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Decades ago, scientists predicted that the strange and fascinating properties of quantum physics would one day enable a multitude of applications. useful. Today, we have arguably entered a new era by confirming some of these theories and applying quantum physics to previously unlikely areas such as information and communication technology (ICT). These breakthroughs are possible mainly thanks to the concept of quantum entanglement and the transfer of a quantum state from one particle to another (quantum teleportation). Recently, theoretical physicists from the University of Edinburgh have shown that extraterrestrial quantum communication signals can reach Earth from almost anywhere. Indeed, the properties of quantum particles would allow them to cross interstellar distances while remaining almost intact.
Quantum particles, like photons, have so-called “entangled” properties that allow them to form a kind of “seamless” connection even over long distances. If one of them is caught and changes its quantum state, the other is immediately affected. This ability to “connect at a distance” made it possible to apply quantum physics to computing, as these particles would be able to retain their quantum nature and transmit information over very large distances.
Any trapping between two particles would thus be directly detected. Previous studies have shown that this function can be used, for example, in securing cryptographic keys. In the latter case, the twin particles would detect any intruder trying to capture the photons, as this would destroy the entanglement and inform the transmitter and receiver.
Originally tested on fiber-optic systems on Earth, the limits of quantum communication are now being studied by satellites in orbit, notably China’s Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) mission, which launched in 2011 and was one of the first. of its kind.
In a new study described in the journal APS physics, researchers at the University of Edinburgh believe that photons would be able to travel through interstellar space without losing their quantum properties. If there is an intelligent and advanced extraterrestrial civilization somewhere on the edge of space, then it would be possible to make contact by sending messages through quantum communication.
Few opportunities to interact
According to the results of a new study, X-ray photons would be able to travel hundreds of thousands of light-years or more through space. These photons may be produced by stars or other celestial bodies before reaching Earth.
In particular, scientists are already working on strategies to detect possible extraterrestrial quantum signals, but an obstacle could still prevent this form of communication. Indeed, a particle can undergo “decoherence” and lose its quantum properties as it interacts with its environment. ” Quantum states are generally considered to be very fragile because if there is some kind of external interaction, the state can be destroyed », Explain Arjun Berera, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Edinburgh.
However, the average density of matter in the space “vacuum” would allow this risk to be mitigated, as it is much lower than that of Earth. According to the expert, photons can thus overcome billions of kilometers before succumbing to decoherence.
Decrypt the information
However, it is important to mention that even if scientists were able to detect possible extraterrestrial quantum signals, they would still need to be deciphered to learn the content of the message. other studies suppose that light traveling through spacetime (which can be heavily distorted near massive bodies like black holes) is composed of quantum information that current quantum computers should be able to decipher.
This is still only a hypothesis, but according to these studies, quantum computers would be able to decode quantum information and arrange it in the correct order so that it can be interpreted.