Feeds

Boffins develop quantum-computer building block

No faster-than-light kit on offer, sadly

Boost IT visibility and business value

US boffins have made two widely separated atoms communicate their properties to one another in a phenomenon famously referred to by Albert Einstein as "spooky action-at-a-distance" and by others as "quantum teleportation".

In a paper published today by prestigious boffinry journal Nature, a crack team of eggheads, led by professor Christopher Monroe (then of the University of Michigan, now at Maryland), "entangled" two ytterbium atoms using a fibre-optic thread - in quantum style, not literally, duh.

"When entangled objects are measured, they always result in some sort of correlation, like always getting two coins to come up the same, even though they may be very far apart," Monroe said. "Einstein called this 'spooky action-at-a-distance,' and it was the basis for his nonbelief in quantum mechanics. But entanglement exists ..."

In this case the entangled rare-earth atoms were about a metre apart* in linear ion traps, but Monroe said that once the entanglement was complete the fibre link could be dispensed with and the entanglement would persist even if one atom was "(carefully) taken to Jupiter".

This is not unlike Terry Pratchett's well-known proposal to use royalty for communication, on the basis that as soon as a king dies his his son is instantaneously the king. This could allow faster than light communication across interstellar distances, as it's well known that royalness can be measured by simple means involving peas and mattresses.

Obviously the sensitivity would need to be refined in order to distinguish between a king and a mere prince, and (depending on the available supply of monarchs) it might be useful to be able to use kings to send messages more than once.

Pratchett informs us, if memory serves, that plans for experiments involving the careful torturing of a small king - and presumably at the reception end, some kind of advanced pea and bedding rig, perhaps involving a Hello! magazine editor - were interrupted by the pub closing.

Research hasn't languished since then, though, as Monroe and his fellow boffins seem to have performed a similar trick with relatively cheap, obtainable and easy-to-work-with ytterbium ions.

Sadly, however - very sadly - we aren't getting our faster-than-light starships or even communications just yet. Quantum teleportation theory - despite its promising name - requires an ordinary classical comms link as well as the miracle quantum one, rather limiting its potential.

But boffins - and maybe the rest of us - aren't disappointed, because entangled atoms can function as quantum on-off devices, or "qubits". Qubits aren't just 1 or 0 any more than a king in a box with a cat and some poison is just dead or alive: they could contain a whole load of info.

Entangled qubits would theoretically also be the dog's bits, as they might be used to build hard-to-understand yet puissant "quantum computers". Quantum computing has been modelled and theorised, and it's thought that it would offer some interesting possibilities: not least the breaking of current encryption and, of course, the chance of new and provably unbreakable crypto to replace it.

In fact, spooky-action-at-distance has been demo'd before; but Monroe & Co get a piece in Nature - not their first, either - because these methods could actually be used in building quantum IT kit.

"This linkage between remote atoms could be the fundamental piece of a radically new quantum computer architecture," says Monroe.

"Now that the technique has been demonstrated, it should be possible to scale it up to networks of many interconnected components that will eventually be necessary for quantum information processing."

Huh. We'd still like our starship, though. Brain-hurting boffinry detail from the Trapped Ion Quantum Computing group here

*roughly the snout-to-tail distance of a mature female Vietnamese potbellied pig, or 0.5 pico-Bills (Bill Gates's money in $1 bills end to end), or about half a standard walrus.

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?