The whole trouble with ‘teleportation’

The concept of teleportation was popularised in the cult (and later hit) 1960’s TV series Star Trek and its subsequent spin-offs. In Star Trek, teleportation (executed at the renowned command “beam me up”) is used mainly for re-locating people over short distances, say, between the surface of a planet and a space ship orbiting above it, or between two space ships close enough to be within sight of each other.

The irony here, is that modern science sees teleportation as a more promising solution to long-distance inter-stellar travel than in the use of physical space ships for tranporting humans (or cargo) physically. So the reality, perhaps in the far future, will most likely be the opposite of how space voyages were portrayed in Star Trek.

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Though Star Trek popularised teleportation, it was the film The Fly that highlighted the fundamental principle of teleportation. Teleportation is in essence the transmission of information about the object being relocated. In The Fly it was an experimental teleportation experiment gone awry that created the monster from which the movie derives its title. The scientist Seth Brundle (played by Jeff Goldblum in the most recent 1986 remake) was testing the machine on himself and planned to transport himself only several metres away to a receiving capsule within his lab. Unfortunately, a fly happened into the transmission capsule Brundle was sitting in. The result was his machine capturing data from both Brundle and the fly in the transmission capsule, and somehow muddling it all together as it processed it into instructions to reconstruct him in the receiving capsule.

What is highlighted here is that in a teleportation process, it is information about how our physical form is put together at the atomic level (some scientists insist that this detail needs to go down even further to the quantum level) and, presumably, the patterns describing the exact state of our brain at the point of conversion of this data into bits and bytes within the teleporter’s computer, that actually gets moved across space and time. Presumably the original copy is destroyed at the departure site and a new copy reconstituted based on this data at the destination site.

The leap of faith here is that whatever thing was reconstituted at the destination site will still be the person that ceased to exist at the departure site. The person at the destination site then continues to be where he had left off from the departure site by kicking off from the initial state in his reconstituted brain that mirrors the brain pattern stored in the teleporter’s computer. This is the premise behind the ideal result of a successful teleportation procedure.

Let’s say I am teleported from here (the Earth’s surface), to a base in the moon using the above procedure. The question that begs to be ask is a hard one: Will the “me” teleported to the moon be the same “me” that was removed from the Earth? Thus the whole trouble with the concept of “teleportation”.

8 Replies to “The whole trouble with ‘teleportation’”

  1. Teleportation is probable…the famed Physicist: Albert Einstein; formulated the: Theory of Unified Fields…that is: time and space can converge…and we can transport to a destination.
    It was experimented by the US Naval Research Dept. called: The Philadelphia Experiment…experiment went thru….however, the ship crew went insane…
    It is because: the atoms and mollecules of people, must be in the same positions, in time and space, to your destination…
    We can read about some advances of UFO Technology thru the: Area 56 subjects. Like: invisibility; phasers; energy shield;anti matters; teleportation; etc…these subjects are available in the Search Engines of any computer internet…Google it, Dudes and Dudettes..

    Thank you, BenignO, for this Tech Talk column…it is one way, to stimulate the young generations’ interest in Technology; instead of useless politics…

    1. There is this quantum process called “entanglement” that allows a particle to influence the behaviour of another particle instantaneously regardless of distance (which in principle makes it a viable workaround on the limitations imposed by relativity, i.e., the speed of light as a limit to everything). That is the area I think being investigated by physicists today as a possible solution to long-distance space travel and communication.

      Yes, we theought a range of non-traditional topics like Tech would be a good addition to this site to broaden the interests of our audience. 🙂

  2. Entanglement is a hypothesis from the String Theory . This Theory was formulated by the Princeton University Institute of Advanced Studies… “Atoms” behave like Waves, in different Dimensions, in the Universe. It is claimed : that there are eleven(11) dimensions…The Waves resonate and influence other String Waves in other dimensions…It is even claimed there are many universes…called: multiverses…

  3. “The Prestige” nearly took over this comment.

    Here’s a different way of looking at it. In the reboot edition of Star Trek, Montgomery Scott (or the future Montgomery Scott) solves the problem of “beaming” over large distances with the premise of the “space moving” instead of the transmitting information bits.

    This also seems to be the theoretical model of warp engines. Models of faster than light travel is tied with “warping space”, rather than using massive amounts of energy to propel or transmit a star ship.

    1. Do they actually propose warping space? Or is it more about finding a region in space where there already is a warp existing? As far as I understand, you need gravity to warp spacetime. And presumably, that too will require a lot of energy.

  4. why does the “original” need to even be destroyed in the first place? wouldn’t that be like murdering your clone? and its always safer to “copy-paste” rather than “cut-paste” especially with the crappy telecom network in the philippines. I wouldnt want to risk not reaching my intended teleport destination kasi naputol yung signal midway transport.

    the process you described seems to be better off as a generic matter duplicator than a means of transport. I’d love to one day be able to download a torrent file containing the template of the supermodel of my dreams and zap a person from the “image file” 🙂

    1. Yes, of course. That whole “destroying the original” was to remain consistent with the idea of teleportation as “transport”. But in principle, you are essentially creating a copy of yourself in some other place and can, in principle too, retain a copy at the point of origin.

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