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Physicists Store, Retrieve a "Squeezed Vacuum" 106

Posted by kdawson
from the there-is-no-cat dept.
An anonymous reader sends us to the site of Science Magazine for news that will interest those who have followed experiments to slow and stop light. Research groups in Canada and Japan have succeeded separately in storing a special kind of vacuum — a "squeezed vacuum" — in a puff of gas and then retrieving it a split second later. Such experiments might lead to advances in quantum encryption. At the very least they will help to illuminate the boundary between quantum and classical realms.
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Physicists Store, Retrieve a "Squeezed Vacuum"

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  • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Sunday March 09, 2008 @01:13PM (#22693528) Journal
    It's a matter of perception, which is very limited when you see the universe through a pinhole.
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @01:20PM (#22693560)
    but I thought it was my brakes.
  • like the guy just "reinvented" the radio. Take a carrier, modulate the carrier, remove the carrier signal, amplify the result, and output to a speaker.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @01:24PM (#22693580) Journal
    If you stop to think about how science has advanced in the last 20 years your brain, like mine, might explode. DNA, human genome, genetic medical treatments, dark matter, hawking radiation, quantum related developments... all leading up to 2012? There are people alive right now that when they were born, germs were unknown never mind planes, space travel, dark matter, and something as small as an atom. Mind you, there are few like that still alive, but there are. At no time in history has information advanced so much in so short a time. The Internet has helped play a part in that also.

    Should quantum computing become reality, perhaps we will have 400000x current computing power on our desktops. At that point, voice recognition becomes reality, huge data stores become reality and usable. Things like this could push the information age into a whole new era.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ral8158 (947954)
      Quantum computing is basically worthless without traditional processors working along side it. Although there are many things quantum works exceedingly well for, the vast majority of tasks get no benefit from being on a quantum computer. There probably won't be a 400000x increase in the near future.
      • by ral8158 (947954)
        Self correction: Quantum computing is basically worthless for use in a desktop computer without being pared with a traditional processor. Quantum computing is very fast for factoring large integers, database searches, and cryptography.
      • by Troed (102527)
        Although there are many things quantum works exceedingly well for

        Can you name one? Just last week I heard it was actually _only_ factorization.

        • by chrisb33 (964639)
          There's a pretty good list at http://www.carolla.com/quantum/QuantumComputers.htm [carolla.com]. To summarize:
          1. Factorization - as you mentioned, code breaking is a big deal.
          2. Quantum cryptography - the article I linked to isn't quite right about quantum teleportation (it can't, by itself, be used to send information) but quantum cryptography is a very interesting field. Essentially you can guarantee that there are no eavesdroppers on a certain line, since measurements by these eavesdroppers would necessarily mess up th
          • by Troed (102527)
            I'd say that pretty much fits in with what was said. Of course quantum is good for quantum, and the RNG was a bit interesting - but the only other practical application (so far) is factorization.

    • by glwtta (532858) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:19PM (#22693916) Homepage
      There are people alive right now that when they were born, germs were unknown

      Holy crap, there are people running around who are over 330 years old? Man, those guys have lived :)

      At no time in history has information advanced so much in so short a time.

      Actually, with a few notable exceptions, this has been true of any time in history. But yeah, there's a difference in degree.
      • Holy crap, there are people running around who are over 330 years old? Man, those guys have lived :)


        Well, you can live a long time when germs are unknown :D
    • There are people alive right now that when they were born, germs were unknown never mind planes, space travel, dark matter, and something as small as an atom. Mind you, there are few like that still alive, but there are. At no time in history has information advanced so much in so short a time. The Internet has helped play a part in that also.

      Indeed.

      However, it's somewhat sobering to realize that this generation is barely left. For instance, there is one American veteran of World War I alive today.

      What has our generation done? We're slouching, and making an absolute mess of things in the process.

    • by dasunt (249686)

      I was trying to figure out when neural-machine interfaces will become workable.

      Consider the space used by a 8GB SDHC card. Tiny enough to fit into a skull, right? If that could be hooked up to your mind in such a way in order to retrieve and write data at even 56k speeds, just think of what that would do for human productivity. Even for *routine* jobs the benefits would be huge -- cabbies and truck drivers with perfect maps of the cities, store clerks that know the price of everything in the store, f

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by MadnessASAP (1052274)
        And the implanting of all of the governments programm^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H ideals at birth.
      • by ErikZ (55491) *
        I don't think it will every be workable. The body just doesn't have a extra "space" laying around for you to run wires through or install CPUs.

