Quantum teleportation was just achieved over more than 7 km of city fibre

It’s getting real.

Quantum teleportation just moved out of the lab and into the real world, with two independent teams of scientists successfully sending quantum information across several kilometres of optical fibre networks in Calgary, Canada, and Hefei, China.

The experiments show that not only is quantum teleportation very much real, it’s also feasible technology that could one day help us build unhackable quantum communication systems that stretch across cities and maybe even continents.

Quantum teleportation relies on a strange phenomenon called quantum entanglement. Basically, quantum entanglement means that two particles are inextricably linked, so that measuring the state of one immediately affects the state of the other, no matter how far apart the two are – which led Einstein to call entanglement “spooky action at a distance“.

Using that property, quantum teleportation allows the quantum state of one particle to be transferred to its partner, no matter the distance between the two, without anything physical passing between them.

That’s not like the teleportation you see in sci-fi shows like Star Trek – only information can be sent via quantum teleportation, not people.

What it is, though, is a great way to create an unhackable, totally encrypted form of communication – just imagine receiving information that can only be interpreted once you know the state of your entangled particle.

In the latest experiments, both published in Nature Photonics (here and here), the teams had slightly different set-ups and results. But what they both had in common is the fact that they teleported their information across existing optical fibre networks – which is important if we ever want to build useable quantum communication systems.

In fact, quantum teleportation has been achieved over greater distances in the past – in 2012, researchers from Austria set a record by teleporting information across 143 km of space using lasers, but that technology isn’t as useful for practical networks as optical fibre.

To understand the experiments, Anil Ananthaswamy over at New Scientist nicely breaks it down like this: picture three people involved – Alice, Bob, and Charlie.

Alice and Bob want to share cryptographic keys, and to do that, they need Charlie’s help. Alice sends a particle to Charlie, while Bob entangles two particles and sends just one of them to Charlie.

Charlie then measures the two particles he’s received from each of them, so that they can no longer be differentiated – and that results in the quantum state of Alice’s particle being transferred to Bob’s entangled particle.

So basically, the quantum state of Alice’s particle eventually ends up in Bob’s particle, via a way station in the form of Charlie.

The Canadian experiment followed this same process, and was able to send quantum information over 6.2 km of Calgary’s fibre optic network that’s not regularly in use.

“The distance between Charlie and Bob, that’s the distance that counts,” lead researcher of the Canadian experiment, Wolfgang Tittel, from the University of Calgary in Alberta, told New Scientist“We have shown that this works across a metropolitan fibre network, over 6.2 kilometres, as the crow flies.”

The Chinese researchers were able to extend their teleportation further, over a 12.5 km area, but they had a slightly different set-up. It was Charlie in the middle who created the entangled particles and sent one to Bob, instead of the other way around.

This resulted in more accurate communication, and could work best for a quantum network where a central quantum computer (Charlie) communicates with lots of Alices and Bobs around a city. But the Calgary model could spread even greater distances, because Bob could work like a quantum repeater, sending the information further and further down the line.

The downside to both experiments was that they couldn’t send very much information. The Calgary experiment was the fastest, managing to send just 17 photons a minute.

And while many people assume that quantum teleportation would result in faster communication, in reality, decrypting the quantum state of the entangled particle requires a key, which needs to be sent via regular, slow communication – so quantum teleportation wouldn’t actually be any faster than the internet we already have, just more secure.

But the fact that both teams were able to use existing telecommunications infrastructure to achieve such long-distance teleportation at all is a huge deal – and something that hasn’t been done outside of the lab before.

It’s going to take a lot more tweaking and investigation before it’s something that we can use in our daily lives, but we’re definitely getting closer.

Mary Anne Moser on Beakerhead, the Burning Man of Science.

Last year, the people of Calgary, Alberta celebrated the 100th anniversary of theCalgary Stampede, in which more than a million people gather to enjoy one of the world’s largest rodeos and agricultural fairs. During the event Naheed Nenshi, their mayor, was seen riding on a 2,000-pound mechanical spider, and then declared that 100 years from now we will be celebrating a different kind of event called Beakerhead. Wait … what is Beakerhead?


