Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Germany announced yesterday, in the journal Nature, they created an elementary quantum network to transmit data via photons.
The Max Planck quantum network was comprised of two nodes in two laboratories 21 meters apart that were connected by an optical fiber. To create the quantum effect, each node placed a rubidium atom in an “optical cavity” between a pair of reflective mirrors half a millimeter apart. After stimulating the atoms by laser, the atoms emitted a polarized photon with matching filtering controls. One photon was translated as quantum information, and transmitted by optical fiber to the recipient atom, which accepted the photon as itself.
In classical networks, i.e. our information superhighway or today’s internet, we use binary bits to transmit data. Bits are set to 0 or 1. Bits are bundled, transmitted, or encrypted using mathematically-based methods and algorithms. Our classical networks are increasingly complex, in order to provide secure solutions.
I’m coining the term “information synchronicity” to help explain in household terms the physical phenomena that occurs in quantum networks. The “information superhighway” is no longer the right analogy to describe the quantum world. In quantum computing, a “qubit” is the unit of quantum information. The value of a qubit may be 0, 1, or a superposition expression of its state. See the “Bloch spere” diagram, which depicts a qubit. When two photons across a distance are filtered to be identically polarized, a strong correlation results, and the atoms are able to recognize or “feel” each other. This is known as “quantum entanglement”. The beauty and simplicity of a quantum network is that transmission between sender and recipient is securely dedicated to their message exchange. Synchronicity enables secure data transmission because no entity may “hack” or intercept the message because they cannot adopt that same photon identity.
To get my head wrapped around all this and what it implies, I contacted Sachiko Graber, a senior Physics major and Teaching Assistant at Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa. Ms. Graber explains, “Quantum networks are a really cool new way to implement ideas of quantum physics in the ‘real world.'” Ever since the famous EPR paper and thought experiment, physicists have been researching the possibilities of quantum teleportation. (The EPR Paradox paper, written in 1936 by Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen, challenged quantum mechanics that it is impossible to know both the position and the momentum of a quantum particle at the same moment.) Ms. Graber says, “The high speed secure network is one possible application of the quantum networking idea. Quantum networks go one step beyond quantum cryptography, which uses quantum keys to keep data secure. A secure high speed network deploying quantum entanglement will be the next step. However, this is a very, very basic prototype. It will still be a long time before we get there.”
Quantum cryptology applications already exist in the “real world”. Since 2005, Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has supported a Raytheon/BBN and QinetiQ partnership for quantum cryptology on a network in the Boston-Cambridge, Massachusetts area. Voters in Geneva during the October 2007 Swiss parliamentary elections cast their votes securely using the process, by Id Quantique, which used secure encryption encoded by a key generated using photons.
I’m liking the term “Information Synchronicity”. Albert Einstein didn’t like the term “entanglement”. Instead he sardonically referred to entanglement as “spooky action at a distance.” In 1951, Carl Jung wrote and lectured on Synchronicity, regarding the nature of relationships and consciousness. Jung described synchronicity as an “acausal connecting principle” and drew parallels to quantum physics, and discussed it with Albert Einstein. In quantum networks, the awareness is atomic.
A quantum network is an exciting development, indeed! Future expectations are to extend applications to transmissions across space and long distance, to ships, airplanes, and satellites.
Cyberspace is a buzz about this. Nerd humor is all the rage in blog comments, such as on Engadget. Imagine, what is the next killer mobile quantum ap? What do you think? Share your comments.
The 0.2% transmission success rate of this technology put the Swiss parliamentary elections on par with American elections. Behold the power of progress!