Our world is getting closer to “Star Trek” every day, it seems. Scientists announced today (April 14) they’ve been able to teleport special bits of light from one place to another, a la “Beam me up, Scotty.”
While the advance doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll ever be able to teleport people, it does represent some pretty nifty, mind-bending physics.
Teleportation requires taking advantage of a quirk of quantum physics called entanglement. Two particles can be bonded so that even when separated by large distances, they communicate instantly, and what happens to one affects the other. (It’s a situation so bizarre Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.”)
To teleport light, researchers led by Noriyuki Lee of the University of Tokyo had to destroy it in one place, and re-create it in another. This mirrors the teleportation process on “Star Trek,” where transporters scan a person, atom by atom, and dismantle him, only to rebuild the person by configuring a different set of atoms in exactly the same pattern in another place.
Lee and his team accomplished this by linking a packet of light to one half of a pair of entangled particles. They then destroyed the light and the particle it was linked to, leaving only the lone particle of the entangled pair. The remaining particle retains the link with its entangled partner, though, including information about the light, which enabled the researchers to rebuild the light in the exact configuration at the other location.
The scientists reported their experiment in the April 15 issue of the journal Science.