It’s official: Researchers in China just teleported the first object ever from the ground to orbit. We wrote about this study in a recent article we published, going more into the entanglement aspect, which could mean instantaneous transmission of information or that information is travelling faster than the speed of light.
A year ago, a Long March 2D rocket was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert containing a satellite called Micius, named after an ancient Chinese philosopher. MIT Technology Review describes Micius as a “highly sensitive photon receiver that can detect the quantum states of single photons fired from the ground” and explains that “that’s important because it should allow scientists to test the technological building blocks for various quantum feats such as entanglement, cryptography, and teleportation.”
The team created the quantum network in order to use it to teleport objects from Earth to orbit. Earlier this week, the Chinese research team presented their initial findings from their first experiment.
To conduct the experiment, the researchers created two entangled photons, then beamed one of them to the satellite while keeping the other at ground level. They then measured them both to ensure they were still entangled, confirming they could teleport protons using this method.
Over the following month, they sent millions more photons into orbit, finding positive results in almost 1,000 of the tests.
“We report the first quantum teleportation of independent single-photon qubits from a ground observatory to a low Earth orbit satellite—through an up-link channel— with a distance up to 1400 km,” explained the Chinese team.
“This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet,” stated the team.
When many people think of teleportation, they likely visualize people travelling from country to country and planet to planet in an instant, similar to how teleportation is portrayed in Hollywood. Sure, it would be super cool if we could actually do that, but how far away are we from achieving that, or will we ever even reach that point?
Teleportation can theoretically occur due to quantum entanglement. This happens when two quantum objects, like photons, form at the same time and place in space and thus technically have “the same existence.” In other words, they have the same wave function. The interesting part is that even when separated afterward, regardless of how far apart they are, they still share the same existence.
In the 1990s, researchers started studying this link more intensely, trying to use it to send quantum information from one point to another. Essentially, you can download all of the data to one photon and then transmit it, thanks to quantum entanglement, to another photon. In other words, the second photon would literally become the first photon. This is how teleportation is being studied currently in regards to quantum entanglement.
Teleportation in general has been studied for decades in quantum physics labs all over the world and by the U.S. government. A declassified US Air Force report on teleportation, which was made available through the Federation of American Scientists, has helped confirm this.
The document describes numerous studies on teleportation in the U.S. and other countries. Here’s a description of one experiment from the report:
In September 1981, an extraordinary paper was published in the PRC in the journal Ziran Zazhi (transl.: Nature Journal), and this paper was entitled, “Some Experiments on the Transfer of Objects Performed by Unusual Abilities of the Human Body” (Shuhuang et al., 1981). The paper reported that gifted children were able to cause the apparent teleportation of small objects (radio micro-transmitters, photosensitive paper, mechanical watches, horseflies, other insects, etc.) from one location to another (that was meters away) without them ever touching the objects beforehand.
So, what would the U.S. government use teleportation for? In the report, they proposed using it for military operations in space, perhaps alluding to the war in space. The document states:
Future space explorers and their equipment will need to easily and quickly travel from an orbiting spacecraft to the surface of some remote planet in order to get their work done, or military personnel in the United States need to easily and quickly travel from their military base to another remote location on Earth in order to participate in a military operation, or space colonists will need quick transport to get from Earth to their new home planet. Instead of using conventional transportation to expedite travel the space explorer, military personnel or space colonist and/or their equipment go into the “Teleporter” (a.k.a. “Transporter” in Star Trek lingo) and are “beamed down” or “beamed over” to their destinations at light speed.