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Teleportation — Fact and Fiction 348

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the there-and-back-again dept.
jcatcw writes "Earlier this week actor Hayden Christensen, of Star Wars fame, and director Doug Liman discussed teleportation with MIT professors to compare the reality to the special effects version in the upcoming movie, Jumper. Edward Farhi, director of the Center for Theoretical Physics at MIT, said, 'It's a little less exotic than what you see in the movie. Teleportation has been done, moving a single proton over two miles. [But] teleporting a person? That is pretty far down the line. The quantum state of a living creature is pretty formidable. That is just not in the foreseeable future.'"
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Teleportation — Fact and Fiction

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  • by Some_Llama (763766) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:28PM (#22103802) Homepage Journal
    if you could get a computation to figure out the mass and molecular composition of an object, disassembly of the mass>turn into energy>transmit energy>translate into mass>re-assemble.

    Theoretically it should be doable although highly intensive energy wise (not worth it). BUT i would think at that point it would just be easier (and possible) to create the object from stored mass by just using a molecular blueprint that could be transmitted. (replicators?)
  • Death and Rebirth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sangui (1128165) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:28PM (#22103812) Journal
    Whenever I see discussion about teleportation discussed, I think about Ilium and how in reality when they were teleporting, they were being killed and brought back to life at the other end, they were never the same person, made of the same atoms, just an exact copy.
  • Distance? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by calebt3 (1098475) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:32PM (#22103848)
    How much does distance affect this? Is two miles near the theoretical limit something can be teleported before degradation sets in? Or is that just how far the scientists have bothered to try at this point?
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:34PM (#22103870)
    The Star Trek method never made any sense, chopping up a living organism and beaming it defies even scifi logic. It makes more sense to just say it's a wormhole between here and there.
  • Re:Death and Rebirth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tangent128 (1112197) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:40PM (#22103920)
    Good (if creepy) exploration here: To Be [].
  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:43PM (#22103956)
    If full-on analog teleportation using raw physics isn't possible in the short-to-mid term, what about recreation of a person at the endpoint?

    What I mean by that, is you are able to identify what in a person's brain (and related nervous systems) that allows them to be their own unique person, and can store that as some kind of information, if that can be sent to a far-off location, to a reusable body or synthetic equivalent. This body could then perform the same role that the original would. You could afterwards read what changed in the meantime to find out what happened.

    Of course, like all teleportation/copying ideas, it would challenge our definitions of what makes any of us unique, and the underlying nature of our definition of self.

    Ryan Fenton
  • Post-singularity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ecloud (3022) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:14PM (#22104218) Homepage Journal
    I think it will be done after the singularity, after technology has subsumed biological evolution. After that, it will not be so important because virtual reality and actual reality will have merged and people will be able to send themselves (in the form of software) anywhere that the network extends. But if it's possible, it still will remain an interesting academic challenge.
  • Re:Death and Rebirth (Score:4, Interesting)

    by v1 (525388) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:26PM (#22104316) Homepage Journal
    The part that would worry me is the consciousness. Brings up questions like what happens when you die. Does your consciousness cease to exist? probably. So if they replicate you to teleport you, haven't they created a new (but identical at that moment) copy, and then destroy your consciousness? Would your new copy of your consciousness know anything had happened? unlikely.

    If sometime in the future teleportation becomes possible, eventually everyone will be using it. By the time a child is old enough to ponder the above, they will have been teleported hundreds of times. At which point either you don't care anymore, or you don't believe your consciousness is destroyed by the teleportation. (since it would not be evident to the latest copy of you) Then you start getting into weirder things, like if someone teleports you, who has never been teleported before, against your will, could they be charged with murder? It's kinda absurd to think your consciousness somehow transfers with the teleportation.

