US military boffinry bureau DARPA*, which sees the bleeding edge as a blunt instrument, is getting into quantum effects. The Pentagon mad-science profs have offered government funding for researchers who can help them obtain Quantum Entanglement Science and Technology (QuEST).
Initially, the DARPA chaps are fairly non-specific about what they actually want at the end of the quest for QuEST. They merely say the aim is to "investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in the fundamental understanding of quantum information science".
Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon in which properties of two different atoms can be linked together despite the atoms being separated. In theory it doesn't matter how widely separated: one atom could be on Earth, and the other at Jupiter, or even light years away. The properties of the two will still be related instantaneously.
This can give rise to so-called "quantum teleportation", or - as Einstein put it - "spooky action at a distance", in which effects and correlations can occur at once between entangled atoms.
These rather promising phrases would seem to suggest that DARPA is after some kind of matter transmitter teleportation device - or at the very least a theory-shattering instantaneous communications link. In fact, entanglement theory calls for a normal, sub-light speed communication as well as the miracle quantum one; so this seems unlikely.
That said, one should never underestimate the wackiness of thought processes at DARPA. The body that funded the man cannon is quite capable of embarking on at least a small search for StarGate type instellar portal technology, no matter that the theory doesn't seem to offer any potential for it.
In fact, however, the likelihood is more that DARPA is thinking of so-called "quantum computing", which is reckoned by some boffins to offer ways of cracking hitherto unbreakable crypto. The Pentagon scientists emphasise that they're mainly interested in IT systems which might be good to go in the foreseeable future:
Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in the fundamental understanding of quantum information science related to "small" quantum systems. In this context, "small" refers to quantum systems with minimal quantum resources (e.g. number of coherent qubits, entanglement, quantum memory, etc). Results of such research are expected to lead to revolutionary advances in quantum information science and technology.
That sounds more like a crypto-smasher quanto-puter to us, rather than an interstellar portal or instantaneous subether radio. Disappointingly enough.
Read the full announcement here (pdf).®
*Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency