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QUANTUM LEAP

Cindy Maddera

Talking or thinking about anything quantum tends to make my brain hurt, but when I read this story on Wired I thought I’d put forth a better effort in understanding quantum mechanics. It’s easier to wrap your brain around it if you know and understand the definition of the words. Quantum is the smallest amount of a physical quantity that can exist independently. Quantum mechanics deals with the theory of matter that is based on elementary particles having wave properties. Combine these two concepts and you can build a quantum computer.

Quantum computers are a thing of theory, but physicists in Australia have made a big leap into making it a reality. They have found a way to store information in a laser beam. The scientist slowed the laser light from 300,000 kilometers per second to several hundred meters per second. This allowed them to then load information onto the light using photons. Photons have a spin which gives them a natural orientation. They can be oriented to be facing up or down and this represents a one or a zero.

The scientists used a crystal made of silicate and praseodymium, a rare earth element, to slow down the light. The light beam is fired at the crystal where it becomes absorbed. Then a second light pulse is fired again at the crystal to release the first beam containing the qubits of information.

Just think of the possibilities! One day you may be able to store your blog on a laser beam of light and shoot it across the galaxy. You’ll have intergalactic blog readers. How cool is that?!?