Earlier this week, Chinese scientists made a big announcement: they had teleported a photon from Earth to an orbiting satellite called Micius, the first time any object has been teleported into space.
But don’t start making plans for that teleportation travel agency just yet. While this is a major scientific and engineering feat, it relies on properties that are relatively easy to manipulate at the quantum scale but, for now, prohibitively complex in our macro world. Specifically, it relies on a phenomenon known as entanglement, in which two seemingly separate entities—say, a pair of photons—can become intimately intertwined. Any action performed on one particle has an instantaneous affect on the other, no matter the distance between them.
In quantum teleportation, physicists use an entangled link to map information from one particle onto its entangled partner, which effectively takes on the identity of the first. While this is done frequently on Earth, China’s accomplishment is the first time information has been sent via entanglement from Earth to space, marking a huge step toward the potential for quantum communication satellites and new forms of information security.
You can listen to Brian Greene discuss the topic further on NPR’s Morning Edition