Monday, 11 March 2019

China’s Quantum Satellite

Chinese satellite uses quantum cryptography for secure videoconference between continents

Quantum cryptography allows communication that is guaranteed to be secure, thanks to the laws of physics. And it is becoming increasingly important.

Physicists have long known that quantum computers will be able to break almost all other types of cryptography. Since these devices are becoming more capable, the writing is on the wall for conventional encryption. So commercial businesses, governments, and the military are all waiting with bated breath for practical quantum cryptography systems to be developed.

But there is a problem. The quantum cryptography relies on individual photons to carry quantum information. But even the best optical fibers can carry these photons only so far—around 200 kilometers—before light absorption makes the process impossible. So quantum cryptography has never worked over much longer distances.

related: First Object Teleported from Earth to Orbit

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China’s quantum satellite achieves ‘spooky action’ at record distance

Quantum entanglement—physics at its strangest—has moved out of this world and into space. In a study that shows China's growing mastery of both the quantum world and space science, a team of physicists reports that it sent eerily intertwined quantum particles from a satellite to ground stations separated by 1200 kilometers, smashing the previous world record. The result is a stepping stone to ultrasecure communication networks and, eventually, a space-based quantum internet.

"It's a huge, major achievement," says Thomas Jennewein, a physicist at the University of Waterloo in Canada. "They started with this bold idea and managed to do it."

Entanglement involves putting objects in the peculiar limbo of quantum superposition, in which an object's quantum properties occupy multiple states at once: like Schrödinger's cat, dead and alive at the same time. Then those quantum states are shared among multiple objects. Physicists have entangled particles such as electrons and photons, as well as larger objects such as superconducting electric circuits.

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Quantum Science Satellite (QSS)

China’s Quantum Science Satellite, nicknamed Micius, is the world’s first satellite mission testing quantum communications technology which is likely to become the cornerstone of uncrackable communications systems of the future.

The Quantum Science Satellite (QSS) provides the first space-based platform with long-distance satellite and ground quantum channel, carrying out a series of tests to examine fundamental quantum principles and communications protocols in a full-sized space-to-ground architecture. Completing a two-year mission from a 600-Kilometer orbit, QSS will test long-range quantum communications to evaluate the technology readiness level for a Global Scale Quantum Communications Network.

QSS is a project of the China Academy of Sciences with participation of the Austrian Academy of Sciences for a total project value of around $100 million.

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Quantum Experiments at Space Scale

Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS; Chinese: 量子科学实验卫星; pinyin: Liàngzǐ kēxué shíyàn wèixīng; literally: 'Quantum Science Experiment Satellite'), is an international research project in the field of quantum physics.

Tiangong-2 is China’s second Space Laboratory module which was launched on 15 Sep 2016. Tiangong-2 carries a total of 14 mission and experiment packages, including Space-Earth quantum key distribution (Chinese: 量子密钥分发) and laser communications experiment to facilitate space-to-ground quantum communication. A satellite, nicknamed Micius or Mozi (Chinese: 墨子) after the ancient Chinese philosopher and scientist, is operated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as ground stations in China. The University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences are running the satellite’s European receiving stations.

QUESS is a proof-of-concept mission designed to facilitate quantum optics experiments over long distances to allow the development of quantum encryption and quantum teleportation technology. Quantum encryption uses the principle of entanglement to facilitate communication that is totally safe against eavesdropping, let alone decryption, by a third party. By producing pairs of entangled photons, QUESS will allow ground stations separated by many thousands of kilometres to establish secure quantum channels. QUESS itself has limited communication capabilities: it needs line-of-sight, and can only operate when not in sunlight. QUESS has been successful in its objectives. Further Micius satellites will follow, allowing a European–Asian quantum-encrypted network by 2020, and a global network by 2030. The mission cost was around US$100 million in total

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In China, Facial Recognition Tech Is Watching You
Where’s Waldo? Monitors at the Beijing offices of A.I.-software startup Megvii play a video showing how its facial recognition software works. Gilles Sabrie—The New York Times/Redux

AT A CROSSING IN SHENZHEN, a giant screen displays the faces of pedestrians who dared to jaywalk, unaware they were being watched. But it wasn’t police who caught them—it was street-side surveillance cameras equipped with the latest in facial recognition technology. The miscreants’ mug shots are broadcast on the screen to shame others into compliance.

The technology behind the stunt was provided by a local company called Intellifusion, one of the smaller players in China’s advanced surveillance market. At the forefront of this booming industry are two other Chinese startups, SenseTime and Megvii, whose A.I.-powered facial recognition systems are likely the most powerful in the world.

SenseTime began as a research project at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The company was established in 2014 by professor Tang Xiao’ou, an expert in the field of computer vision technology, and his protégé, Xu Li, who now serves as CEO. Today Sense- Time is the world’s most valuable A.I. startup, with a valuation of at least $4.5 billion.

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