China's National Space Science Center program launched a satellite in August of 2016, named 'Micius' after a famous Chinese philosopher, and it is helping their researchers beam and relay photons through space in an effort to create hack-proof satellite communications through the "spooky" action of quantum mechanics.
OK, that sure sounds like a complicated subject, so stick with me for a minute, and by the end of this blog you'll have a rudimentary understanding of how it all works.
This is an incredibly strange subject that does not adhere to the normal laws of physics, so if this is your first introduction to quantum mechanics and entanglement, suspend judgment and just go with what I am about to tell you, for now (took me several years to fully grasp the details). Your brain will hurt a lot less this way!
Quantum mechanics is the study of the physics behind the smallest particles known to man, and at this tiny, quantum level, these particles do not behave like any other matter we observe in the universe.
A particularly strange phenomenon is called "quantum entanglement" (<---click if you want to start to go down the "rabbit hole" - but a warning, the more you dig into this subject, the more it will upend how you think about the universe) and it involves something that once prompted Einstein to call it "spooky action at a distance."
The basic idea behind quantum entanglement is that two, once-linked particles can be separated and sent to opposite corners of the universe, yet if you were to make a change to only one of those particles, the other, untouched particle all the way across the expanse of the universe will react to said change immediately.
This is why Einstein once called it "spooky action at a distance" - because it's such a strange phenomenon that quite literally defies our understanding of physics. This is why Quantum Mechanics was invented in the first place. So we could start to be able to understand how bizarrely matter acts at this quantum level.
Another important property if these entangled particles is that if you observe or measure one of them (as opposed to just randomly flying through the universe with anybody knowing about it), the other particle will be immediately "disrupted" or changed in a way that can also be measured. This is the crux of what makes quantum communications so intriguing.
What Chinese researchers have been testing with these communications satellites, are photons that are relayed from these satellites to ground stations and how they behave.
Long strings of these entangled photons can be used as a type of encryption key. The biggest difference being that if anyone observed, measured, or listened to this communication, the quantum entanglement action will cause an immediate reaction and disrupt the other photons. In theory, this would halt a communication instantly, making it impossible to read or decipher, and would also alert the network that a breach was attempted.
There are some serious future implications because of the use of this technology. Understandably, hack-proof communications that are not able to be intercepted is the holy grail of security communications. Every government on the planet is desperately trying to achieve this.
Imagine a large network of satellites that power all communications on the globe. These lines will be secure, incredibly fast, and able to transmit extremely large amount of data at a time; and all while being 100% secure.
You can rest assured that although the first time we are hearing about this, it will not be our last. Soon all communication will utilize this technology.
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