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”.
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