Government lab admits to running "quantum internet" for years

By on May 7, 2013, 6:30 PM

A government-owned lab in Los Alamos claims it has been running a "quantum internet" for more than two years, MIT Technology Review reports. Researchers worked around the traditional difficulties of interlinking quantum-based networks by creating something of a classical-quantum network hybrid.

Quantum mechanics exposes the whacky underpinnings upon which our reality appears based. It's a seemingly unintuitive realm where sub-atomic particles behave like waves, particles simultaneously exist in two or more places and mutually exclusive outcomes can all be proven mathematically true.

Quantum computers have long-been heralded as the ultimate problem solver: a machine capable of solving problems by analyzing many, many, many possibilities at once. Even though quantum computing is likely a ways off, some quantum mechanical phenomena like quantum dots already have to be taken into account when designing a modern microprocessor.

When applied to networking though, quantum principles promise an inherently secure mode of communication, one which (theoretically) cannot be eavesdropped, tampered with or otherwise observed except by its target recipient. Quantum networks exploit naturally-occurring features seemingly baked into the fabric of our universe -- quantum entanglement, probability and observation principles -- to prevent tampering. Any attempts to alter or even observe transmissions sent over a quantum network should alter its contents, tipping off detection mechanisms attuned to such changes.

Above: Infamous double-slit experiment reveals the crazy nature of quantum mechanics

Although this innate inability to observe data during transmission is great in terms of security, it has proved challenging for researchers. Traditional routers must "observe" data packets in order to route the flow of traffic across networks. This act "dirties" the data, either scrambling it or making it insecure before it reaches its final destination.

To work around this issue, researchers developed a method of converting quantum data into classical data... and then back again into its quantum counterpart. By crafting a hub-and-spoke network model, the "spokes" transmit quantum information while a central hub receives it, converts it and re-transmits it once again as packets of the quantum-kind.

The upshot of Los Alamos' design is its relative simplicity. However, there are two glaring limitations.

First, the hub-and-spoke network model itself is a problem. This brand of network topology is not easily scaled, so deploying this solution as a global quantum Internet would be inefficient at best, intractable at worst.

The second shortcoming is diminished security. While the data packets traveling along the network's spokes are protected by the magic of quantum theory, data transcoded at the central hub is not. As a result, the hub's security determines the trustworthiness of the entire network. This detail defeats the "perfect" security promised by a purely quantum network.




User Comments: 25

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---agissi--- ---agissi---, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Interesting, so they're essentially half way there, or not at all realistically.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

But, can it download Crysis?.

1 person liked this | Win7Dev said:

But, can it download Crysis?.

Downloading isn't the issue. The question is, can it play crysis in multiplayer mode over the network?

1 person liked this | JC713 JC713 said:

Now everyone needs quantum internet lol

5 people like this | Lionvibez said:

Now everyone needs quantum internet lol

Why just to have quantum internet data caps lol

JC713 JC713 said:

Why just to have quantum internet data caps lol

Just watch. In a few years, Google will replace their Fiber internet service with Google Quantum (FiOS already has that trademark so they would have to alter it a bit).

GeforcerFX GeforcerFX said:

I only guessed we had this stuff going we needed some way for the government and especially the DOD to transfer data without any chance of hacking, espionage became a lot easier when all you had to do was hack some servers form your own country. Now(or should I say soon) spy's are gonna have to break into data farms (seems easier to defend) and try and flash drive what they want to steal off it.

mrcavooter mrcavooter said:

Morgan Freeman FTW

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Morgan Freeman FTW

Don't you mean Gordon?

(Not that that makes your original statement any less valid!)

mrcavooter mrcavooter said:

Don't you mean Gordon?

(Not that that makes your original statement any less valid!)

Gordon Gecko?

2 people like this | lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Don't you mean Gordon?

(Not that that makes your original statement any less valid!)

Gordon Gecko?

Lol wut?

Gordon Freeman. Seeing how the article is about quantum mechanics, the reference seemed apt.

hammer2085 said:

That Double-Slit experiment is something!

spencer spencer said:

Well with dhs recording Absolutely everything you do on the internet they would need quantum internet. But it doesn't exist im a conspiracy theorist(I'm crazy because I base and reinforce my ideas with facts

2 people like this | MilwaukeeMike said:

Don't you mean Gordon?

(Not that that makes your original statement any less valid!)

Gordon Gecko?

Lol wut?

Gordon Freeman. Seeing how the article is about quantum mechanics, the reference seemed apt.

Forget the Freemans, I can't hear 'Quantum' without thinking of Scott Bakula.

2 people like this | Guest said:

Center Hub being the Government

Guest said:

So, when will this quantum internet gonna be available to public? and how much I must pay per month to subscribe this?

Lionvibez said:

So, when will this quantum internet gonna be available to public? and how much I must pay per month to subscribe this?

It will be 129.99 + a kidney and your first born.

And there is still a monthly data cap the initial service will offer up to 10Gbps speeds.

You also have to buy some of their other services in a bundle to get this great discounted price of 129.99 or the regular service is $200.

O almost forgot you also need to sign a 2 year term.

QWales said:

Total guess but maybe the proton is wider than thought and the test kit is causing some degree of refraction. The measuring tools are obviously not as innocuous as thought.

Lionvibez said:

Total guess but maybe the proton is wider than thought and the test kit is causing some degree of refraction. The measuring tools are obviously not as innocuous as thought.

dude what?

QWales said:

dude what?

Like I said, "total guess", just for fun lets say, as I have no knowledge of quantum mechanics. The image just reminded me of some refraction of light experiment we did in school as a kid.

For my second point, I'm probably just stating the obvious by saying that whatever tools they are using to view the result are obviously affecting it, I'm presuming it is more than just opening your eyes.

Guest said:

Y'all already have quantum internet, in another universe.

Andy Barbour Andy Barbour said:

I am glad I not the only one who thought of that. To test that theory increase the width between the slits. Interesting to see what adding more slits would do.

Andy Barbour Andy Barbour said:

Sorry about the long comment. I did not intend to repeat all the comments, the web form in the comments section included that.

mailpup mailpup said:

Not if you do it correctly, Andy.

QWales said:

The BBC did a Horizon programme on the current quantum computers which included an interview with the discoverer/inventor. Well worth a watch.

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