        The best I was able to come up with was bone replacement. Eyes, teeth, and ears have space in them or are constructed of solid materials.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      Should quantum computing become reality, perhaps we will have 400000x current computing power on our desktops. At that point, voice recognition becomes reality, huge data stores become reality and usable. Things like this could push the information age into a whole new era.

      Sometimes, I get in a discussion with my father and I who experienced the greatest computer revolution. He came in just as computers got started working with radio tubes and faded out when the IBM PC was losing to the clones. Personally, I started with a computer that had 200kb Datasettes on my C64, now I have over 10,000,000 times as much space. I guess huge datastores are in the eye of the beholder...

      I think the greatest new future would be a huge increase in network bandwidth. Imagine bandwidth being al

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Come again?
      • DNA: 1951
      • Human genome: same thing; the sequencing was completed in 2001.
      • genetic medical treatments: not sure what you mean by that, but I'm not aware of any gene-based therapies in widespread use yet
      • dark matter: OK, given, first conjectured to account for the bizarre result in the late 90s that showed the expansion of spacetime is accelerating.
      • Hawking radiation: 1974.
      • quantum? Depending which bit you're talking about, originates between the wars. Feynmann and Murray Gell-Mann described qua
    • by earthbound kid (859282) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @08:54PM (#22696368) Homepage
      Pie in the sky.

      In 1903, man flew in a heavier than air craft for the first time. In 1969, man landed on the moon. Therefore, in 2001, man will have moon bases and be able to send a manned mission to Jupiter.

      Sorry, it didn't work out like that.

      Why not?

      Because we haven't invented any new rocket fuels since the 60s, and conventional rocket fuels suck. All that Jetsons/Star Trek stuff was based on the theory that we would keep ramping up the curve at the same speed, but in reality, we hit a plateau and leveled off.

      The same thing is already starting to happen to computers. Notice how the GHz race has slowed to a trickle? In 2000, Intel broke the GHz barrier with the Pentium III. Today, eight years later, I use a 2.1 GHz Core 2 Duo processor. Why is my chip "only" doing twice as many GHz? Because there's a brick wall and Intel is running up against it. The faster you go, the exponentially more heat you generate. Worse than that, no matter what cooling system you use, the fact is that 299,792,458 m/s / 1 cm = 29.9792458 GHz. That is, you can never get a signal from one side of a .5cm chip and back faster than 30 GHz without breaking the speed of light. So, it's not physically possible that for me to ever get a 30GHz Core 10 Quadro. It ain't gonna happen. Meanwhile quantum computers, while nice for some problems, do not offer generic speed ups for all problems. Quantum computers only aid in some, well-defined problems like factoring numbers. Not all algorithms benefit from the quantum effect. The number you suggested for quantum computers is basically from out of your ass. I think that if we are lucky, we'll see another 100x speed up of computers before we hit the plateau, but eventually they will plateau. I have no doubt of that.

      Meanwhile, has science really been moving faster since the internet? QCD was invented before the internet. DNA was discovered and used for making insulin etc. before the internet. Dark matter was on the edge of the internet's coming into being, but dark matter is kind of just a mathematical kludge anyway. "Hey, our math doesn't work. So there must be more stuff here slowing things down (dark matter) and more energy there speeding things up (dark energy)." Our knowledge of dark matter and energy is very crude, almost like the view of the atom in Marie Curie's day.

      In any event, the whole "singularity" movement strikes me as being the same eschatological nonsense that human beings have always believed. "OMG, a comet and an earthquake: it's the end of the world!!" No, it's not. For you personally, the end of the world will come in about 120 years max. (Aubrey de Grey is full of crap.) For the rest of the world, there's time enough for things to keep working themselves out. The Earth will keep orbiting the sun. Life will go on. AI researchers will continue to try to make a robot that can run around as well as a four year old. This too shall pass.
      • That is, you can never get a signal from one side of a .5cm chip and back faster than 30 GHz without breaking the speed of light.

        True.

        So, it's not physically possible that for me to ever get a 30GHz Core 10 Quadro. It ain't gonna happen.

        False. There is no rule that says a single processor has to be 0.5 cm in diameter. A processor 0.1 cm in diameter could clock at 150 GHz. Asynchronous logic boosts the effective clock rate even further.

