All-optical quantum communication networks nearly realized, 'Answers to Life' airing at 9PM

Ready to get swept away into the wild, wild abyss known as quantum computing? If not, we're certain there's a less mentally taxing post above or below, but for those who answered the call, researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz have a doozie to share. A team of whiz kids at the institution have developed a minuscule optical device that's built into a silicon chip, and it's capable of reducing the speed of light by a factor of 1,200. If you're wondering why on Earth humans would be interested in doing such a thing, here's the long and short of it: the ability to control light pulses on an integrated chip-based platform "is a major step toward the realization of all-optical quantum communication networks, with potentially vast improvements in ultra-low-power performance." Today, data transmitted along optical fibers must still eventually be converted to electronic signals before they're finally understood, but the promise of an all-optical data processing system could obviously reduce inefficiencies and create communication networks that are far quicker and more robust. There's still no telling how far we are from this becoming a reality -- after all, we've been hearing similar since at least 2006 -- but at least these folks seem to be onto something good... even if it's all too familiar.