Teleportation is something you would expect to hear in an episode of Star Trek, so the news that a group of scientists in Australia have successfully teleported a laser beam is undoubtedly a cause for excitement. Physicists from the Australian National University (ANU) announced that they have been able to teleport a laser beam, and more importantly, to repeat this process, although it remains to be seen if such a technique would ever be possible for human transportation.
When you first hear of scientists talking about teleportation, you immediately think of the Star Trek series, and according to Dr. Ping Koy Lam, the leader of this project, the experiment is similar to the teleporting of people that is achieved in the ever popular science fiction series. However, instead of teleporting humans the team managed to teleport a laser beam that contained encoded information by breaking it apart and reconstructing it about a meter away from the origination point.
This is definitely not the first time a team of scientists have been successful in performing such an experiment. In fact, teleportation has been an oft discussed topic among physicists in quantum mechanics in the past decade, and became a very sought after process since the IBM lab, in 1993, provided a theoretical foundation for the work. Most recently, a team at the California Institute of Technology did a similar experiment (in 1998) although it has been reported that the new Australian experiment has produced a much more consistent result with a 100% success rate. There are other scientists that are continuing to work in this area including the team from California.
The quantum teleportation experiment makes use of an aspect of quantum physics called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Simply put, this principle says that it is impossible to measure both the speed and position of an object at the same time. With this principle in mind, the scientists used a process called entanglement where tiny particles such as electrons and protons, can be mirrored in a second set of particles. The first object, in this case a laser beam, is destroyed, and a second beam is replicated during the entanglement process.
Scientists are a long way off from any real benefit. In fact, they are not sure about when they could even consider teleporting objects although it has been estimated that in 3 to 5 years, a single atom may be able to be teleported. Therefore, it is not with traveling or moving objects that we might gain from this knowledge. Instead, it is the possibility of quantum computing technology that might come from these early experiments. These quantum computers would be capable of producing unforeseen numbers of calculations far outdistancing the current computing technologies.