        Of course, these numbers are theoretical. In practice, wheth

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Calling an asynchronous or subdivided chip "150GHz" is deeply misleading, since in a normal chip, the amount of work done in one cycle is proportionate to the number of gates it can potentially go through, which will naturally be smaller if one uses a subdivided chip. On the other hand, if you look at the Core 2 Duo, even though it only clocks at twice the GHz of a P3, it actually does much more work per cycle, since it has more transistors packed into a smaller space -- which is why Intel is deliberately u
      • by olman (127310)


        In 1903, man flew in a heavier than air craft for the first time. In 1969, man landed on the moon. Therefore, in 2001, man will have moon bases and be able to send a manned mission to Jupiter.

        Sorry, it didn't work out like that.

        Why not?

        Because we haven't invented any new rocket fuels since the 60s, and conventional rocket fuels suck. All that Jetsons/Star Trek stuff was based on the theory that we would keep ramping up the curve at the same speed, but in reality, we hit a plateau and leveled off.


        Actually, n
    • by RedOctober (10155)
      "If you stop to think about how science has advanced in the last 20 years your brain, like mine, might explode. DNA, human genome, genetic medical treatments, dark matter, hawking radiation, quantum related developments... all leading up to 2012?"

      You're right in other respects, but this is unfortunately not the case with fundamental physics. In "The Trouble with Physics", Lee Smolin makes the case that there hasn't been a single advance in fundamental physics worth getting excited over since the '70s, when
        • by RedOctober (10155)
          The LHC is not an advance on fundamental physics. What is your point?
          • So you complain that we've had nothing but speculations, but when theres an experiment that could actually answer some important questions in physics like the existence of the Higgs field, or finding or putting bounds on the size of extra dimension, finding evidence for or against super symmetry. you don't class it as an advancement in physics?

            And outside particle physics we seem to be doing quite well at the moment. Cosmology for example has changed considerably in the last 10 years or so and BEC's anyon
            • by RedOctober (10155)
              I repeat: the LHC is not an advance in fundamental physics. It's an engineering marvel, sure, and we hope that it will allow us to make advances in physics, but it's not, in itself an advance.

              Newton's insight into gravitation was an advance. So was the discovery of electricity and magnetism, and their unification by Maxwell. The discovery that heat was another form of kinetic energy too. The development of quantum mechanics, special and general relativity also. More recently, quantum electrodynamics, q
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @01:28PM (#22693608)
    Too much junk in my hall closet.
  • by slide-rule (153968) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @01:36PM (#22693660)
    I can't help but be amused at the thought of God, Newton, and Einstein sitting together "up there, somewhere" looking down on this little science experiment, chuckling at how we having it all wrong, and then thinking, just to fsck with us, they'll go along with our theory for a little while. *POIT!* (vacuum disappears and reappears), to which they have a long, hearty, teary-eyed laugh at our expense and dare us to make *that* make sense. ;-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gardyloo (512791)
      Interesting, but I can't help but thinking that that post is a bit of philosophical wanking. If the experiment is *not* wrong (few experiments are, though they may not show what the experimenter set out to show, or may be misinterpreted, etc.), what then? God, Newton, and Einstein disappear? That'd be a lark.

          I can't believe I just replied to that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Newton certainly isn't up there, plagiarism is is bad mmmkay!
      Einstin would still be arguing with god over weather he rolls dice
      And god doesn't exist/care!
      • by CorSci81 (1007499)

        Einstin would still be arguing with god over weather he rolls dice
        Well, to me the weather does seem to be a bit of a crap shoot most days.
    • by mother_of_recursion (1253462) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @05:32PM (#22694970)
      I can't help but be amused at the thought of how many people with undergraduate degrees in CS, having taken probably less than three college physics courses, are convinced they have any grasp of this phenomena; I have a BS in physics and it's way beyond my ken. But as for this line of reasoning, maybe a Douglas Adams quote is best, "Isn't it enough to see the garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too."
  • I don't see it happening in the near-future, but perhaps near the end of my life-time (I'm 20-something). And it won't be like the first computer revolution, with guys in their garages and basements screwing around with computer hardware. The first quantum computers will be only really useful for large Monte-Carlo projects (like the Earth Simulator) that require tons of computing power.

    The problem then becomes building a quantum computer that is faster than the supercomputers of the time. The first quant
    • by SeekerDarksteel (896422) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:45PM (#22694090)
      I don't see it happening in the near-future, but perhaps near the end of my life-time (I'm 20-something). And it won't be like the first computer revolution, with guys in their garages and basements screwing around with computer hardware. The first quantum computers will be only really useful for large Monte-Carlo projects (like the Earth Simulator) that require tons of computing power.

