April 15, 2011
Sci-fi enthusiasts have dreamt of being able to teleport from one location to another since Gene Roddenberry popularised the idea in Star Trek.
But the first steps towards making that dream a reality have now been taken by Japanese scientists who’ve found a way to transport light particles from one place to another – and echoed a popular theory in the process.
The famed Schrodinger’s Cat theory suggested that a body could be both alive and dead until its particles decide either way , due to outside interference.
In the experiment, Schrodinger proposed the idea of a cat left in a box with a radioactive substance, which had a 50 per cent chance of decaying and releasing a poison, thus killing the cat within an hour.
Because there is also a 50 per cent chance the substance would not decay, and thus not release the poison, quantum mechanics dictate that the cat is neither alive, nor dead, until the box is opened for measurement.
And new findings by scientists from the University of Tokyo bear similarity to Schrodinger’s Cat after they teleported light that is in two, seemingly contradictory, states simultaneously.
A team led by Noriyuki Lee used the quantum entanglement characteristic – where two particles can affect each other even after being separated – to dismantle a packet of light and then reassemble it elsewhere.
According to livescience.com, the team linked a light packet to one half of a pair of entangled particles, and then destroyed the light and the particle it had been linked to.
But because the remaining particle of the formerly entangled pair maintains a link to its partner – which had been linked with the light packet – the light can be reassembled elsewhere.
Though the technology is one small step on the road to teleporting a human, it echoes the particular destruction and reassembly of the teleporting deck used in Star Trek.
And, like the cat in Schrodinger’s famed thought experiment, the light exists in two states of being until it is measured by an outside observer.
Physicist Philippe Grangier of France's Institut d'Optique, who wrote an accompanying essay for the research in the Science journal, said the light ‘can't be presented classically — it would be an oscillation both up and down, which makes no sense’.
Despite the Tokyo team managing to teleport light, Mr Grangier admitted a similar human experiment would be unlikely in the near future, saying: ‘There is not at present a way to teleport even a bacteria’.
He added: ‘This is a long and painful process, especially for experimentalists like me. All these things, just a few years ago they were just ideas. Now they are turning into experimental realities.’
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