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NASA

A team of Japanese researchers has sent infrared photons from a microsatellite to Earth in hopes they can one day be used to quickly communicate over vast distances, according to Wired.

Why it matters: Laser communication could allow more information to be transmitted faster and microsatellites — weighing about 100 pounds and costing roughly $2 million— are cheaper to launch, potentially opening space-based communication up to companies that don't currently have the resources to operate there.

What they did: The team, led by Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology physicist Masahide Sasaki, shot infrared laser beams from a satellite at a Tokyo suburb. Their vision is that one day the infrared photons could transmit information and replace today's radio waves, which can carry a limited amount of information. Messages carried by laser could potentially transfer million times more data per second, Sasaki told Wired. The challenge: Over long distances (to other planets, for example) only a few photons will arrive at the destination. The Japanese team and others — including physicists working on China's Micius satellite who conducted a similar experiment last month — are working on ways to quickly detect photons but currently Sasaki's team can "only detect about one in every hundred million photons sent from the satellite."

Go deeper: Todd Harrison, a space security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Wired the U.S. military may "be able to use a laser-beaming sat to communicate with drones." Additionally, the small size of them could allow for more to be launched.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

Conspiracy theories blow back on Trump's White House

Sidney Powell. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Trump has rarely met a conspiracy theory he doesn't like, but he and other Republicans now worry the wild tales told by lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood may cost them in Georgia's Senate special elections.

Why it matters: The two are telling Georgians not to vote for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler because of a bizarre, baseless and potentially self-defeating theory: It's not worth voting because the Chinese Communist Party has rigged the voting machines.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bolton lauds Barr for standing up to Trump

John Bolton. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

John Bolton says Attorney General Bill Barr has done more to undercut President Trump's baseless assertions about Democrats stealing the election than most Senate Republicans by saying publicly that the Justice Department has yet to see widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

What he's saying: “He stood up and did the right thing," Bolton said in a Wednesday phone interview.

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