Chinese scientists successfully teleported an object from the Earth's surface to an orbiting satellite for the first time ever.
A photon — a tiny sub-atomic particle — was "transported" from the Gobi Desert to China's Micius satellite some 310 miles above the surface.
The Guardian reported it's a new record distance for quantum teleportation, which occurs when the complete properties of one particle are instantaneously transferred to another — in effect teleporting it to a distant location.
The technique has been in use since the 1990s, but it's the first time this has been done from Earth to space over such a long distance.
It's hard to fully comprehend, but the photon wasn't physically transported, Oxford University physicist Ian Walmsley explained to the BBC. Instead, he said the information from one photon on Earth was transferred to a second photon up in the satellite.
"It's certainly a scientific breakthrough," Walmsley said.
Teleportation like this is a building block for a wide range of technologies, the study said.
There are a number of applications for this procedure, according to Walmsley: "Everything from secure long-distance communications through perhaps eventually using it as part of a cloud-based computing network, that allows you to send the information from one party to another in a way that's secure and can't be tapped into."
Teleportation has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world, according to the Massachusetts of Technology.
The technique relies on the strange phenomenon of entanglement, MIT said. This occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant and point in space and so share the same existence.
Physically transporting anything large, like a human, however, is still a long ways off.
"To construct an entire human being from scratch — to say nothing about whether that human being at the destination is even the same person as the one you began with at the source — is a different problem entirely," astrophysicist Ethan Siegel said in Forbes magazine.
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