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China scientists launch world's first quantum satellite
   2016-08-16 13:06:08    Xinhua/CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Guan Chao

China launches the world's first quantum satellite on top of a Long March-2D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, August 16, 2016. The world's first quantum communication satellite, which China is preparing to launch, has been given the moniker "Micius," after a fifth century B.C. Chinese scientist, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced Monday. [Photo: Xinhua]

China is leading the world in quantum technology with the its latest satellite launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Center in the Gobi Desert, northwest China's Gansu Province in the early hours of Tuesday.

The satellite has been named "Micius" after a 5th century B.C. Chinese philosopher and scientist who is credited as being the first person in history to conduct optical experiments.

The satellite's two year mission will be to develop "hack-proof" quantum communications allowing users to send messages securely and at speeds faster than light.

Quantum physics is the study of the basic building blocks of the universe at a scale smaller than atoms. These tiny particles behave in an amazing way. The tiny particles act as if it's in two places at the same time - a phenomenon known as "superposition." The famous physicist Albert Einstein described it back in 1948 as "spooky action at a distance."

In practice it means that calculations can be carried out faster than light. Scientists say that a quantum computer will take just a fraction of a second to deal with a problem that would take the most powerful supercomputers in the world 100 years to solve.

One analogy to explain the concept of quantum computing is that it is like being able to read all the books in a library at the same time, whereas conventional computing is like having to read them one after another.

Quantum communication can also encrypt information by using quantum keys, which are formed with a series of random numbers. The numbers change if intercepted by a hacker, causing the information to self-destruct. This would make the communication process practically unhackable.

The technology is being seen as the answer to the security threat posed by supercomputers whose speed may allow them to hack through any existing encryptions easily.

But don't get too excited. This is cutting edge technology. China's quantum satellite has been developed by scientists without any previous projects they can use for reference.

Currently, the plan is to send more quantum communication satellites into orbit and set up a global quantum communication network by 2030.

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