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Quantum snare entraps key fifth photon

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5:05pm, July 11, 2004

In a new feat of quantum-scale manipulation, physicists have joined five photons in a condition of mutually linked properties called entanglement.

Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei and his colleagues achieved this complex state by firing an intense laser beam into a collection of crystals, mirrors, and detectors.

Five is a magic number in this context because entanglement of that many or more photons or other particles would enable a future quantum computer to find and eliminate random errors in its data, Pan says. Five-particle entanglement also makes possible a previously unrealizable scheme for transferring quantum data—which can have odd characteristics, such as representing several numbers at once.

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