Light Friday: The Billion-Dollar Ghost Town
Credit: CITE
Credit: CITE

Plus: Record-Breaking Quantum Teleportation, Mailing a Package to the Space Station and Teleconferences with 3-D Holograms.


Teleportation Sets New Record

While we’re still far from being able to beam a human being to a different location, teleportation is real. By harnessing quantum entanglement, scientists have been able to teleport particles over a relatively short span, but a new advance is allowing teleportation over considerably longer distances, shattering the previous record.

Chinese engineers recently teleported a photon over 60 miles, shattering their previous record of 10 miles, according to MIT’s Technology Review. This was made possible by the principle of quantum entanglement, which is the link established when two quantum objects share the same existence but are separated in space. It is not the physical object that is teleported, but all the information that describes it. Once that information is applied to a similar object across a distance, that object essentially takes on the same identity.

“The team’s greatest contribution is not necessarily the distance it made the data travel but the method it used to harness the 1.3-watt laser beam that carries it,” TIME.com explains. “The longer a beam of light travels, the more it spreads out, causing the photon to lose information and trail off course. To keep the beam on target, the researchers created a technique that focuses and steers the laser.”

The process involves entangling several pairs of photons, then beaming one photon from each pair to Point A and the other to Point B. When the photon at point A changes, so does the photon at point B. Although no information passes between A and B, the change in photons can be used to encode quantum data, known as qubits. This allows for ultra-secure data transmission, and could theoretically lead to the development of a “quantum Internet.”

“Using this mysterious phenomenon to teleport people and objects and kangaroos is a long ways off (and could remain exclusively in the domain of science fiction),” Wired.com’s Wired Science blog notes. “But quantum entanglement can also be used for the instantaneous swapping of information, and because the data doesn’t travel through space it can’t be snatched or intercepted while in transport — the ultimate form of encryption.”

The Billion-Dollar Ghost Town

Approximately $1 billion is being invested in the design and construction of a state-of-the-art U.S. city, complete with highways, houses, commercial buildings and the latest infrastructure advances. Here’s the catch: no one will be allowed to live there.

Located in southeastern New Mexico, the Center for Innovation Testing and Evaluation (CITE) will serve as a vast testing site for new technologies and their integration within existing urban, suburban and rural infrastructure. The experimental city will occupy nearly 15 square miles and include gridded city streets.

CITE is intended “to help researchers test everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets,” the Associated Press reports. “The point of the town is to enable researchers to test new technologies on existing infrastructure without interfering in everyday life. For instance, while some researchers will be testing smart technologies on old grids, others might be using the streets to test self-driving cars.”

Construction is set to begin June 30. The following video shows off some of the sophisticated design features planned for the city:

Mailing a Letter to the Space Station

With the emergence of privatized space travel, there may soon come a time when we’ll have packages delivered outside the boundaries of Earth. But what do we put on the mailing form when sending a package to space? Luckily, a NASA astronaut has found a way to determine an address even in orbit.

The International Space Station (ISS) remains in constant motion, circling the Earth at a speed of 17,000 miles per hour. However, astronaut Donald Pettit, who is currently serving aboard the ISS, sees no reason why a space station with no fixed location can’t have a fixed mailing address, considering even naval ships and remote outposts like McMurdo Station in Antarctica have addresses.

“My sleep station, a coffin-sized box, is located in the fifth deck space of Node 2. From an Earth-based perspective, I pop out of my sleep station as if I were coming out of the floor,” Pettit explains at the NASA blog. “I am thus situated on the International Space Station (ISS) in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with an orbital inclination of 51.6 degrees (the angle of our orbit plane to the equator) and an average altitude of 400 kilometers. It occurred to me that my address should be: Node 2, Deck 5, ISS, LEO 51.603.”

The zip code would be 51.603, with the first three digits representing the orbital inclination and the last two designating the particular space station. The ISS is the third station to occupy this location, after the Salyut series and Mir, and Pettit claims his numbering system would continue to work at least until there are more than 99 space stations in orbit.

“Postage is unlikely to be cheap though, given that it costs SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket over $5,000 to put 1 kilogram of cargo into low Earth orbit, so you might be better off sending a tweet instead,” New Scientist notes.

3-D Hologram Videoconferencing

Videoconferencing just took a major leap into the future, as researchers from the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada have developed a way to transmit life-size 3-D holograms to a home or office using a specialized display.

“The system, dubbed TeleHuman, involves a hollow translucent acrylic cylinder 5.5 feet (1.7 meters) high. Its ceiling has a convex mirror, and its base holds a 3-D projector, which bounces video off the mirror to display images visible on the cylinder’s surface,” GE’s Txchnologist blog reports. “A TeleHuman pod also relies on 10 Kinect cameras — six on top of the cylinder, and four located about 3 to 8 feet (1 to 2.5 meters) away. These Kinects capture video of the front, sides and back of a person standing in front of one pod and transmits it a life-sized image for display on the surface of a distant pod.”

The system is also able to capture data on the position of the viewer, allowing it to adjust the image to a viewer’s gaze and correct much of the distortion caused when a 3-D image meets a flat surface. As a next step, the developers are considering adding a mobile robotic base that would allow the pod to display users’ images even as they walk around.

Have a great weekend, folks.

 

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