Gic Chic
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Star Trek v0.001
Dilbert author Scott Adams' admonition that engineers are easily distinguished by, among other signs, their affinity for Star Trek is the result of flawless analysis and observation. While the world of Star Trek, in which even engineers can occasionally make out with aliens, is hardly around the corner, there is an interesting step in that direction: specifically, the invention of a form of teleportation.

Based on Bell's Theorum / EPR (Einstein Podolsky Rosen) "entangled photons", researchers at the University of Geneva have achieved quantum teleportation.

The value of this achievement is evident, as it avoids the issues of duplicating photons for lengthy transmissions, making quantum cryptography a more practical approach. Remember that the value of QC involves the fact that observing the data contained in the QC stream is a detectable event that destroys the content. The destruction is the problem, because "classical" fiber optic repeaters act as observers. This approach bypasses the issue, allowing a new type of repeater to be designed.

At first blush, it might appear that the repeater would provide an interception point, in which more than one copy could be created (using the article's "fax machine" analogy) but such is not the case, since the originating bit is destroyed after the first duplication. A more complete, if not practical, analogy might be a fax machine with a shredder on the document feed output.

Now, we get to the limitation. The process is only capable of transmitting over "short" distances of several hundred kilometers-- insufficient for our global economy. To overcome this issue, these teleporters would have to be strung together. In order to make this technology practical, quantum memory would be required. Trouble is, nobody knows how to make that yet.

So, for now, Star Trek is still in the early prototype phases. Teleportation, v.001, joins Warp Drive (think Alcubierre) v.002. Still, the future is quite rife with possibility. Who knows? Maybe my engineer progeny WILL one day be able to make out with aliens.
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