    I think this would escalate to a whole new level if you teleported someone and failed to erase the original, and the two got together and were told to argue it out who needs to live and who needs to die. They'd both have the same conscious train of thought and would probably both want to live and would both believe they were "the real one" etc.
  • by davidsyes (765062) * on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:41PM (#22104446) Homepage Journal
    I will venture to say the governments would be all to happy to have precision site-to-SOME/ANY-site lock-on capability. They'd rather snatch and destroy living targets than spend the effort to insert humans to do the snatching. Why lose expendable assets (human, allied/aligned soldiers) when taking out the enemy (or enema) means only needing to lock on and scramble?

    With a weaponization of such quantum technology, simple bombs or surveillance devices could also be inserted, with quantum self-destruct structures that respond to counter-intel sweeps, or simply devolve/vaporize when the temperature reaches some design-imposed level. This could be to act as a weapon, or to enhance "plausible deniability".

    Worse, as a weapon of torture for those who are maniacs or pranksters who get their hands on one, we (or the future people) might read about rulers, bolts, rocks, and other foreign matter being precision-beamed/teleported into people, animals, or even into security or safety glass in buildings.

    Imagine this as the perfect bomb: taking OUT or comproMISING structural members of any building, fortification, dam, tower, transmission/reception site, etc. If used on skyscrapers, the toll worldwide would be, well, ummm, "mind-bending". Who the hell would want to go to work in Chrysler Building, or Petronas or Taipei 101 KNOWING that whole floors are collapsing in for no outward (visible/believable) reason. Oh, the reason would definitely be from outside (assuming the teleporter is not transported into the building...)

    And, no, I didn't read this in any books. I've been for decades wondering why in Star Trek we've NEVER seen the Federation or non-Fed use of the teleportation technology to undermine the target ships. Always (with exception of I think one Voyager episode) using phasers, quantum or older torpedoes, outright bombs, etc. The transporter was always used as a utility insertion/extraction/rescue/logistics device, not as a weapon. Had I had one, and had enemies who could not localize me, I'd certainly consider using such as device. But, I'm not a time traveler, don't have enemies (that I know of) who'd want me dead RIGHT NOW, and I (right now) deem certain acts as crossing the line. Even going after certain presidents would not be worth it. Too many unforeseeable consequences might unfold. I wouldn't want to be personally responsible for it (unless I could see into the future and KNEW that I'd be saving more innocent lives (not innocent by or for government reasons, but by higher truths and most politicians would care to believe) than harming.

    Hopefully, teleportation technology continues to elude physicists. And, don't tell me about all the "good" things it could do. For one, the things might consume enormous amounts of energy. If they do, then that energy could be harnessed instead for removing a lot of pain, suffering, starvation, hunger and joblessness. But military and government bean counters and strategists all have agendas. Basically, if I'd stumbled upon teleportation tech, I'd probably destroy it and hope it was the ONLY copy. So, better hope I'M not the one some alien encounters. No one government can be trusted with such technology. Not at THIS point in our evolution. Hell, not even 2 or 5 or 25 governments. NON can be trusted.

    Nuff said?
  • Re:Death and Rebirth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:45PM (#22104476)
    I think this would escalate to a whole new level if you teleported someone and failed to erase the original, and the two got together and were told to argue it out who needs to live and who needs to die. They'd both have the same conscious train of thought and would probably both want to live and would both believe they were "the real one" etc.

    There was an episode of ST:TNG which dealt with that idea, when a transporter beam was deflected by the oddball atmospherics of a hostile planet and the Riker who was beaming up got doubled ... one made it back to the ship, the other ended up trapped on an abandoned research base for ten years until he was rescued by Enterprise. The one that got out was the one that we all came to know, and the dupe started out identical but evolved emotionally in a different way. It was kind of a cool episode, actually.
  • by v1 (525388) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:46PM (#22104490) Homepage Journal
    there are far more serious things to consider, like targetting. If you are strictly talking space, I don't even know if they've managed to figure out how fast Earth is moving through space. That's the big one with time travel too... ok lets say you CAN time travel. You'll do that exactly ONCE. ;) Then you'll suck vacuum for a few minutes. Time travel without teleportation is useless even if possible. For all we know someone's already invented it. Other than "I can make things disappear forever" you'd be hard pressed to prove it.

