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Monday, May 11, 2009

IBM masters teleportation like in Star Trek, kind of.

OK, so i figured that since the new Star Trek movie is out and doing well, I'd share a little info i had found a while back on teleportation from IBM. It's an interesting (ahem, boring) article that states it is possible and has been done and is coming soon to home (or tele-lab) near you!

Or does it? I guess you'll have to read it for yourself to see...


Quantum Teleportation

Teleportation is the name given by science fiction writers to the feat of making an object or person disintegrate in one place while a perfect replica appears somewhere else. How this is accomplished is usually not explained in detail, but the general idea seems to be that the original object is scanned in such a way as to extract all the information from it, then this information is transmitted to the receiving location and used to construct the replica, not necessarily from the actual material of the original, but perhaps from atoms of the same kinds, arranged in exactly the same pattern as the original. A teleportation machine would be like a fax machine, except that it would work on 3-dimensional objects as well as documents, it would produce an exact copy rather than an approximate facsimile, and it would destroy the original in the process of scanning it. A few science fiction writers consider teleporters that preserve the original, and the plot gets complicated when the original and teleported versions of the same person meet; but the more common kind of teleporter destroys the original, functioning as a super transportation device, not as a perfect replicator of souls and bodies.

Six scientistsIn 1993 an international group of six scientists, including IBM Fellow Charles H. Bennett, confirmed the intuitions of the majority of science fiction writers by showing that perfect teleportation is indeed possible in principle, but only if the original is destroyed. In subsequent years, other scientists have demonstrated teleportation experimentally in a variety of systems, including single photons, coherent light fields, nuclear spins, and trapped ions. Teleportation promises to be quite useful as an information processing primitive, facilitating long range quantum communication (perhaps unltimately leading to a "quantum internet"), and making it much easier to build a working quantum computer. But science fiction fans will be disappointed to learn that no one expects to be able to teleport people or other macroscopic objects in the foreseeable future, for a variety of engineering reasons, even though it would not violate any fundamental law to do so.

In the past, the idea of teleportation was not taken very seriously by scientists, because it was thought to violate the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, which forbids any measuring or scanning process from extracting all the information in an atom or other object. According to the uncertainty principle, the more accurately an object is scanned, the more it is disturbed by the scanning process, until one reaches a point where the object's original state has been completely disrupted, still without having extracted enough information to make a perfect replica. This sounds like a solid argument against teleportation: if one cannot extract enough information from an object to make a perfect copy, it would seem that a perfect copy cannot be made. But the six scientists found a way to make an end run around this logic, using a celebrated and paradoxical feature of quantum mechanics known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen effect. In brief, they found a way to scan out part of the information from an object A, which one wishes to teleport, while causing the remaining, unscanned, part of the information to pass, via the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen effect, into another object C which hasfigure never been in contact with A. Later, by applying to C a treatment depending on the scanned-out information, it is possible to maneuver C into exactly the same state as A was in before it was scanned. A itself is no longer in that state, having been thoroughly disrupted by the scanning, so what has been achieved is teleportation, not replication.

As the figure to the left suggests, the unscanned part of the information is conveyed from A to C by an intermediary object B, which interacts first with C and then with A. What? Can it really be correct to say "first with C and then with A"? Surely, in order to convey something from A to C, the delivery vehicle must visit A before C, not the other way around. But there is a subtle, unscannable kind of information that, unlike any material cargo, and even unlike ordinary information, can indeed be delivered in such a backward fashion. This subtle kind of information, also called "Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) correlation" or "entanglement", has been at least partly understood since the 1930s when it was discussed in a famous paper by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen. In the 1960s John Bell showed that a pair of entangled particles, which were once in contact but later move too far apart to interact directly, can exhibit individually random behavior that is too strongly correlated to be explained by classical statistics. Experiments on photons and other particles have repeatedly confirmed these correlations, thereby providing strong evidence for the validity of quantum mechanics, which neatly explains them. Another well-known fact about EPR correlations is that they cannot by themselves deliver a meaningful and controllable message. It was thought that their only usefulness was in proving the validity of quantum mechanics. But now it is known that, through the phenomenon of quantum teleportation, they can deliver exactly that part of the information in an object which is too delicate to be scanned out and delivered by conventional methods.

figureThis figure compares conventional facsimile transmission with quantum teleportation (see above). In conventional facsimile transmission the original is scanned, extracting partial information about it, but remains more or less intact after the scanning process. The scanned information is sent to the receiving station, where it is imprinted on some raw material (eg paper) to produce an approximate copy of the original. By contrast, in quantum teleportation, two objects B and C are first brought into contact and then separated. Object B is taken to the sending station, while object C is taken to the receiving station. At the sending station object B is scanned together with the original object A which one wishes to teleport, yielding some information and totally disrupting the state of A and B. The scanned information is sent to the receiving station, where it is used to select one of several treatments to be applied to object C, thereby putting C into an exact replica of the former state of A.

