“Long Distance” ETI Communication?

(for those who missed out on both the 1998 announcement and its significance)

Glossary

entanglement             a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or a group of subatomic particles interact such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the state of the other(s) even though the particles are separated by a vast distance.  Therefore, the quantum state of the particles must be described as a system as a whole.

ETI                              Extraterrestrial Intelligence

photon                         a wave-particle of light.  Can be either a particle or a wave.

polarized light            light that is transmitted through certain media (such as a crystal or Polaroid sun glasses) so that all light vibrations are restricted to a single plane (in this event, vertical or horizontal).

quantum                     a fixed, elemental unit, as of energy, angular momentum, etc.

quantum mechanics   physical theory that describes the motion of objects by the principles of quantum theory.  Sometimes known as “QM.” 

quantum theory         theory that energy is not absorbed or radiated continuously but instead discontinuously and only in multiples of definite, individual units called quanta. 

superluminal              faster than the speed of light.

Background

When I was a young boy in the early 1950s, my father, who was not a scientist, took me outdoors to view the Moon through our 3-inch refractor.  He asked me how long it would take a flashlight beam to “hit” the Moon. I thought that it would be instantaneous, so I said, “Real fast —zero time.”  My father then told me that, in fact, it would take about a second and a half since light from my flashlight traveled at a limited speed.  He then told me about Albert Einstein, that light could only go just so fast and that “nothing could go faster than light.”

In September 1966, the “small screen” (then, our 21-inch, “low-def” color TV) featured the first episode of Star Trek.  In later episodes, there were occasional scenes when Captain James T. Kirk received a “subspace frequency” communication from Star Fleet Command in San Francisco.  Of course, the Enterprise was not in low-Earth orbit.  It was out quite some distance away in an undesirable region of the Beta Quadrant. [1] Apparently, they had a type of advanced form of Skype working on the Enterprise so that they could carry on a conversation in real time separated by light-year distances.  Remembering what my father had told me 15 years earlier, just how did subspace communication work, anyway?  That’s the subject of this article.

Lt. Uhura and Kirk Receive a Subspace Communication [2]

SETI and Carl Sagan 

Some readers of The MUFON Journal will recall endless, past articles about various organizations generally known as SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).  In 1960, Cornell University astronomer, Frank Drake, performed the first modern SETI experiment, called Project Ozma.  Drake used a radio telescope at Green Bank in West Virginia to examine the starsTau Ceti and Epsilon near the region of the radio spectrum in the proximity to the hydrogen spectral lines.  Drake assumed that the hydrogen frequency was the most likely one for ETI interstellar radio transmissions, but he found nothing whatsoever.

Soviet scientists also took a strong interest in SETI during the 1960s and performed a number of searches using their radio telescopes in the hope of picking up ETI radio signals. Soviet astronomer I. S. Shklovskii and Carl Sagan wrote the best-selling book, Intelligent Life in the Universe [3] (and I still have my copy).  To date, no announcement of ETI radio contact has been announced by any of the SETI teams (or any other agency for that matter). Conclusion: perhaps ETIs don’t use radio communication.

If you are near my age, you’ll remember the late Carl Sagan’s TV show, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, that aired first in 1980, 14 years after Star Trek premiered.   On Cosmos, Sagan would, famously, say that there were “billions and billions of stars.”  He went on to say that he believed that some planets of distant star systems were inhabited by advanced intelligent beings.  But, he said, it was impossible that those beings were visiting Earth since the distances are so immense; even if they could travel at a significant fraction of the speed of light, it would take them centuries to arrive on Earth.

Sagan and JPL’s Viking Spacecraft [4]

Let’s say that you’re on Zeta Reticuli 2 and you’re the Commander of the Zeta Star Fleet.  You send out your warp speed starships in the direction of the Andromeda galaxy. They’re gone awhile and you figure that you should contact them to see what they’re up to.  Do you send out a radio signal (first proposed by Nikola Tesla in 1893) that travels at the speed of light?   No, you want instantaneous communication, so you use another means that the Zetas developed a thousand years earlier: subspace communication.  After all, if you have warp speed starships, radio signals will never catch up with them (!).

