International Space Station set for ‘spooky’ quantum entanglement experiment

ISS may be the site of a quantum entanglement experiment.

By Max Sonnenberg, The Space Reporter
Tuesday, April 09, 2013

International Space Station set for ‘spooky’ quantum entanglement experiment

The International Space Station (ISS) will reportedly host a stunning quantum entanglement experiment that could eventually change the way humans communicate.

A team of scientists have proposed testing whether quantum entanglement can occur at levels far beyond those already tested on Earth. Using equipment already installed on the space station, the team of researchers suggest the ISS is the perfect environment for conducting a test to better understand the nature of quantum entanglement — the theory that particles separated by great distances can instantaneously communicate with one another.

Under the proposal put forth by a group of European researchers, scientists on the ISS would modify an existing  Nikon 400 mm camera lens, aiming it back at Earth. The modified camera would then be equipped to receive entangle light particles, called photons, sent from scientists on Earth. One of the pair of entangled photons would then be transmitted nearly 250 miles to the ISS,  where scientists could compare the state of the photons. Once entangled, each photon should react to changes in the other’s quantum spin — if one switches from up-spin to down-spin, the other should hypothetically do the same, instantly and regardless of the distance between them.

The experiment would provide scientists with the best view yet of the world of quantum entanglement. According to physicist Rupert Ursin of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the lead author of the proposed project, scientists would gain a better understanding of the relationship between quantum entanglement and gravity. According to the European researchers, the project would require very little time and could utilize equipment already on the space station. The experiment would require just a few passes of the space station over the ground lab, an each experiment would last just 70 seconds per pass.

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The experiment could allow scientists to pursue more advanced quantum entanglement projects. A number of researchers have suggested that the physical properties associated with quantum entanglement may one day allow humans to communicate over vast distances without the use of wireless technology or even satellites. A better understanding of quantum entanglement could also eventually lead to a quantum-based internet. In addition, military facilities around the world have sought to employ quantum encryption, which is thought to be nearly impossible to crack.

The proposal is detailed in the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society’s New Journal of Physics.


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