A quantum step to a great wall for encryption

Quantum mechanics (QM) is the dark arts of physics. Though physics — in the Newtonian mould — tells us how every object will precisely behave when pushed and hurled, QM deals with the invisible world of subatomic particles, where counter-intuitive rules apply.

QM inhabitants such as electrons and photons live in zombie-like ‘undead’ states. The very act of observing them makes them beguiling tricksters. Though not always understandable, science knows, in bits and pieces, how they can be manipulated for purposes that benefit the visible world such as making integrated circuit chips and fibre-optic lines for global, instantaneous communication.

Transparency may be the shining ideal of modern society but countries and corporations are now infinitely more obsessed with secrecy than in the days of ancient Greece. On Friday, the world took a major leap in employing QM to the cause of secrecy.

How it works

China — as a study in the journal Science reports — has combined satellite technology and the elusiveness of quantum mechanics to demonstrate how secret information can be transmitted over a…

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