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Nokewartoxittank: on 4/27/11 at 19:46pm UTC, wrote Êóõíÿ áëèñòàëà íàáîðîì ÷óìè÷åê ïîä...

0-0: on 6/24/10 at 8:51am UTC, wrote funding was cut as the human race is not ready to release communications...

Brian Beverly: on 6/13/09 at 4:18am UTC, wrote Go Buffs!

Lawrence B. Crowell: on 6/11/09 at 19:17pm UTC, wrote This is regrettable. I doubt this cut has anything to do with Obama, or...

Anonymous: on 6/11/09 at 15:50pm UTC, wrote This research was funded by IARPA, which is not actually a science funding...

george: on 6/10/09 at 18:56pm UTC, wrote here the first one I think I ever saw from 1993 ...

george: on 6/10/09 at 18:54pm UTC, wrote here's one from britain defense There is classified research going on all...


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Stefan Weckbach: "Hi Lorraine, thanks for your reply and your honest answer. I agree with..." in The Present State of...

Georgina Woodward: "Done." in The Nature of Time

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October 17, 2021

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Entanglement with Irony: Spooks cut funding for spooky physics [refresh]
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Blogger Vlatko Vedral wrote on Jun. 10, 2009 @ 12:08 GMT
Every human endeavor has a bittersweet taste. “A cup of honey no one has yet drunk, without mixing it with a cup of gall”, said a Montenegrin nineteenth century bishop, warrior and poet in one of his epics on the struggle of his people against the mighty Ottoman Empire (admittedly, the original reads much better, but then I am a physicist, not a linguist). So it is with science. Last week’s issue of Nature contains a beautiful paper by David Wineland’s group at NIST in Boulder Colorado, who managed to create the first form of a mechanical entanglement between vibrating pairs of ions. But the same issue of Nature, in another article, reports on the announcement of IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to Wired “It’s like DARPA for Spies”) to cut funding for Wineland’s experiments. Wineland is among a number of other illustrious US scientists, such as William Phillips, the Nobel Prize Winner for laser cooling, who suffered the same fate.

The said paper by Wineland’s group is significant in that it shows entanglement between mechanical vibrational degrees of freedom of two ion pairs. Vibrational entanglement has, of course, been analyzed theoretically many times, but it has never been achieved experimentally before in such a clear and conclusive manner. Wineland’s is a very involved and sophisticated experiment, where entanglement is first created between energies of two pairs of ions (which itself is an achievement, though done a number of times before). This is then transferred onto the vibrations, so that ion pairs oscillate in unison, but their degree of correlated motion is higher than anything that can be done by classical oscillators (such as two pendulums). All manipulations are achieved by shining laser pulses of appropriate frequency. Once vibrational entanglement is achieved, its presence is confirmed by the reverse actions. Suitable laser pulses transfer entanglement to the energy degrees of freedom and this is then measured.

Experiments of this type and level of sophistication take decades to achieve. During this time, it is very important to have a sustained level of funding not only for equipment, but also for staff (typically between 5 and 10 physicists are continuously needed to realize something like this). A typical grant lasts for 3 to 5 years and this means constantly fighting for renewals and extensions in order to achieve a goal that might take 20 years or so (like ion-trapping, laser cooling, Bose condensation etc).

The decision of US government to cut funding for Wineland is doubly ironic. Firstly because of its bad timing: the cut is announced in the same week as his latest groundbreaking experiment is published in Nature. Secondly –and this is the irony—that very experiment might provide a way of doing something that is crucial to military intelligence. Military activity is all about tracking the movement of the enemy. This can be accomplished in many different ways, but one of them is detecting a very low vibrational level of noise caused by the movement of nearby objects. Vibrations are, of course, all around us, but the trick is to detect the meaningful ones (the so called “signal”) from the background ones (known as the “noise”). Classical physics has a limit, called the shot-noise limit, but this limit can be overcome and much improved by quantum mechanics. Such techniques form a basis of the subject called quantum metrology; Wineland is one of the world’s leaders in this particular activity. Therefore, Wineland’s experiments may pave a way to efficient detection of very weak vibrations using quantum entanglement.

