Quantum teleportation: It's being in two places at once. Really.
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Hands up: Who wants to beam themselves to school or work? Us too. Too bad quantum teleportation has nothing to do with that. Scientists in Calgary have transferred ‘disembodied’ information from one particle to another one, across the city. It’s teleportation, but no physical matter travelled anywhere. It boggles the mind — but it could also pave the way for a future, super-fast, super-secure Internet.
Photons are tiny particles with energy, but no mass. They’re what light is made of.
Using some fancy lasers and other high-tech equipment, researchers at the University of Calgary created an entangled pair of photons and sent one across town to Calgary City Hall.
The properties — or quantum states — of the two photons remained exactly in sync. What happened to one affected the other. It’s sort of hard to imagine, but the photons were fundamentally linked in such a way that they were actually the same thing. That’s the teleportation part.
What is entanglement?
It's not really "spooky," as Einstein once said. Entanglement just means the state of one system is dependent on the state of another. For example, an atom’s electrons and protons are entangled: As one moves, so does the other.
Quantum teleportation is when information is sent from one location (like a photon at the University of Calgary) to another (a photon at Calgary city hall) without the need for a physical particle as a go-between.
Because the two photons are entangled, what happens to the state of one automatically affects the state of the other — and information passes between them. “Information” in this sense means a description of the photon’s state.
An example of a state would be orientation: the photon could be in a horizontal or vertical position. Imagine horizontal means zero and vertical means one: You can see how information can be encoded in photons the same way it is in computers’ binary code, a sequence of zeros and ones called bits.
But because quantum physics is super weird, a photon can also be in superposition: It can be a zero and a one at the same time. That’s why computers of the future that process information encoded in particles called quantum bits (qubits) will be unfathomably fast.