Back in February 2020, scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago revealed that they had achieved a quantum entanglement in which the behavior of a pair two tiny particles becomes linked, so that their states are identical over a 52-mile (83.7 kilometer) quantum-loop network in the Chicago suburbs.
You may be wondering what all the fuss is about, if you're not a scientist familiar with quantum mechanics that is, the behavior of matter and energy at the smallest scale of reality, which is peculiarly different from the world we can see around us.
But the researchers' feat could be an important step in the development of a new, vastly more powerful version of the internet in the next few decades. Instead of the bits that today's network uses, which can only express a value of either 0 or 1, the future quantum internet would utilize qubits of quantum information, which can take on an infinite number of values. (A quibit is the unit of information for a quantum computer; it's a like a bit in an ordinary computer).
That would give the quantum internet way more bandwidth, which would make it possible to connect super-powerful quantum computers and other devices and run massive applications that simply aren't possible with the internet we have now.
"A quantum internet will be the platform of a quantum ecosystem, where computers, networks, and sensors exchange information in a fundamentally new manner where sensing, communication, and computing literally work together as one entity, " explains David Awschalom via email. He's a spintronics and quantum information professor in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and a senior scientist at Argonne, who led the quantum-loop project.
So why do we need this and what does it do? For starters, the quantum internet is not a replacement of the regular internet we now have. Rather it would be a complement to it or a branch of it. It would be able to take care of some of the problems that plague the current internet. For instance, a quantum internet would offer much greater protection from hackers and cybercriminals. Right now, if Alice in New York sends a message to Bob in California over the internet, that message travels in more or less a straight line from one coast to the other. Along the way, the signals that transmit the message degrade; repeaters read the signals, amplify and correct the errors. But this process allows hackers to "break in" and intercept the message.
However, a quantum message wouldn't have that problem. Quantum networks use particles of light photons to send messages which are not vulnerable to cyberattacks. Instead of encrypting a message using mathematical complexity, says Ray Newell, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, we would rely upon the peculiar rules of quantum physics. With quantum information, "you can't copy it or cut it in half, and you can't even look at it without changing it." In fact, just trying to intercept a message destroys the message, as Wired magazine noted. That would enable encryption that would be vastly more secure than anything available today.
It's a little tricky to explain how this all works to non-scientists. "The easiest way to understand the concept of the quantum internet is through the concept of quantum teleportation," Sumeet Khatri, a researcher at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, says in an email. He and colleagues have written a paper about the feasibility of a space-based quantum internet, in which satellites would continually broadcast entangled photons down to Earth's surface, as this Technology Review article describes.
"Quantum teleportation is unlike what a non-scientist's mind might conjure up in terms of what they see in sci-fi movies, " Khatri says. "In quantum teleportation, two people who want to communicate share a pair of quantum particles that are entangled. Then, through a sequence of operations, the sender can send any quantum information to the receiver (although it can't be done faster than light speed, a common misconception). This collection of shared entanglement between pairs of people all over the world essentially constitutes the quantum internet. The central research question is how best to distribute these entangled pairs to people distributed all over the world. "
Once it's possible to do that on a large scale, the quantum internet would be so astonishingly fast that far-flung clocks could be synchronized about a thousand times more precisely than the best atomic clocks available today, as Cosmos magazine details. That would make GPS navigation vastly more precise than it is today, and map Earth's gravitational field in such detail that scientists could spot the ripple of gravitational waves. It also could make it possible to teleport photons from distant visible-light telescopes all over Earth and link them into a giant virtual observatory.
"You could potentially see planets around other stars, " says Nicholas Peters, group leader of the Quantum Information Science Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
It also would be possible for networks of super-powerful quantum computers across the globe to work together and create incredibly complex simulations. That might enable researchers to better understand the behavior of molecules and proteins, for example, and to develop and test new medications.
It also might help physicists to solve some of the longstanding mysteries of reality. "We don't have a complete picture of how the universe works," says Newell. "We have a very good understanding of how quantum mechanics works, but not a very clear picture of the implications. The picture is blurry where quantum mechanics intersects with our lived experience."
