The longest journey begins with a single step. So goes an ancient Chinese saying, or maybe American Indian, or Hindu, or I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it credited to both Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt, it just depends on the meme of the day. But today, a long journey began with a single pair of photons.
Don’t read here for details, I’m not a physicist, but it’s something to do with what Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance’ and what current scientists call quantum entanglement, so it may not exactly be the same as teleportation from Star Trek, but the Chinese have managed to somehow affect the state of a photon in space, from Earth, from the middle of the yurt spotted, yak infested, hard baked sands of the Gobi freaking desert, instantaneously.
This journey could lead to faster than light travel, to teleportation, to instant communication, at least, over distances of light years, meaning a huge advance in interstellar travel, but maybe it wouldn’t be travel as we know it at all, just identical photons of you on a planet around another star, and each of you would know what the other was doing simultaneously. It’s huge.
It may not electrify space exploration the way Sputnik did, there’s no beep-beep-beep up over our heads in the clear October sky, but I’m sure the scientific community is sitting up and taking notice.
Two major takeaways, for me: China has taken the lead in the space race, and in the race to dominate the technological universe of the future. They have the capacity. They have the resources. They have the will.
And, the road China has sent us down is never-ending. Just as this one is beyond the understanding of most of us, dealing as it does with the sub-atomic universe where the laws of physics are, indeed, somewhat different, so will a greater and greater of the great discoveries of the future.
But, damn, what an awesome future it’s going to be.