Formally, Beakerhead is a celebration of art, science and engineering that launches on September 11, where 40 distinct events (including robots like the giant spider that Nenshi rode) will spill out onto the streets of Calgary.

The more informal description comes from the president and co-founder, Mary Anne Moser: “It’s Burning Man meets The World Science Festival meets Maker Faire.” And while that is quite a blockbuster smash-up, Beakerhead appears to be very much a first of its kind. On the site you find such titles as “Made In the 80s” and “Diespace: Life and Death With Art and Technology” and “Catharsis Catapults.” More than 70 collaborations between scientists, artists, inventors and general enthusiasts will culminate in this four-day program in which the events are “uncurated” and act as individual experiences that apparently make up a pretty expansive whole.

SmartPlanet caught up with Moser to understand the scope and purpose of Beakerhead and why she believes that now, more than ever, we need an immersive and very public, hands-on approach to art and engineering.

SmartPlanet: Beakerhead sounds like it will be a massive event, especially for an inaugural launch. Can you give us a sense of scope?

Mary Anne Moser: There are over 40 distinct events and 70 collaborators. It’s a first so we have no experience with actual numbers. We are sitting on the edges of our seat waiting to see how will the streets fill during Beakerhead. Will we get ten thousand? Will we get twenty-five thousand?

A lot of it is happening in the central part of the city but all the universities and colleges are also involved and they form a larger ring.

We are hoping tens of thousands of people will have an experience that is fairly immediate and then through tweets and instagrams, a hundred thousand online.

I know you describe it as Burning Man meets Maker Faire and all kinds of other existing, world-class events. Yet you deliberately do not call it a “festival” or “conference.”

I guess it’s part of walking the talk of innovation. Festivals and conferences are good, it’s just that Beakerhead isn’t one. We’re hoping that the idea catches on that Beakerhead isn’t something you attend, it’s something you do.

You’ve also explained that Beakerhead is uncurated. What do you mean by that?

There are programming guidelines, but it is uncurated in a sense that everyone can take part. Different organizations staging exhibitions or performances. Their brand and their quality control is up to them. The barrier to entry is on the floor.

Since the events are spread out all over the city, are you providing shuttles or transportation?

No, we are asking people to ride their bikes.

Right. You mentioned something called “art cars” and “art bikes.”

An art car or art bike is just something that you have dandied up. A lot of art cars start with a chassis and then they turn into creatures or just sort of fantastic vehicles ideally that people can hop on/off.

Who is building the art cars and the art bikes?

There are a lot of groups making art cars –- father/son [pairs]; groups of students; wacky inventors. The art car is very much established as something you see at Burning Man, so there are lots of examples of what an art car would look like. And we have been running workshops since early spring.

Workshops where people can show up and just create?

Yes. Not everybody has a welding torch in their backyard so we wanted to provide the right environment. The Calgary Board of Education has jumped on this and they ran a summer program for students to build an art car.

Can you describe one of the more “out there” events?

We are having a catapult catharsis competition where people can fling the things they love to hate.

What kinds of things will people be flinging?

It appears a lot of people have something against Barbie. I do believe somebody is building a Barbie catapult. But maybe it is your ex’s suitcase. I am a little worried about the team called “Engineers Without Morals.” We are not sure what they will be flinging. However, what fun to build something that you can use as a therapy.

The groups are building the actual catapults?

Yes. Teams can be up to 20 people, and they are building big catapults that require a lot of creative engineering. Teams will have a theme and whatever it is that you are flinging or venting your frustrations on will be part of that theme.

What other events are you looking forward to?

We are also choreographing a night called the Tremendous and Curious World of Beakerhead. It will be in Calgary’s primary concert hall that holds about seventeen hundred people.

We picked people who are clearly living in both the art and science world and while the show is choreographed, it is also very hands on, the audience will be involved.

How will the audience be involved?

