A team of physicists at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy have used mathematical calculations to show that quantum communication across interstellar space should be possible. In her article published in the journal Physical Check Dthe group describes their calculations and also the possibility that extraterrestrial beings try to communicate with us via such signals.
In recent years, scientists have been investigating the possibility of using quantum communication as a highly secure form of message transmission. Previous research has shown that it would be nearly impossible to intercept such messages unnoticed. In this new effort, researchers wondered if similar modes of communication might be possible in interstellar space. To find out, they used mathematics that describe the movement of X-rays across a medium, such as how they travel between stars. More specifically, they investigated whether their calculations could show the degree of decoherence that might occur during such a journey.
In quantum communications, engineers are faced with quantum particles that lose some or all of their unique properties when interacting with obstacles in their path – they’ve actually turned out to be quite delicate. Such events are known as decoherence, and engineers working on building quantum networks have devised ways to overcome the problem. Previous research has shown that the space between the stars is fairly clean. But is it clean enough for quantum communication? The math shows that it is. In fact, space is so clean that X-ray photons could travel hundreds of thousands of light-years without experiencing decoherence — and that includes gravitational interference from astrophysical bodies. They found in their work that optical and microwave bands would work equally well.
The researchers noted that since quantum communication is possible throughout the galaxy, other intelligent beings in the Milky Way could already be trying to communicate with us using this technology, and we could start searching for them. They also suggest that quantum teleportation through interstellar space should be possible.
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Arjun Berera et al, Viability of Quantum Communications Across Interstellar Distances, Physical Check D (2022). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.105.123033
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