      Quantum computing is nigh worthless for Monte-Carlo. Yes, you can simulate a ton of inputs and get a ton of outputs in one run, but it all collapses into one waveform in the end anyway. Throw in the fact that Monte-Carlo simulations are classified as "embarrassingly" parallel and Monte-Carlo is the last thing you'll see on quantum computing.

      The problem then becomes building a quantum computer that is faster than the supercomputers of the time. The first quantum computer prototype won't just start out as a powerhouse. After we get the first quantum computer working, it may be up to a decade before we see one actually being used.

      The entire notion of faster or slower is thrown out the window with quantum computing. The power of a quantum computer is not limited by its speed, but the number of qubits. Furthermore, the first quantum computer prototype already exists. Indeed it is far from a powerhouse; it was used to factor the number 15. If we could expand the number of qubits arbitrarily we would have functional laboratory quantum computers, but it's our inability to increase the number of qubits because of decoherence and other physical limitations that prevents us from having useful quantum computers.
      • by bh_doc (930270)

        Quantum computing is nigh worthless for Monte-Carlo.
        Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the point of Monte-Carlo generally to come out with some single answer? Like an average, just as an example. Then why would it matter if it collapses into one wavefunction? With an appropriately constructed QC circuit, that wavefunction would represent your single answer; all you'd have to do is measure it.
    • fortunately for us, the invention of quantum computers will happen simultaneously throughout the time-space (dis)continuum. So we'll get them at the same time as the future does. That's the really convenient thing about this whole quantum thingy. ;-P
    • by God'sDuck (837829)
      Why would quantum computers need to be in the home? Once we have multi-gigabit cellular WiFi, we can have all our processing and data storage done by Google's cloud. So Google buys a couple dozen Quantum boxes to offload math-heavy tasks from their cluster of 150GHz servers, and the whole country buys 12th-gen iPhones that fold out to a 19-in display with a full keyboard instead of computers.
  • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @01:48PM (#22693716) Journal
    I keep mine in the hall closet. What's the big deal?
    • Hey, if they can retrieve a squeezed vacuum, can my love life have long to wait?? (Mom wants to know as she wants the basement back *rimshot*)
    • You should keep a close eye on your vacuum. Apparently nature hates it.

      Cue video of increasing closet entropy equalizing your vacuum into your towels, spare toilet paper, fan, etc.

      That would suck.

      -b
  • "

    To stop light, researchers first shine an intense and continuous beam of laser light into a gas of atoms."

    Did I miss a class? Are there gases made up of things that are not atoms?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Are there gases made up of things that are not atoms?

      Yes. For the simplest example, the atmosphere is a gas of molecules, not atoms.

      More generally, you can define a gas out of nearly any kind of particle. There's even such a thing as a "photon gas". [wikipedia.org]
    • by yotto (590067)
      There are gasses made up of molecules (You're breathing one now). Molecules are made up of atoms, sure, but the specifics imply that these are single-atom gasses.

      Haven't read the article, don't plan to.
    • Re:Gas of Atoms (Score:5, Informative)

      by pldd (1136557) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:12PM (#22693856)
      You can have gas made of molecules, a gas of photons, a gas of electrons, etc. As long as you have a large ensemble of free particles in a given volume you can call it a gas.
  • by martyb (196687) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @01:48PM (#22693722)

    Great line from the article:

    Proving that the squeezed vacuum survived its confinement is tricky, as it's hard to measure nothing.

    Hmmm. Hey! Maybe they should ask Frank Sinatra [lyricsandsongs.com]? :)

  • ....bags you store cloths and blankets in then hook your vacuum cleaner up to, sucking out all the air and squeezing the cloths and blankets down in size for storage.
    Later unplugging the bag to restore the cloths and blankets to full size.
  • Well, how did they knew they stored nothing in there? And how did they prove they recovered the same nothing from the cloud as they have put into it? And did it take no space in the clouds "memory"?

    That of course can be used in Quantum Computing, it's gonna be /dev/null!
    • by euice (953774)
      Well, on second thought, I'ld like to as real questions:
      Does that beam of squeezed light transport any energy at all, when the intensity is lowered to 0?
      If not, does that mean you can transfer information without transfering energy?
      If so, can you measure if someone is "receiving" photons of that beam by an energy loss at the sender?
  • I think there is going to be a huge shift in perception required one that is disturbing yet liberating before we understand more.

    We live in an information universe, and the observable universe the product of a quantum computer that exists by default and was not created.

    Some beings are simply programs being executed, and some, the self aware, are programmers.

    • "Some beings are simply programs being executed, and some, the self aware, are programmers."