But before any of that can happen, researchers have to figure out how to build a quantum internet, and given the weirdness of quantum mechanics, that's not going to be easy. "In the classical world you can encode information and save it and it doesn't decay, " Peters says. "In the quantum world, you encode information and it starts to decay almost immediately. "
Another problem is that because the amount of energy that corresponds to quantum information is really low, it's difficult to keep it from interacting with the outside world. Today, "in many cases, quantum systems only work at very low temperatures," Newell says. "Another alternative is to work in a vacuum and pump all the air out. "
In order to make a quantum internet function, Newell says, we'll need all sorts of hardware that hasn't been developed yet. So it's hard to say at this point exactly when a quantum internet would be up and running, though one Chinese scientist has envisioned that it could happen as soon as 2030.
The rest is here:
- How Quantum Mechanics will Change the Tech Industry - Unite.AI - July 21st, 2020
- Money & Markets: After the virus, make sure you've read the inflationary playbook - E&T Magazine - July 21st, 2020
- Bruce Lee: Inside the mind of the martial arts icon - CNN - July 21st, 2020
- Read Before Pontificating on Quantum Technology - War on the Rocks - July 13th, 2020
- The universe's clock might have bigger ticks than we imagine - Livescience.com - July 13th, 2020
- Testing Einstein's theory of relativity | OUPblog - OUPblog - July 13th, 2020
- Scientists Say This Is the Smallest Unit of Time That Could Exist - lintelligencer - July 13th, 2020
- Study: The Period of the Universe's Clock - lintelligencer - July 13th, 2020
- Book review: From Infinity to Man: The Fundamental Ideas of Kabbalah - The Jerusalem Post - July 8th, 2020
- Book review: Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind - The Jerusalem Post - July 8th, 2020
- WATCH: Follow along as this drag queen connects the dots between quantum physics and queer identity - Queerty - July 8th, 2020
- Raytheon Technologies to release second quarter results on July 28, 2020 - PRNewswire - July 8th, 2020
- A Brighter Tomorrow > News > USC Dornsife - USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences - July 8th, 2020
- The logic of the impossible: Moses our rabbi - The Jerusalem Post - July 8th, 2020
- Professor tackles one more mystery about quantum mechanics and times flow - GeekWire - July 5th, 2020
- Quantum fluctuations can jiggle objects on the human scale - MIT News - July 5th, 2020
- Want to Know the Speed of a Complex Nuclear Reaction? - Popular Mechanics - July 5th, 2020
- Try to consciously change the world it might just work - Sentinel & Enterprise - July 5th, 2020
- The Death of Fashion Shows? Not So Fast. | Tim's Take | BoF - The Business of Fashion - July 5th, 2020
- U of T and Hebrew University of Jerusalem launch research and innovation partnership - News@UofT - July 5th, 2020
- Max Planck Created Quantum Theory and Laid a New Foundation for Physics - Interesting Engineering - June 21st, 2020
- Do we need a 'Quantum Generation'? | TheHill - The Hill - June 21st, 2020
- 'Everything was centered around Sara, he was lost': Abhishek Kapoor on Sushant Singh Rajput after 'Kedarnath' - DNA India - June 21st, 2020
- RHOBH: What's with Denise Richards Husband Aaron Phypers? - Screen Rant - June 21st, 2020
- Restructuring cybersecurity with the power of quantum - TechRadar - June 21st, 2020
- In the atmosphere of Mars, a green glow offers scientists hints for future visits - NBCNews.com - June 21st, 2020
- Nano-motor of just 16 atoms runs at the boundary of quantum physics - New Atlas - June 20th, 2020
- Physics - The Period of the Universe's Clock - Physics - June 20th, 2020
- Why Gravity Is Not Like the Other Forces - Quanta Magazine - June 20th, 2020
- Toronto-based Association Quantum appoints Northern Hive PR - Business Up North - June 20th, 2020
- Physicists have proposed a new theory for Bose-Einstein condensates - Tech Explorist - June 20th, 2020
- Intricate Beauty, Quasiperiodic Structures, and the Cascade to Criticality - SciTechDaily - June 20th, 2020
- AI And The Parallel Universe - AI Daily - June 20th, 2020
- The stories a muon could tell - Symmetry magazine - June 20th, 2020
- Physicists Have Reversed Time on The Smallest Scale Using a Quantum Computer - ScienceAlert - June 13th, 2020
- Duckworth on Education: The Feynman Technique - EMSWorld - June 13th, 2020
