinese scientists made their 911 qubits by beaming an ultraviolet laser through a special crystal that created pairs of photons with opposite states of polarization. Then mirrors split those qubits with a laser beam that kept one photon on the ground in Tibet and sent the other photon to the Micius satellite that orbits between 310 to 870 miles above Earth (500 - 1400 km).

This is the longest distance and first time ever that humans have created a quantum connection that far and between the Earth's surface and a satellite in space. Any interaction with any photon in any of those 911 entangled photon pairs will instantly cause a reaction in the other paired photon. This is what Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” No one, including Einstein, has understood how it works. But now those Chinese scientists — led by a physicist at the University of Science and Technology in China — have those 911 weirdly connected photon pairs on their Micius quantum satellite to work with in instant communication.

Artist illustration of how our universe's space-time structure might actually be made
of tiny bubbles “quadrillions of times smaller than the nucleus of an atom that are
constantly fluctuating and last for only infinitesimal fractions of a second.”
Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss.

To talk about all this, recently I interviewed Brian Greene, Ph.D., Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Columbia University, and author of The Elegant Universe that received the Royal Society Prize for Science Books.




Brian Greene, Ph.D., Prof. of Physics and Mathematics,
Columbia University, New York City, New York.

Brian Greene, Ph.D., Prof. of Physics and Mathematics, Columbia University, New York City, New York: “Well, what China did, which was enormously impressive, was to carry out in space the kind of communication process that a theory called quantum mechanics allows for, but which until then had only been carried out on the surface of the Earth. They were able to carry it out in space. So I should probably say a few words about what that weird quantum communications channel is all about.


Exactly. So that does take us directly to this notion of entanglement, which is a feature of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics itself is our understanding of small particles, molecules, atoms, electrons, and protons and quarks. Surprisingly, in that realm, you need new quantum laws. And perhaps the strangest feature of those quantum laws is something that even gave Albert Einstein a big headache. It is called entanglement.

Entanglement graphic here

And it's a feature of the quantum world where you can have two particles, let's just say two electrons. And those electrons can be very far apart, and yet they can still behave as if they are right next to each other. You can have an electron in New York and another electron in California, and you can set it up in such a way that if you disturb the electron in New York in a certain manner, then the electron in California in some sense responds immediately to the disturbance, even though that disturbance took place 3,000 miles away.


Exactly. And he called it that because he was really denigrating it, he was putting it down. He was basically saying, 'This can't be how the world really works! Come on! This just doesn't make any sense!'

And yet in the decades since when experiments finally could be done, they showed that this spooky action is real. This is one of the most shocking, surprising, and confirmed features of the quantum world.

What happened more recently, just this month of July 2017, is that the China researchers leveraged quantum entanglement to carry out another process, something called quantum teleportation. And this again is something that we've known about for a long time. In fact, researchers have carried out quantum teleportation on planet Earth. But the Chinese are the first to do this in space.


Quantum Teleportation

So what is quantum teleportation? Well, here's the idea. Imagine I have those two entangled particles, photons, electrons. It really doesn't matter what the particles are. Again, imagine one is in New York and the other is in California. If I have a third particle, let's say a third electron that I want to teleport from New York to California, then the two entangled particles that I initially set up provide exactly the machinery necessary for me to accomplish my goal. And here's how it works.

I take this third electron that I want to transport from New York to California. I bring it right next to the entangled pair that's sitting in New York and allow those electrons to commingle. And as they commingle, the entangled member winds up getting an imprint of the properties of the electron that I want to teleport. And because it's entangled with a partner particle in California, the particle in California winds up absorbing the imprint instantaneously of the third particle that I want to teleport.

And then through a little quantum gymnastics, I can manipulate the particle in California to ensure that it is an exact copy of the electron that I wanted to teleport. So it's not literally that the particle that I want to teleport goes through space from New York to California. Instead, what happens is all the information about that particle winds up being transported from New York to California via this strange spooky action that Einstein spoke of. And that's the beautiful procedure of quantum teleportation.

What the Chinese did, they were able for the first time to actually carry this out in space. So they were able to teleport an entangled particle on the Earth, and an entangled partner particle on the satellite in space. They took a third photon that they wanted to teleport from Earth to space to the satellite. They let it commingle with one member of the entangled pair here on planet Earth, and through that commingling, all of the properties of that particle they wanted to teleport were transported up to the satellite. Then that photon up there can be quickly manipulated to be an exact copy of the photon that they wanted to teleport from Earth. That's what happened.


Yes! That's a beautiful question, it's a key question, and it's a question for which I fear I will not have a satisfying answer. At one level, I don't know what the answer to your question is. But from the standpoint of mathematics, we fully understand how this process works.


Quantum Threads In A Cosmic Web?

Computer simulation of giant structures in the cosmic web that shows dark matter filaments
and intersections where galaxies reside © by Anatoly Klypin/New Mexico
State University, Joel Primack/UC Santa Cruz.

