Today I Learned…

…that physicists have made a major breakthrough in what is known as quantum information science, and it’ll make you go a little Trekkie (as I’ve been known to cause in the past).

Scientists at the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland have successfully teleported information from one atom to another at a distance of about a meter — something that has never been done before.  Successful teleportation of information, accomplished using quantum-mechanical phenomena like entanglement, has occurred over great distances, as well as over atomically small distances using an intermediary, but never at this human scale.  While this doesn’t mean that we’re one step closer to “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” it does represent a significant step forward in the field of quantum computing.

For more, check out the article @ livescience.

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Today I Learned…

…that Star Trek wasn’t far off. Two Baylor physicists have designed an engine that would allow faster-than-light travel without actually going faster than light.

The proposed engine takes advantage of theoretical implications of m-theory, which is the intellectual child of string theory. Both are attempts at a so-called Theory of Everything — a single mathematical framework capable of unifying all four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces). The engine, like it did in Trek, would function by warping space-time around the ship — expanding it behind the ship into a bubble and shrinking it in front of the ship.

The trick is that the ship would never actually move. Space would move around the ship, allowing the ship to traverse the desired distance faster than a beam of light would traveling in the same direction without violating relativity theory. According to Einstein, it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate a particle without mass up to the speed of light.

So we’re still kind of on track with the Star Trek time-line — Zefram Cochrane‘s first warp flight (as seen in Star Trek: First Contact) apparently took place on April 5th, 2063. Just 54 years and 251 days to go!

Further Reading: