|Teleportation Only 20 Years Away?|
|-- Beaming Is Believing|
|by Lindsey Arent
Practical applications for teleportation, though not exactly the type
seen in Star Trek, could be less than a generation away.
According to a report released Thursday by Technical Insights, the first applications of teleportation will be in quantum computers and quantum cryptography, not human transport.
Physicists can already teleport tiny things, such as a beam of light or the angular spin of atomic nuclei. But physicists caution that teleportation research is still in the early development stage.
"Right now we are just making demos of quantum teleportation, which is different than the teleportation you see in Star Trek," said Raymond Laflamme, a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
But within 20 years, Laflamme said teleportation could be a fundamental step in the creation of quantum computers, cryptography, and an emerging technology called "superdense coding," in which two quantum bits could be transmitted for the price of one.
"We're finally at the stage where people can hazard to guess a timeline for when these sci-fi types of things can be seen in real life," said Alex Tullo, author of the Technical Insights report.
The mysterious aspect of quantum teleportation lies in the fact that information can move from location A to location B without moving in the space between A and B. Until recently, it was deemed impossible by scientists who thought it contradicted the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics.
Now teleportation technologies are being applied to quantum cryptography, a communications procedure so secure that any attempt at interception of an encrypted code by an eavesdropper would result in a message's immediate destruction.
Such impenetrable communications systems could have vast implications for the future of national security and international intelligence, Laflamme said. "With quantum cryptography, we can be sure that encrypted information is 100 percent secure."
There already is a prototype of a quantum computer at Los Alamos. It's capable of sending information up to a distance of 48 kilometers.
"It's amazing," said Laflamme. "Only five years ago people thought this was a crazy idea. Now we're bringing down information onto single atoms and manipulating it."
It's good news for cryptography and secure computing. But, unfortunately for Star Trek fans, few scientists see a future in beam-style transport.
"If you want to be teleported to New York for dinner," said Laflamme, "you shouldnít expect that to happen."