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China Launches First Quantum Communications Satellite

In recent years China has pumped billions of dollars into pioneering scientific research and lately that sizable investment is beginning to pay off. Chinese media reported yesterday that the nation had sent the world’s first quantum communications satellite into orbit. The the space-vessel’s name was chosen with care; it was dubbed Micius, a ancient philosopher famous for his opposition to offensive war.

Lifting off from a launch-pad deep in the Gobi desert, the satellite utilizes cutting-edge research into quantum physics to create the most sophisticated encryption technology in existence. If successful, the implications of the satellite-based technology could revolutionize cybersecurity across the globe.

Quantum physicists had previously discovered a method using photons to develop impenetrable communications over short distances, but China is the first nation to dramatically increase the range and raise the bar above the stratosphere. Quantum communications are uniquely immune from standard hacking and security breaches because, as Lin points out, “information encoded in a quantum particle is destroyed as soon as it is measured.”

Many western countries have been attempting to develop communications technology of this sophistication for years, but China’s willingness devote over 101 billion dollars into basic research has given scientists the kind of support that few others receive.

For the sake of comparison, the U.S. spends a paltry 200 million on basic research.

This kind of game-changing innovation throws the benefits of serious national investment in science and science education into bold relief.

The efficiency of Quantum communications is yet unproven, the satellite’s data will be beamed to Beijing and Vienna in order to test whether all possible technological kinks have been worked out . But experts predict that quantum communications will swiftly outpace and displace current technology to the global standard.

The Wall Street Journal quotes the University of Geneva’s Nicolas Gisin, a quantum physicist, as saying that the implications of this successful launch go beyond the importance of the technology itself. "There’s been a race to produce a quantum satellite, and it is very likely that China is going to win that race,” said Gisin. “It shows again China’s ability to commit to large and ambitious projects and to realize them.”

Read the original Wall Street Journal article here: