A beam of ethereal blue laser light enters a specialized crystal. There it turns red, a sign that each photon has split into a pair with lower energies—and a mysterious connection. The particles are now quantum mechanically "entangled," linked like identical twins who know each other's thoughts despite living in distant cities. The photons zip through a tangle of fibers, then ever so gently deposit the information they encode into waiting clouds of atoms.
The transmogrifications are "a little bit like magic," exults Eden Figueroa, a physicist at Stony Brook University. He and colleagues have concocted the setup on a few laboratory benches cluttered with lenses and mirrors. But they have a much bigger canvas in mind.
By year's end, drivers in the largest U.S. metro areas—including, largely thanks to Figueroa, the suburbs of New York City—may unwittingly rumble over the tenuous strands of a new and potentially revolutionary network: a "quantum Internet" stitched together by entangled photons like those in Figueroa's lab.
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