Quantum Mechanics

Well, now we’re back where we started: nothing can go faster than the speed of light, right?  Wrong.  Now we get into the nitty-gritty of quantum mechanics, the study of the very small — even smaller than protons and neutrons.  We’re talking really small: subatomic particles such as quarks, neutrinos and bosons. [5]

Without consuming all of the pages in this issue of The MUFON Journal, let me just give an overview of what quantum mechanics entails. The best definition of quantum mechanics that I know of comes from Wikipedia: [6]

“Quantum mechanics (QM); also known as quantum physics, quantum theory, the wave mechanical model, or matrix mechanics, including quantum field theory, is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles.

“Classical physics, the physics existing before quantum mechanics, describes nature at ordinary (macroscopic) scale. Most theories in classical physics can be derived from quantum mechanics as an approximation valid at large (macroscopic) scale. Quantum mechanics differs from classical physics in that energy, momentum, angular momentum and other quantities of a system are restricted to discrete values (quantization); objects have characteristics of both particles and waves (wave-particle duality); and there are limits to the precision with which quantities can be measured (uncertainty principle).

“Quantum mechanics gradually arose from theories to explain observations which could not be reconciled with classical physics, such Max Plank’s solution in 1900 to the black body radiation problem . . . Early quantum theory was profoundly re-conceived in the mid-1920s by Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born and others. The modern theory is [represented] in various mathematical [formulas].  In one of them, a mathematical function, the wave function, provides information about the probability amplitude of position, momentum, and other physical properties of a particle.”

Wow!  I know, I know; that was more than a mouthful.  There’s no easy way to explain this phenomenon.  Science isn’t easy. That’s why I studied engineering instead.

Quantum Entanglement: Future “Subspace” Communication?

Imagine that you have a coin in both hands.  You flip one coin and it’s heads.  Then, as a result the coin in the other hand —automatically —is always tails.  That’s what happens when two quantum particles, say, a photon that you determine to have a vertical polarization automatically determines that a second photon is horizontally polarized.  This phenomenon is called entanglement.  Entanglement was first postulated by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935.  He predicted this phenomenon as the solution to what happens when two quantum particles interact together and are later separated. [7]

 

In 1998 the physics world was stunned by experimental proof of what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” It wasn’t the first time that experiments had demonstrated the spooky phenomenon, known as quantum entanglement. 

At the University of Geneva, Switzerland, Wolfgang Tittel, Jürgen Brendel, Hugo Zbinden and Nicolas Gisin successfully measured the entanglement of pairs of photons (wave-particles of light).  Each photon of the pair was separated by 10 kilometers (3.8 miles). [8]  The Swiss team sent photons through fiber optical cables [9] in the underground tunnels of greater Geneva. Their experiment is depicted in the illustration below.

Generation of Two Entangled Photons [10]

In the 1998 experiment, light (via a laser beam) was transmitted through a crystal, and it emerged in the form of a pair of entangled photons.  One photon (right, represented by a light green “+”) was vertically polarized.  The other photon of the pair (left, also shown as a light green “+”) was horizontally polarized (polarization is represented as the figure “8” cones) .  It was shown that by observing (measuring) one of the particles, the other of the pair seems to “know” that the first is being observed —even if the pair is separated by a vast distance.  As a result, quantum information is not stored once with the first particle, but is cross-linked and responsive to the second particle. 

But some scientists were still skeptical. In 2001 American teams of particle physicists closed the remaining “loophole” that the skeptics took issue with by capturing every paired photon in a beryllium-based experiment.  From their work, they proved that quantum information was entangled.

