The physicists who won the prize proved one of the most counterintuitive realities of the quantum world. Even if the particles are separated by great distances, they show that they are a single system. The system you have in front of you can be affected by something thousands of miles away.

Computer scientists can make uncrackable codes byanglement and nonlocality. Two people are given a pair of particles that are entangled in a device. The particles can be used as a code to keep communications safe from quantum computers.

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Why don't you stop at two particles. There is no upper limit on how many particles can be in a single state. Physicists have dreamed of three-way, four-way, or even 100 way quantum connections for a long time. A lab in China has achieved what appears to be nonlocalentanglement between three particles at the same time, potentially boosting the strength of quantum cryptography and the possibilities for quantum networks generally.

Two-party nonlocality is crazy enough, according to a quantum information theorist. When you have three parties, quantum mechanics can do a lot more.

Physicists have entangled more than one particle. Depending on who you speak to, the record is between 14 particles and 15 trillion. These were only a short distance apart. The high bar for demonstrating nonlocality is what scientists need to make multiparty entanglement useful for cryptography.

If the properties of one particle match up with the properties of the other, it is possible to prove nonlocality. A particle that is still close to its twin may emit radiation that affects the other. If they are a mile apart and measured in a matter of seconds, then they are not linked by anything else. The experimenters used a set of equations called Bell inequalities to rule out other explanations.

There are more possibilities to rule out than with three particles. The scientists have to jump through a lot of hoops to prove the nonlocal relationship of the particles. The technology to create just the right conditions in the lab is needed.

The team in Hefei made a huge leap forward in the results published in August. They shot lasers through a special type of crystal and placed them in different parts of the facility hundreds of meters apart. They simultaneously measured the random properties of each photon. Three-way quantum nonlocality was found to be the best explanation of the relationship between the three particles. It was a complete demonstration of nonlocality.

Xuemei Gu in a black outfit in front of a gray background

Something else may have caused the results. One of the authors of the study said that there were still some open loopholes. Physical proximity was ruled out as the most glaring alternative explanation for their data because they separated the particles.

The authors used a new, stricter definition of three-way nonlocality in their experiment. Gu's three devices could not communicate with each other. The random measurement of the particles would be useful in a situation where a communication can be compromised. A Canadian team showed three-way nonlocality at a distance.

Researchers can expand the distance even further now that they have successfully entangled particles.

Saikat Guha is a quantum information theorist at the University of Arizona

More expansive quantum key distribution is possible because of this technology. The same Bell inequalities that physicists use to test for nonlocality can be used to ensure that your secret is completely secure. Even if the device you use to send or receive a message is hacked, they won't be able to determine your quantum key. The secrets are between you and the other person.