Flipping quantum coins

Coin flipping is a cryptographic primitive in which two distrustful parties wish to generate a random bit in order to choose between two alternatives. This task is impossible to realize when it relies solely on the asynchronous exchange of classical bits: one dishonest player has complete control over the final outcome. It is only when coin flipping is supplemented with quantum communication that this problem can be alleviated although partial bias remains. Unfortunately, practical systems are subject to loss of quantum data, which allows a cheater to force a bias that is complete or arbitrarily close to complete in all previous protocols. We report herein on the first implementation of a quantum coin-flipping protocol that is impervious to loss. Moreover, in the presence of unavoidable experimental noise, we propose to use this protocol sequentially to implement many coin flips, which guarantees that a cheater unwillingly reveals asymptotically, through an increased error rate, how many outcomes have been fixed. Hence, we demonstrate for the first time the possibility of flipping coins in a realistic setting.