Regarding the funding cuts, the point is that academics these days (in the US possibly more than anywhere else) have to live in the real world and compete for its limited resources. Grant application writing forms a significant part of a (senior) scientist’s time. Here in UK, for instance, the success rate for governmental funding is almost as small as 10 percent. This means having to write on average 10 proposals (each requiring a substantial investment of time and effort) in order to be granted funding for just one of them. The US conforms to similar statistics.

Having a year or two of a gap in one’s grant income could be enough to terminate experimental activity for good (and I definitely know of cases where this has happened). Academics are therefore continuously faced with very uncertain futures that are more typical for business and industry. The decision of US military to cut funding is probably not a big surprise for my colleagues in America—they are used to it (by now, so are we in UK). However, it is always a big question if the short term thinking that pervades business and industry (for a good reason) is really appropriate when it comes to achieving academic excellence (which is almost always based on long term projects and far reaching ideas that take decades to mature and painstaking research to realize).

But enough of the politics behind science. Let’s be forward-looking and finish on a positive note. An important future experiment would be to increase the mass of the entangled oscillators (as entanglement is meant to decrease with mass and there could indeed be some critical size of the system beyond which entanglement is impossible). This I think can be achieved fairly straightforwardly by Wineland’s group. The other is to have more than two entangled oscillators. This could be a much harder experiment to execute (as decoherence could prevent the creation of entanglement), but it’s very important since it is ultimately linked with two very fundamental and related issues: the universality of quantum physics and the possibility of large scale quantum computation. I believe that the confirmation of the second type of entanglement is also just a matter of time, especially given the rate of progress of groups such as Wineland’s.

The exciting thing, of course, is that (despite my optimism) there is always a chance of failure, which is then usually followed by a discovery of another important physical principle hitherto unknown to us. Either way, it is crucial to push the limits of science forward. My firm belief is that Wineland will overcome the setbacks caused by the recent funding cuts and get there in the end. And who knows, maybe the military will realize the error of their ways and reverse the decision to cut.

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Obama fan wrote on Jun. 10, 2009 @ 17:23 GMT
How does this square with Obama's pro-science stance?

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0-0 replied on Jun. 24, 2010 @ 08:51 GMT
funding was cut as the human race is not ready to release communications from other civilisations;the project continues in an undisclosed location,with other technicians

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Anonymous wrote on Jun. 10, 2009 @ 17:25 GMT
How is this technology applicable? What are it's potential uses? Why should the govt. even care?

I'm not supporting the cut in funds... I whole-heartedly support science, but if I can't understand what the big deal is, then the average citizen isn't gonna care either.

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Zeeya wrote on Jun. 10, 2009 @ 18:11 GMT
Hi Anonymous,

This link to Nature's article on the work, which Vlatko put in his post, covers some of the practical implications for quantum computing and also for understanding the boundaries of the quantum and classical world.

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joe wrote on Jun. 10, 2009 @ 18:13 GMT
Obama does not make the budget, that is the job of the Congress.

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George wrote on Jun. 10, 2009 @ 18:44 GMT
I would suspect this was cut becuase the military already has such research going on which they don't want public.

There were patents issued years ago on encrypted communications at incredible distances (faster than light) using quantum entanglement.

I suspect these guys were just bumping up agaisnt some stuff the government simply didn't want to go further publicly.

It's just like when all the research of atomic scientists started to disappear from journals as the atomic bomb was being developed.