To learn more about quantum teleportation, see the following articles and links:

Friday, May 08, 2009

If you like baseball, you ain't seen nothing yet!

I came across this article on about a guy who is a switch pitcher! Yes, you heard me right (and left). He throws both ways! You have to read this article...very cool. There's a picture there you have to see...

How do you beat a guy who throws righty and lefty? You don't.

You'll probably never witness an unassisted triple play in your lifetime, right? (There have been only 14.) Or see an intentional walk with the bases loaded. (Six.) Or watch one player hit two grand slams in an inning. (Once.)

But you can see something right now that hasn't been around in baseball since the late 1800s: a switch-pitcher.

His name is Pat Venditte, he's 23, and he's pro baseball's only ambidextrous pitcher. This living piece of history is more than a YouTube star; he's throwing almost daily for the Charleston RiverDogs, the Yankees' Single-A club. And he's not just throwing: He's blowing through hitters like a Cub Scout through Skittles. At one point in April, the closer's ERA was 0.00 in 6 1/3 innings, and he hadn't blown a save in five games.

Last season, he had 23 saves for the Staten Island Yankees, with a 0.83 ERA. And best of all, the kid can relieve himself!

He wears a specially made six-fingered Mizuno glove with two thumbs. (His Dominican teammates call him Pulpo, Spanish for "octopus.") When he warms up, he throws four pitches righty and four lefty. You should see the opposition when he does it. It's as if they had seen a ghost. Wait—did you just see that? If a righty is up, he throws righty, and vice versa. Whenever Venditte switches sides, everybody in the Charleston ballpark is encouraged to switch seats.

"I've got to remember to tell people which way he's throwing," says RiverDogs radio play-by-play man Danny Reed. "Never had to do that before."

There are a lot of "never befores" with Venditte. The pitching coach has to file two reports: Venditte the lefty and Venditte the righty. And he should; they're two different pitchers. The righty has a 90 mph fastball, a curve and a nice change. The lefty comes sidearm and has a murderous slider and a change. He's a five-pitch pitcher! Once, in Little League, the other team's coach came up to Pat Sr. and said, "Your twins pitched a heck of a game."

His college pitching coach called him Dexter, and opposing managers call him an ulcer. What's the point of saving your righthanded pinch-hitter for the ninth if Venditte is just going to switch to righty? Strategy is futile. Remember in The Princess Bride when, halfway through the sword fight, Inigo Montoya suddenly says, "I know something you don't know: I am not lefthanded!"?

All this was Pat Sr.'s idea. When his son was 3, Dad noticed Pat threw balls with both hands. So he fed it. He had him throw footballs both ways, punt both ways, kick field goals both ways. Pat was homeschooled by his mom, Jan, who had him write both ways and eat both ways.

We might be looking at the future here, people. "I get calls and letters from people wanting to know how they can do it with their kids," says Jan. "But you have to do it when they're very young. If you try it at 9, they won't listen."

For Pat Jr., it's meant a way to chase his dream of playing in the Show someday. "I know I wouldn't be this far without it," he says. "I don't have dominating stuff from one side or the other. I need both."

Not that it doesn't cause problems. If he walks a hitter, fans will start hollering, "Try the other side!" People want him to sign autographs with both hands. And switch-hitters will switch batter's boxes, making Venditte switch the glove, starting a cat-and-mouse game that can go on for 10 minutes. Minor league umps now have the Venditte Rule: At the start of an at-bat, the pitcher must declare his throwing arm, then the hitter can pick his side, with each man able to switch once. Phew.

There's been only one other such pitcher in the past century: Greg Harris, who threw one scoreless inning for the Expos, in 1995. More than 120 years ago, three guys are believed to have done it occasionally. The best was Tony Mullane, who stood on the mound with no glove and the ball cradled in both hands so nobody would know which way he was going to pitch until his windup. I've had bosses like that.

But Venditte, a four-year letterman at Creighton, has a chance to be the best. If the Yankees bring him up—and at this pace it could happen within three years—they won't need a pitch count. Venditte can throw every day! And when manager Joe Girardi needs to call the bullpen, he can say, "Okay, get a righty and lefty throwing. In other words, get Pat." Of course, how would Girardi signal the bullpen? Touch both arms? Either way, it's a steal for the Yankees. As one scout says, "This could be an economical two-for-one." (Hey, Pat, ask for two salaries.)

-Rick Reilly,