We are featuring a physicist who is also an opera singer. A lot of people don’t know whether they are a baritone, an alto, or soprano, so she is going to do an experiment with the audience using their voices.

Chris Hadfield, the former commander of the International Space Station, has recently returned to Earth and we thought the audience might want to help recreate something he might be missing.

What do you think he might be missing?

Maybe there are vistas that you get or perspectives that you get from space that you would not get on Earth, like the sun rising over the Earth’s horizon. Maybe the audience can help show Chris that again.

What motivated you personally to start something this big and ambitious?

I co-founded and run an intensive program at the Banff Centre for the Arts that teaches scientists and science-related people how to bring science and engineering into popular culture. You can only do that for a little while before you realize you better put this into action yourself.

To be honest it started with the spark of an idea and ideas are small and easy. But then other people start saying, “Hey, that is a good idea.” All of a sudden there is no stopping. it just grew and grew.

How did the fundraising go?

Immediately after we decided this would be a fun thing to do, the stock market crashed. After 2009, I have been quite impressed by the number of companies that have been willing to step up to support an event that has never existed. We also have good government support.

Why do you think you’ve received such strong support?

I think in part many are realizing that when our rational and creative sides come together it can be very powerful from an economic perspective. Plus, it is a great way to solve some of the problems that we are facing as a culture.

Like what problems?

We have to be creative about energy. We have to be creative about sustainability. We have to be creative about our food supply. This is not just something that you can sit in the lab and solve. You need both rational and creative problem solving.

It is very difficult to learn those skills in school because that is not how our system is set up. Right now we still ask kids to choose between the science stream or the art stream. The programs are few and far between that have been asking people to draw on both of those sides. That is exactly the kind of citizens of tomorrow that we need. I think everybody realizes that, companies realize that, governments realize that, school boards realize that, universities realize that.

So one great way to have the rubber hit the road is through something like Beakerhead.

You mention that Beakerhead is open to collaborations. What kind of collaborations are you looking for? How would one enter Beakerhead?

A good example is an artist last year who wanted to do an installation that involved lots and lots and lots of light bulbs, and she needed an electrical engineer. So she approached Beakerhead. We have a big network of engineers that we can draw on, so in a way it is like a matchmaking service. We are open to collaborating with anyone, anywhere across the planet (or beyond).

What are the practical things that you want people to take away from Beakerhead?

If we could make a little dent in the perception that science and engineering is out of reach of the average person; if we help people feel more welcome in those worlds, that would be an important outcome.

Anything else?

The other is — and this is to quote the physicist Brian Greene — we do think that science and engineering is the greatest adventure story on earth, so we just want people to have fun.

A lot of the literature supports the importance of fun and play, but it’s true when you think about it: When did you have a good idea when you were in a bad mood?

It just does not happen. If I am feeling sour or depressed, I do not get very many creative ideas. We have our best ideas when we are delighted, or with friends. We need to create that kind of cultural climate that says, ‘Hey, yes, this would be awesome,’ ‘Hey, yes, try that,’ ‘Hey, yes, that will work.’ It is all a part of that ethos of: Fail early, fail often. It’s all rolled up in making a world that is fueled by human ingenuity.

Source: smartplanet.com

Even Small Strokes Can Cause Disability.

Some patients with transient ischemic attack and minor stroke become disabled within 3 months, even without having a recurrent vascular event, a study in Stroke shows.

Of about 500 prospectively identified patients with TIA or minor stroke (modified Rankin Scale score less than 2), 15% were disabled (mRS 2 or above) at 3 months. Those with recurrent events were significantly more likely to become disabled than those without them (53% vs. 12%). However, three quarters of those who became disabled had no recurrent event to explain the disability, but instead deteriorated after the initial event.

Predictors of disability were baseline abnormalities on computed tomography or CT angiography, ongoing symptoms at presentation, female sex, and diabetes.

The authors conclude that “treatment options such as thrombolysis should be considered” in patients with acute stroke, symptomatic intracranial or extracranial occlusion, or at least 50% stenosis, as well as ongoing symptoms, because they are at highest risk for disability.

Source: Stroke