China has successfully launched the world’s first quantum satellite, which aims to create what could be a hack-proof communication system.
The satellite, called the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), was nicknamed Micius, after the ancient Chinese philosopher and scientist who has been credited to be the first in human history to conduct optical experiments.
According to reports, Micius' two-year mission will focus on developing a hack-proof quantum communications system that will allow users to securely send messages faster than the speed of light.
But what exactly is a quantum satellite?
Quantum satellite is quite a complex topic as it involves understanding quantum physics, but you can find a detailed explanation here. The gist is, Micius has a crystal inside that when stimulated, produces two photons that are entangled in the subatomic, quantum level. As the photons are entangled, any interaction will affect both photons. The problem is photons are quite difficult to handle, but the theory suggests that even when separated, when one thing happens to one particle, the same thing happens to the distant particle. As they are entangled or connected in the subatomic level, this connection is intangible or cannot be manipulated with by outside sources, thereby making the connection secure.
Over the course of two years, Micius will attempt to send one photon to Earth, while the other stays in the satellite, to see if it will be possible to send the photon in space, without affecting it, and use it to transmit information that won’t be hacked or tapped.
In many ways, China has long been a follower in the technology space, but if this endeavor is successful, China has the potential to change the game.
“I think China has an obligation not just to do something for ourselves – many other countries have been to the moon, have done manned spaceflight – but to explore something unknown,” said Pan Jian-wei, a physicist and architect for the quantum satellite, in an interview earlier this year.
Secure communications will benefit a lot of industries, not to mention governments that are constantly being spied on.
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