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Author: Melinda Sherwood. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 15, 2000. All rights reserved.
There is a branch of science that deals with the
spookier side of the physical world — things like antimatter,
parallel universes, even "teleportation." It’s called quantum
mechanics — the study of matter’s smallest parts — and it
challenges some of our most basic assumptions about science. So
strange is the quantum world that even Albert Einstein
physicist who defied the establishment with his theory of time travel,
refuted it, unable to embrace its implications. "God," he
announced, "doesn’t play dice with the Universe."
At a lab at the Army Research Office in Research Triangle Park, North
Carolina, scientists have proved otherwise. Physicists there have
actually demonstrated teleportation — moving information from
one spot to another seemingly magically. It’s a feat no one would
have imagined doing five years ago, says Henry Everitt
manager of the Army Research Office, who will participate in the
Symposium on communications technology Wednesday, March 22. "This
isn’t science fiction," he says. "Two years ago a lab in
did it, and we’ve done it here in the United States. In a sense it’s
the Star Trek equivalent to beaming, but it isn’t like tele-porting
information from Los Angeles to New York. It’s more like from one
end of an eight foot table to another."
Still, it’s enough to trivialize fussing over bandwidth. If
is possible today, one can only imagine how the telecommunications
industry could use it in a few more decades, says Everitt. "This
is hot stuff," he says. "It’s rare that a new science
has such clear national security and commercial impact. People in
Lucent and Bell Labs are very interested in it. All people who do
communications are interested in seeing how this works."
Teleportation will be one of the more unusual subjects explored at
this year’s Sarnoff Symposium, a conference that hosts experts from
GTS, COMSAT, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Lucent, AIL Systems, CECOM, and
Sarnoff to discuss cutting-edge technologies in the communications
industry. The conference is held on Wednesday, March 22, at the
of New Jersey from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Call 609-734-2629.
At 10:30 a.m. Everitt chairs a discussion of quantum communications
with IBM’s Charles Bennett
and quantum cryptography. Other workshops: Technologies for the
Revolutions (8:30 a.m.), Advances in Satellite Communications (8:30
a.m.), Advances in Optical Communications (10:30 a.m.), Advanced
for Communications (1:30 p.m.), Third Generation Wireless Technologies
(1:30 p.m.), Digital Receiver Technology (3:30 p.m.), and Smart
Exhibiting companies include Agilent Technologies Inc., Applied Wave
Research, Cadence Design Systems, CBD Enterprises Inc., EMC
Hybrid Tek, In-Phase Technology, Princeton Electronic Systems Inc.,
Raytheon RF Components, Sarnoff, Sonnet Software Inc., SWR Tech/RF
Electronics Sales, Technical Marketing Associates, Three-E Labs, and
UTE Microwave Inc., among others.
The process of teleportation, in the simplest terms, hinges on a
connection between two messenger photons, or "entangled
that are somehow "psychically" connected due to their
In the experiment, a laser sends out a pair of these entangled
one to Point A and one to Point B. Another laser sends an
photon to Point A only, where entangled photon and information photon
become combined and eventually destroyed. In the meantime, however,
the entangled photon at Point B has managed to "read" the
information photon that was combined with its "psychic
at Point A.
That’s teleportation. "It’s hard to believe," says Everitt,
"but people have separated photons that are entangled by more
than 40 kilometers and showed that this spooky entangled stuff is
It’s unlikely, however, that any of us will ever get to say "Beam
Me Up," in our lifetime. Teleportation has its hitches, says
Everitt, who has a PhD in physics from Duke University, Class of 1990,
and one of them is that only information — not matter — can
be tele-ported. It’s also important to note that information does
not "travel" from one place to another — it merely
and appears elsewhere.
"It isn’t like taking a car with a piece of information on your
front seat from one place to another," says Everitt. "You
see the message disappear at one end of the table and appear at the
other end." Accordingly, information at Point A must be destroyed
in order for it to arrive at Point B — it can’t be copied.
of the things they used to say about Star Trek is why can’t you beam
up 10 copies of Captain Kirk," says Everitt, "but it’s a
law of quantum mechanics that you can’t clone information."
In the most immediate sense, teleportation signifies the dawn of
a new age in computing. "Teleportation is a building block towards
building a quantum computer," says Everitt, "which could do
things that your computer can’t do now."
Among its potential applications: Creating and/or breaking
cryptographic codes used by the banking industry and defense industry
to protect information on the Internet. For the conventional computer,
such a feat might take millions of years. For the quantum computer, it
would take a matter of minutes. "If we can build such a
computer," says Everitt, "it isn’t going to replace the PC. It
would only be useful for a small class of problems."
Everitt calls these the "traveling salesman problem:" if a
salesman is traveling to a number of different cities, what is the
most logical route for him to take? "As it turns out," says
Everitt, "that’s a problem that many industries faces, such as
airlines — getting the most passengers on the fewest number of
planes — or in the telecommunications industry — getting the
highest number of calls on the fewest number of lines. In other words,
utilizing limited resources optimally. A quantum computer could do
that much faster than a classical computer."
Although the federal government is contributing significantly more
money to the U.S. military’s study of quantum computing and
now than in 1995, studies in quantum mechanics and computing haven’t
become a national security issue yet, says Everitt. "It’s not
a Manhattan Project or Moon Race," he says. "In fact, we’re
welcoming all the help we can get overseas. My job is to take emerging
science and shepherd it. I can’t imagine how many Nobel prizes are
going to come out of this. It’s attracted the best and brightest to
the field of physics. We’re at the point where it’s looking pretty
— Melinda Sherwood
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