- Sussex Uni physicist creates the fifth state of matter whilst working from home - The Tab - June 13th, 2020
- Beware of 'Theories of Everything' - Scientific American - June 13th, 2020
- Francesca Vidotto: The Quantum Properties of Space-Time - JSTOR Daily - June 1st, 2020
- What Is the Many-Worlds Theory of Quantum Mechanics? - The Wire - June 1st, 2020
- MIT Student Probing Reality Through Physics, Philosophy and Writing - SciTechDaily - June 1st, 2020
- An Indian Origin Physicist Created the Fifth State of Matter from Her Living Room - News18 - June 1st, 2020
- Science and the humanities in the time of pandemic: better together - The Irish Times - June 1st, 2020
- Quantum Physicist Invents Code to Achieve the Impossible - Interesting Engineering - May 24th, 2020
- What does the Tenet title mean? Quantum mechanics and Einsteins theory - Explica - May 24th, 2020
- Covid 19 Pandemic: Quantum Computing Technologies Market 2020, Share, Growth, Trends And Forecast To 2025 - 3rd Watch News - May 24th, 2020
- Scientists Create a Cluster of 15 Trillion Entangled Atoms for the First Time Ever - Dual Dove - May 24th, 2020
- Teaching the next generation of quantum scientists | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences - Harvard School of... - May 23rd, 2020
- Nasa discovers parallel universe where time runs backwards? Know the truth - Business Standard - May 23rd, 2020
- Company Hopes to Have Carbon Nanotube COVID-19 Detector Available in June - SciTechDaily - May 23rd, 2020
- The world is not as real as we think. - Patheos - May 23rd, 2020
- Physicists Just Built The First Working Prototype Of A 'Quantum Radar' - ScienceAlert - May 19th, 2020
- Quantum Brakes to Learn About the Forces Within Molecules - SciTechDaily - May 19th, 2020
- Armin Strom Discusses Resonance With PhD Of Quantum Physics And Watch Collector In An Easy-To-Understand Way (Video) - Quill & Pad - May 19th, 2020
- Embedded in the community: Outstanding physics student is a third-generation ASU student - ASU Now - May 19th, 2020
- 50 Years of Physical Review B: Solid Hits in Condensed Matter Research - Physics - May 19th, 2020
- Exploring the quantum field, from the sun's core to the Big Bang - MIT News - May 14th, 2020
- Registration Open for Inaugural IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering (QCE20) - thepress.net - May 14th, 2020
- 3 Simple Reasons Why Wolfram's New 'Fundamental Theory' Is Not Yet Science - Forbes - May 14th, 2020
- The Era of Anomalies - Physics - May 14th, 2020
- Exploring new tools in string theory - Space.com - May 14th, 2020
- Probing reality through physics, philosophy, and writing - MIT News - May 14th, 2020
- Recent Research Answers the Future of Quantum Machine Learning on COVID-19 - Analytics Insight - May 11th, 2020
- OK, WTF Are Virtual Particles and Do They Actually Exist? - VICE - May 11th, 2020
- Is string theory worth it? - Space.com - May 11th, 2020
- Finding the right quantum materials - MIT News - May 11th, 2020
- Cliff's Edge -- The Past Hypothesis - Adventist Review - May 11th, 2020
- Researchers Have Found a New Way to Convert Waste Heat Into Electricity to Power Small Devices - SciTechDaily - May 11th, 2020
- quantum mechanics | Definition, Development, & Equations ... - May 9th, 2020
- Physicists Criticize Stephen Wolfram's 'Theory of Everything' - Scientific American - May 9th, 2020
- Quantum Computing Market New Technology Innovations, Advancements and Global Development Analysis 2020 to 2025 - Cole of Duty - May 9th, 2020
- Physicist Brian Greene on learning to focus on the here and now - KCRW - May 9th, 2020
- Unified Field Theory: Einstein Failed, but What's the Future? - The Great Courses Daily News - May 9th, 2020
- A Discovery That Long Eluded Physicists: Superconductivity to the Edge - SciTechDaily - May 9th, 2020
- Why Self-Awareness and Communication Are Key for Self-Taught Players and Luthiers - Premier Guitar - May 9th, 2020
- Devs: Here's the real science behind the quantum computing TV show - New Scientist News - May 4th, 2020
- Raytheon Technologies CEO and CFO to present at the BofA Securities 2020 Transportation and Industrials Conference - PRNewswire - May 4th, 2020
- When quantum computing and AI collide - Raconteur - May 4th, 2020
- Wolfram Physics Project Seeks Theory Of Everything; Is It Revelation Or Overstatement? - Hackaday - May 4th, 2020
- The Cool Parts Show Reveals 3D Printing Reality and Potential - Modern Machine Shop - May 4th, 2020