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george wrote on Jun. 10, 2009 @ 18:47 GMT
Quantum optical communications system

Mark W. Roberts et al

here is just one patent by the NAvy from 2003


A communication system employs quantum entanglement by projecting photons through a nonlinear crystal. Some become parametrically down-converted into signal and idler photon pairs. The signal photons are projected to a receiver and the idler photons to a transmitter. The transmitter operator can alter the time width and a majority of the center wavelengths of the idler photons via a collapse event in the transmitter. Because of quantum entanglement, a corresponding change in the time width and center wavelengths of the signal photons as received at the receiver results. The purposeful causation of the collapse event or a lack of such purposeful causation can be used for binary communication. In addition, the sensing of an atmospheric condition may be performed by equating changes in received signal photon characteristics with changes in collapse conditions in the atmosphere.

Patent number: 7289738

Filing date: Nov 10, 2003

Issue date: Oct 30, 2007

Inventors: Mark W. Roberts, Markham E. Lasher

Assignee: United States of America as represented by the Secretary of the Navy

Primary Examiner: Christina Leung

Attorneys: Peter A. Lipovsky, Allan Y. Lee

Application number: 10/705,799

here are bunch more

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george wrote on Jun. 10, 2009 @ 18:54 GMT
here's one from britain defense

There is classified research going on all over this stuff.

Cryptographic receiver

John G Rarity et al

Abstract | Drawing | Description | Claims


A cryptographic receiver (10) includes photon detectors (52, 54, 56, 58) arranged to detect photons arriving from filters (22) and (24). A fiber coupler (14) randomly distributes each received photon (16) from an optical fiber toone of two photon channels (18, 20). The filters (22, 24) are each unbalanced Mach-Zehner interferometers with a phase modulator (34, 44) in one arm (28, 38). The filters (22, 24) impose non-orthogonal measurement bases on photons within the respective channels (18, 20). A signal processor (60) derives a cryptographic key-code by analysis of signals received from the photon detectors (52, 54, 46, 58).

Patent number: 6028935

Filing date: Apr 10, 1996

Issue date: Feb 22, 2000

Inventors: John G Rarity, Paul R Tapster

Assignee: The Secretary of State for Defence in Her Britannic Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Primary Examiner: Hrayr Sayadian

U.S. Classification

380/21; 380/44; 380/49

International Classification

H04L 912

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george wrote on Jun. 10, 2009 @ 18:56 GMT
here the first one I think I ever saw from 1993

Apparatus and method for quantum mechanical encryption for the transmission ...

James D. Franson

Abstract | Drawing | Description | Claims


An apparatus and method that permit the transmission of secure communications. The invention uses quantum mechanical effects to establish nonlocal correlations between a pair of photons. This is analogous to an automatic encryption code that exists at only one location and is immediately destroyed after either of the photons is detected. This latter feature also provides a means for detecting any unauthorized tap on the transmission line.

Patent number: 5243649

Filing date: Sep 29, 1992

Issue date: Sep 7, 1993

Inventor: James D. Franson

Assignee: The Johns Hopkins University

U.S. Classification

380/9; 380/59; 359/244; 359/249; 356/351

International Classification

H04K 102

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Anonymous wrote on Jun. 11, 2009 @ 15:50 GMT
This research was funded by IARPA, which is not actually a science funding agency. IARPA is a part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It's goals and standards for success are fundamentally different from, for example, the National Science Foundation (NSF).

And in response to joe, Obama in fact does make the budget, and Congress approves it (or not). He has proposed large increases to the true science funding agencies (NSF, NIH, DOE) But this particular case was done at a much lower level. A presidential budget gives NSF (and other agencies) some lump sum of money for the year, and that agency decides on its own how to spend it. In this case IARPA made its own decision, but that is not cause to question the Obama administration's commitment to science!

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Jun. 11, 2009 @ 19:17 GMT
This is regrettable. I doubt this cut has anything to do with Obama, or the worry over INTEL technology being made public. The United States has two great sucking sounds acting on the defense community: Iraq and Afghanistan. The interest has been shifting considerably towards on the ground matters of detecting terrorists or Taliban fighters.

Lawrence B. Crowell

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Brian Beverly wrote on Jun. 13, 2009 @ 04:18 GMT
Go Buffs!

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