Quantum mechanics allows for a kind of quantum thread. A kind of quantum link that's invisible to the naked eye. It's not something that we can detect or directly see, but the math says that there is a kind of a quantum thread that can go from one location to another, and when you want to teleport a particle, you're kind of fiddling with that quantum thread, and that quantum thread responds and carries that information from the origin to the destination.


In a sense, you can say that. We do envision that early on the universe was very small near the Big Bang, so it's quite conceivable that all of the particles that make up the observable universe in some sense had a sufficient level of commingling early on that they are entangled in the manner that you mentioned.

But what we find is when you have many, many particles banging into each other, the entanglement becomes kind of diluted. It gets kind of spread out among all of those constituents. And when it gets so spread out, so diluted, it's virtually impossible to leverage the connections for the kinds of things that the Chinese did, the kinds of things that other researchers have done as well. So in some theoretical abstract way, you could say that everything is connected to everything else through a quantum web.


Does This Photon Teleportation
Lead to Star Trek Teleporter?


Human teleportation was a technology in Star Trek, an American science fiction
television series created by Gene Roddenberry. Star Trek debuted in 1966,
and aired for three seasons on the television network NBC.

Yeah, you can't help but bring to mind Scottie at the transporter pushing those levers upward and having Kirk and Spock being able to go from the Enterprise down to some alien planet or the reverse of that. You could, in principle, not just teleport individual particles but maybe groups of particles, and groups of particles might be the particles that comprise a person. And that would allow that person to teleport from place to place.

As I say that, I am in the back of my mind fearful that people will take this too literally. Because at the moment, our protocols for teleporting objects are tightly focused on the simplicity of a single particle. Even to go to two, three, four, or five particles, to teleport a group of particles like that is really beyond what we can do right now.


“Unhackable” Quantum Satellite Communications?

So once you're able to set up these quantum entangled particles that can achieve the kind of quantum teleportation that we're speaking of, you wind up setting up a new kind of communications system, a quantum communications system. And the power of a quantum communications system compared to the standard classical one that we have today where we send signals up to ordinary satellites that beam it back down using the ordinary laws of classical physics, the advantage of the quantum version is that you can make it virtually unhackable.

Spectral, July 21, 2017, by Charles Q. Choi.

You can make it impenetrable to anybody who'd attempt to break in and steal your message or eavesdrop on some private communications. And that's because in quantum mechanics, the act of observation affects the system that's being observed. If you're sending a message, and you want to know if someone tried to hack into it, you want to see some imprint of their nefarious plot to steal your information or to hack into your signal. The beauty of the quantum world is they can't fully erase their footsteps. When they look at your message, when they try to break into your signal, in much the same way that you can't help but affect the position of an electron when you observe it, they can't help but leave an imprint of their attempt to steal your data.

And that's the way in which there cannot be any hacking going on. We're all going to be able to immediately detect if someone's trying to do something fishy. Consciousness is one of the big towering mysteries that many people are trying to figure out, trying to figure out if consciousness is merely the result of physical processes playing out in the brain, or whether consciousness somehow invokes quantum physics, or whether consciousness somehow requires totally new ideas that as yet have not surfaced in any of our research. It's a big mystery. Quantum mechanics we understand with fantastic precision, and consciousness, we don't.”

Continued in Part 2.

Also see:

• Is Time An Illusion and the Future Already Written, As Einstein Thought?

World's First Macro-Sized Quantum Machine

• Einstein's “Spooky Action At A Distance”

• Slowing Light to A “Stop” for Fraction of A Second

More Information:

For further information about the mysteries of quantum physics, please see in the Earthfiles Archive more reports including these:

• 06/27/2015 — Is Time An Illusion and the Future Already Written, As Einstein Thought?
• 03/16/2014 — Part 5: Hall of Mirrors with A Quicksand Floor
• 10/30/2012 — Part 2: High Strangeness in 43-Circle-Corn Pattern Near Ancient Mounds of Chillicothe, Ohio
• 07/27/2012 — Was Biggest Canyon in the Solar System Scarred by Plasma?
• 09/09/2008 — Part 2: Getting Close to the “Big Bang” Inside Large Hadron Collider?
• 01/25/2008 — Could Our Universe Be A Virtual Reality Processed By Other Intelligence?
• 10/18/2007 — A Quantum Math Description of Parallel Universes
• 09/14/2007 — Part 1: Psi Spies - True Story of America's Psychic Warfare Program
• 08/10/2007 — Levitation Possible by Reversing Casimir Force
• 10/08/2006 — Part 1: Time Travel, Insights from USAF Sergeant and UFO Abductee
• 01/06/2006 — Einstein's "Spooky Action At A Distance"


"Ground-to-Satellite Quantum Teleportation," July 10, 2017, by Chinese quantum physicists published to the Cornell University preprint server:

"What 'Teleporting' A Photon to Space Means," July 12, 2017, Cosmos:

"Einstein's 'Spooky Action At A Distance' Paradox Older Than Thought," March 8, 2012, MIT Technology Review:

"Quantum Physics for the Terminally Confused," February 29, 2016, Cosmos



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