In 2007, Anton Zeilinger, a professor at the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences and a pioneer in quantum entanglement, communicated using entangled photons over a 144-kilometer (89 miles) distance.  According to Joanne Baker, Ph.D., Physics, and editor of Nature, “Entanglement is now being investigated for long-distance quantum communication.” [11]

According to Baker, Zeilinger has, “described the correlated polarizations of photon pairs used in experiments as like a pair of dice that always land on matching numbers.  Zeilinger’s group has held many records —for the longest distance over which entangled photons have been sent and for the number of photons entangled.   In 1997 Zeilinger demonstrated quantum teleportation —the imprinting of a quantum state from one onto a second entangled particle.” [12]  In concluding, “So there is a link between complementarity [of photon pairs] and non-local [meaning at a vast distance] effects in quantum physics.”  [emphasis added]  Baker concludes that, “Quantum entanglement and faster-than-light communication does happen.” [13]

Ben Rich at UCLA, 1993 

In 1993 Jan Harzan and I had the opportunity to hear the late Ben Rich, former president of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, speak in a packed UCLA auditorium.  After the lecture and Q&A, Jan approached Rich privately and asked how UFOs worked.  Rich asked, “How does ESP work?  Jan replied, without a lot of thinking, “All points in space and time are connected?”  Rich shot back and said, “That’s how it works!” [14]. I suggest that he meant that literally —that there’s a universal energy field connecting all parts of the Universe.  Perhaps this is what is now referred to as “Dark Energy.”   This doesn’t mean that we can now communicate instantaneously to Zeta Reticuli, but at some future time it may mean more than what it appears to be today. Not to put too fine a point on this, but it would seem that quantum entanglement may be the solution, a la Star Trek, leading to the real world, “subspace” communications of the future. 

Notes:  

1. In the Star Trek Universe, there were four quadrants in the Milky Way: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. The Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire and the United Federation of Planets occupied the Beta Quadrant.

2. Courtesy of Desilu/Paramount Pictures.

3. Shklovskii, I. S. and Carl Sagan, Intelligent Life In The Universe, Delta, 1966.

4.  Image courtesy of JPL/NASA.

5. During the “dark ages,” my 7th grade science teacher told me that atoms were made of protons, neutrons and electrons. Today, scientists will tell you that there are three types of particles: hadrons, leptons and bosons.  Hadrons are protons or neutrons, and they are composed of even smaller particles called quarks.  Leptons include electrons, muons, taus and neutrinos.  Bosons include photons, gluons and Higgs.   Each hadron and lepton has a corresponding anti-particle.  Anti-particles are what is called anti-matter.  Anti-matter (the exotic stuff that powered Star Trek’s Enterprise) will be the subject of an, as yet, unwritten NewScience article. Sometime in the future, perhaps, they will discover even more particles.  Confusing isn’t it?

6.  Courtesy of Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mechanics

7. Clegg, Brian, What If Einstein Was Wrong?, Metro Books, 2012, page 24.

8. Baker, Joanne, 50 Ideas You Really Need To Know: Quantum Physics, Quercus, 2013, page 166-167.

9. Optical fibers are used to transmit photons as they offer less resistance than other means, and they can be bent around corners. Light travels through glass or plastic optical fibers at about two-thirds the speed of light in a vacuum.  According to the late Colonel Philip J. Corso, optical fibers were one of the most significant technologies discovered in the Roswell crash-retrieval of 1947 (The Day After Roswell, Philip J. Corso  with William J. Birnes, Gallery Books, 1997).

10. Image courtesy of Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SPDC_figure.png

11. Baker, Joanne, 50 Ideas You Really Need To Know: Quantum Physics, Quercus, 2013, page 171.

12. Ibid, page 167.

13. Ibid.

14. Keller, T. L., The Total Novice’s Guide To UFOs, 2FS Press, 2010, page 168 and digital edition, 2017.

© 2018 T. L. Keller

T. L. Keller may be reached at: 2FSPress.com. Comments are always appreciated.