December 31, 2008

Quantum Encryption, a science correspondence

As science correspondent for It Was Lost it is my pleasure to tell you of a recent publication in theoretical physics. One of the Great Dream of the quantum mechanics world is the development of a quantum encryption system that cannot, by the rules of nature, be broken (or at least without letting one know that someone has broken the encoded message). And it's not impossible. An encryption protocol was written full 25 years ago, and in recent times experimentalists have begun to create rudimentary versions of the quantum parts that run the machines (more on this soon). If it could be constructed, it would be perfect. Unbeatable. Quantum encryption would have the basic principles of nature assuring its security.

But a hole in the plan may have just arisen from the math. Published just this month, a theoretical argument by Todd Brun of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles states that there is a physically possible way to read an encrypted message without anyone knowing. Without breaking any of nature's laws (as we know them), the paper, entitled, "Closed timelike curves enable perfect state distinguishability,"shows that it should be possible to travel backward in time through a worm hole and undo the evidence of tampering.

And with that, quantum encryption has lost its absolute certainty. No one is sure if worm holes, or timelike curves, ever occur in nature. But since the rules of physics do not preclude their existence, breaking quantum code is now merely beyond our wildest dreams, but not possibility.

I look forward to relating the many other exciting happenings in the world of quantum mechanics and the other areas of science familiar to Yours Truly.

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