      The self aware are simply subroutines with illusions of grandure, embrace the horror [cracked.com].
  • There are some possibilities to use quanta (?) as signal carriers, but no encryption is involved. The theory is that if you wiretap such a signal, then the original receiver will find out. So it could maybe be called "Quantum Wiretap Detection" or the like. But since this is a physical thing that relies on theoretical models that are typically not exact, it is not actually known whether this is really secure. I seem to remember that there are actually possibilities to liesten in, found in te last few months
    • Your old pocket calculator could factor 20 digit numbers?

      In any event, the feasibility of large scale quantum computation is a prediction of QM. All we need to do is to build a system which decoheres less than 1-3% of the time that we can manipulate and we can correct the rest of the errors. We don't have to scale up /that/ much further than we already have.
      • by gweihir (88907)
        Your old pocket calculator could factor 20 digit numbers?

        It could. Its only about 65 bits....

        In any event, the feasibility of large scale quantum computation is a prediction of QM. All we need to do is to build a system which decoheres less than 1-3% of the time that we can manipulate and we can correct the rest of the errors. We don't have to scale up /that/ much further than we already have.

        My impression was that there are several orders of magnitude still missing for any useful application and that it is
    • by SeekerDarksteel (896422) on Sunday March 09, 2008 @02:49PM (#22694112)
      There are some possibilities to use quanta (?) as signal carriers, but no encryption is involved. The theory is that if you wiretap such a signal, then the original receiver will find out. So it could maybe be called "Quantum Wiretap Detection" or the like. But since this is a physical thing that relies on theoretical models that are typically not exact, it is not actually known whether this is really secure. I seem to remember that there are actually possibilities to liesten in, found in te last few months.

      The reason for the encryption in the name is that the idea is to exchange a private key over the secure (but very slow) channel, which will then enable encryption over an insecure channel. So you're correct that the name is misleading. To be more accurate, it should be called quantum key exchange, not quantum encryption.
    • "Quantum Key Distribution" (QKD for short) is the term you're looking for, and it does exactly what it says. There are already commercial QKD systems on the market and their primary application is in closely spaced bank networks. QKD isn't sci-fi. It's being used right now. And yes, key distribution *is* encryption. In it's simplest, most secure, and most inefficient form, encryption involves simply XOR'ing the message with a key of the same bit length. (i.e. A One time PAD) Very few encryption syste
  • ...but I always was taught that a vacuum is what you have when you don't have anything. Given that, how the fsck do you store one, or for that matter retrieve it later?

    "Now I pump the air back into the bell jar. Amazingly, the vacuum is gone! I have stored it in the ninth dimension of Zardoz, and can retrieve it when I pump the air back out again. Cower before my scientific prowess, fools!"
  • I thought the headline said "Pharmacists Store, Retrieve a 'Squeezed Vacuum'." Now that'd be a story.
  • With the Internet why is Quantum Encryption needed?

    If you have an algorithm that can be run on 2 computers separated by distance, you can stream IP packets into several different strands that are relayed through several P2P servers just to confuse things and then reassembled at the destination machine. You could even add in false information that would be filtered out. In fact, a youtube video received by both computers could be used as the "carrier" the same way a one-time use cipher pad was used in the
  • At the very least they will help to illuminate the boundary between quantum and classical realms
    Time to re-vamp that stale old thought-experiment, then. Here kitty kitty kitty!
  • If you can make a matter-squeezer out of a broken remote control with no batteries, then you'll really have something. (John Varley's Red Thunder).
  • This implies that one can impose a signal on the heisenberg uncertancy of a quantum system. You can then measure the position and velocity of a given particle with greater precision than earlier theories claim is possible. This accuracy is gained at the expense of greater uncertainty at other points in time just prior to and after the point at which one measures the given property.
    I see no conflict, just a clever "trick" that a well designed experiment could take advantage of. Sounds to me like a challenge
  • I a;ways thought nature abhorred a vacuum. Perhaps nature just abhors nothing after all.
  • ...as it's hard to measure nothing.
    Ask those who insist on printing unsound money.
  • So how come anything at the microscale "might lead to advances in quantum encryption" just like any nanoscale work "might lead to new sources of energy", any genomic work "might lead to a cure for cancer" etc? After all, nobody said in in the 1940s, "this invention of the 'transistor' could lead to kids posting videos of their pranks for everyone world wide to view?"

    How about just doing pure science for science's sake? Especially on a News for Nerds site?

    If they need funding they should indicate that thes

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