Teleportation in the News

By | March 31, 2012

Yesterday was an interesting anniversary. Wired News reports:

March 29, 1993: Teleportation Beams From Sci-Fi to Real Science

1993: Scientists show teleportation is possible, at least theoretically. The downsides: The original teleported object must be destroyed, and it can’t happen instantaneously.

The story goes on to flesh out some of the milestones that have occurred in the teleportation arena in the interrum, including teleporting photons a few meters and teleporting information up to 10 miles.

Gizmodo marked the anniversary by sharing this story with us:

Beam Me Up, Scotty: Scientists Transport a Hunk of Matter 18 Inches

Scientists in Copenhagen took one more step toward the Star Trek transporter, figuring out how to teleport groups of billions of atoms from one place to another using light, quantum mechanics, magnetism and a concept they call “entanglement.” Professor Eugene Polzik and his team managed to move an object about 18 inches, using an excruciatingly complicated process that amounts to some serious magic. Says the Prof:

“Creating entanglement is a very important step, but there are two more steps at least to perform teleportation. We have succeeded in making all three steps — that is entanglement, quantum measurement and quantum feedback.”

Somebody on Facebook said this story was actually six years old. Probably so, as the Reuters story linked in the Gizmodo article isn’t there any more. Still very cool.

Star Trek references aside, this method of teleportation sounds somewhat different from the Star Trek models of teleportation which breaks you down into bits and either beams 1) you or 2) your pattern to the other location where it is reconstituted either 1) from your original matter or 2) locally available materials. (For the record, 1) is the original series and 2) is Next Generation and beyond.) I’m not sure if I would ever want to do 1), but 2) is a big no way. The guy who lands on the other side isn’t me — he just thinks he is. I’m dead.

But THIS approach, from the sketchy details provided, might move the whole person intact, irrespective of what the Wired article says about the original having to be destroyed. As I understand it, if you recreate my quantum states, you recreate me. You don’t just have a copy in that case, you have the original. Would the subjective me-ness that is me come along for the ride? Theoretically, yes.

Still, come to think of it, I think I would have to pass. Not that it looks like anyone is going to be offering free teleportation rides any time soon.

I’m just sayin’.

  • DensityDuck

    I like how some people will claim that a remotely-duplicated copy is “you”, and then turn around and say that a copied file doesn’t represent stealing because the “original” sill exists.

  • Phil Bowermaster

    DD –

    Well I’ve never heard one person make both of those claims, but that is pretty inconsistent. Following the logic, if the teleporter didn’t destroy the original, would there then be two equally valid claimants to a particular identity?

    Also, if you teleported the Mona Lisa would the one that comes out the other end be a forgery?

  • John Cliver

    There is a problem with 2). Would they be able to reconstitute your soul? or that part of you that makes you you. or would you be an android made of available materials – soulless?

    No way.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    “Following the logic, if the teleporter didn’t destroy the original, would there then be two equally valid claimants to a particular identity?”

    The SF novel “Farthest Star,” by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson, (1975) not only didn’t destroy the originals but kept sending duplicates to the same destination. IIRC, they referred to themselves as “Smith a”, “Smith b” and so on. (That doesn’t seem quite right but it was something like that.)

    As far as the original’s claim to the identity went, no problem arose because all the duplicates were astronomically far away and couldn’t get back.

  • Dictyranger

    It’s also a central plot twist in the movie _The Prestige_, although in that case the original person remained even after the teleported copy was created. The character using the device solved the inevitable complications by immediately killing the original every time the device was used.

  • Some Sock Puppet

    DD- it’s a cute analogy, but I think you’re forgetting the whole “living being” part. There is such a thing as too literal.

  • Mark S

    I would like to be transported– minus about 25 pounds of fat.

  • HM

    The Star Trek novel “Spock Must Die” by James Blish dealt with the issue of whether the person materializing at the other end is the original or is a duplicate. A special transporter was rigged by Scotty for a special mission, and this transporter also dealt with the question of whether it killed the original person by, instead of dematerializing the original person, copied him and sent the duplicate to the destination. (Unfortunately, it failed to send the duplicate, two Spocks were left in the transporter chamber, and through an “oversight” obviously meant to propel the plot, nobody else knew who was the original Spock because (a) the chamber was enclosed and (b) no record was made of which pad the original Spock stepped onto. The duplicate Spock had clear motivation to claim he was the original.)

  • Oligonicella

    If the original is not moved, but needs to be reconstructed (destroyed or not), it’s not teleportation. It’s copying.

    If it’s not required that the original person (or object) be destroyed to accomplish the ‘teleportation’, then what would prevent someone from ripping off a few thousand copies and selling the resultant ‘non-persons’ as slaves?

    Another quirk. If you trick someone into a tele-chamber and ported them – and the original must be destroyed – are you guilty of murder?

    Possibly worse, what if the teleported person had and was known to have a religious POV where he/she believed they had a soul and it was not possible to teleport that. Now you’ve created a new person who believes they’ve had they soul either destroyed or left behind.

    I’m not religious, but I have a strong sense of self. Unless the actual matter is moved from here to there, there’s no way you’re convincing me to allow you to violently tear me apart so you can make a copy elsewhere from different materials and, regardless of how much you spew about memories and such, you will not convince me that the copy is me. Reason? *I* get to determine me, not someone else.

    It’s just a copy.

  • Xiaoding

    Being entagled or not, has no bearing on the matter. it’s like saying a perfect reproduction of the Mona Lisa is the same as the original. Try selling that at an auction.

    The whole teleportation thing, was Star Treks biggest mistake, ever. Well, that and time travel, another dead end.

    Even Star Trek proved, that dimensional gateways are the only thing that really works, and that kills you in the end. :)

    And then there’s the space warp/tunnel thing, which has a problem…all the energy in the warp itself, rebounds back on you if the warp is ever closed. Hence all the supernovas we see all around us. Warps are dangerous!!