Quantum Communication Isn't Just For Illusive Men Anymore

In Mass Effect 2, the mysterious Illusive Man was able to stay in touch with the Normandy at any point in the universe using quantum entanglement. Chinese scientists have used similar technology to "teleport" data nearly 10 miles.

Calling the process teleportation is a bit of a stretch, but quantum entanglement is just as fantastic as the prospect of transmitting matter across thin air, made slightly spookier by the fact that it actually works.

Here's what happens: particles can become entangled with one another to the point where a state change in one particle is taken on by the other, even if the two are separated by a great distance. By manipulating the quantum state of one of two entangled particles, scientists can send coded messages across space.

Imagine a light switch, magically linked with another light switch across the street. Turning off the light switch in one location turns the lights off in both locations.

Now instead of a light switches, imagine two quantum entangled photons of light. Changing the polarity of one causes a change in the polarity of the other.

It's this quantum entanglement theory that allows the Illusive Man in Mass Effect 2 to appear on board the new Normandy. His image is piped through one quantum entangled particle. Millions of light years away on the Normandy, the other quantum entangled particle reacts the same way as its pair.

Of course we're a long way from projecting images.

Right now it's strictly data, and up until recently the distance limit has been a few hundred yards before the particles detangle.

Chinese scientists used a blue laser, a semiconductor, and a beta-barium borate crystal to fire one quantum entangled photo 9.9 miles away without destabilizing the entanglement. When the polarity of one photon changed, so did the other.

"This is the longest reported distance over which photonic teleportation has been achieved to date, more than 20 times longer than the previous implementation," said Cheng-Zhi Peng, one of the co-authors of the study and a scientist at University of Science and Technology of China and Tsinghua University in Beijing.

It's a huge leap forward in quantum technology, essentially transmitting data from one location to the other at speeds faster than light.

While the receiver of the data would require a key transmitted via normal means to decode the data, negating the speed benefit, the security of this photonic teleportation communication would be astounding. In effect, only someone in possession of the quantum entangled particle could even hope to decipher the data, and even then they'd need a key.

The Chinese scientists speculate they could have ground to satellite quantum communication working within the next few years.

The Illusive Man would be pleased.

Beam Me Up, Scotty! Scientists Teleport Info 10 Miles [Discovery News]