  • by Cordath (581672) on Friday January 18, 2008 @11:54PM (#22104974)
    Here's an extremely simplified version of how Quantum Teleportation works. This model *will* break down if you push it too far, but it's a better model of the real physics than a Star Trek transporter.

    1. Go out and buy two identical rubik's cubes.
    2. Put them into identical configurations.
    3. Send one to the other side of the planet.
    4. Now, create any new configuration you want, but record the steps you take. (e.g. Rotate top 90 degrees left, etc.)
    5. A person on the other side of the planet with the other cube can now recreate your cube precisely if you call them up and tell them the steps you took.

    In quantum-land, there are some rather huge differences, which I'll talk about in a moment. However, the crucial thing to get out of this necessarily imperfect macroscopic example is that this kind of teleportation relies on preparing identical rubik's cubes in advance, classically transporting one of them to the receiver, and communicating via classical channels when actually performing the teleportation. At NO point can information travel faster than light (FTL). i.e. Quantum teleportation does *not* break causality. However, you will note that you can, potentially, communicate a very complex rubik's cube configuration with a very small ammount of classical data, provided you choose your initial state and operations intelligently.

    The reality of Quantum Land (This will most likely confuse you. For that, I apologize.)

    The pair of identically configured rubik's cubes are meant to be an analogy for an entangled pair, which is the most crucial thing to have in any quantum teleportation scheme. (You can make entangled pairs out of many things, such as photons or electrons. However, these things are typically tiny and simple. Complex Atoms, molecules, etc. don't work so well.) Where the analogy breaks down is entanglement, which is something we just don't see in macroscopic objects. The key idea behind entanglement is that you can place two things into a state that is not separable (i.e. You cannot describe one things state without also describing the other simultaneously), and any operation on one of them will have an effect on the other no matter how far separated the two things are. (NOTE: This does NOT allow FTL communication.) The problem is that quantum operations on entangled states are probabilistic rather than deterministic. If the sender performs operations, measurements really, on her half of the entangled pair and a new particle that is to be teleported, the receiver needs the results of those measurements to do anything useful, such as reconstruct the particle the sender had. Those results *must* be communicated from the sender to the receiver via classical channels.

    Another big thing to note about quantum teleportation is that it, currently, is applied to indistinguishable particles. When you copy a rubik's cube, the copy is made up of complex molecules in a configuration that is unique. If you can magically examine the structure of any two real world rubik's cube you can tell them apart. They are distinguishable. A pair of photons in the same state, on the other hand, are indistinguishable. When you perform quantum teleportation, the copy that comes out at the sender's end is an absolutely perfect copy of the original because it has the exact state of the original and the particles themselves are not distinguishable. The state of the original, however, is changed when it is measured in the teleportation process, and there's no way to recover it. Effectively, the original is destroyed and a perfect copy comes out at the other end.

    So there you have it. Quantum teleportation isn't really like a Star Trek transporter at all. It actually a lot stranger than that, and much more difficult to grok. (especially the entanglment part) Again, I apologize for not being able to come up with a way to explain entanglement without throwing a lot of math at you. (I'm not sure you can really understand it without the math.)
  • by zygotic mitosis (833691) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @12:46AM (#22105320)
    I've always had this nagging feeling that by disassembling your brain and moving it, that instant of consciousness would cease to be. You would actually die; in the destination pod, what is essentially a perfect clone is born with your memories. Of course, it would be seamless, and your teleported self wouldn't have any recollection of having died. This would also be impossible to prove, but it's what I choose to believe about this fictional device. Teleportation engineers kill humans!
  • by 4D6963 (933028) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @12:50AM (#22105348)

    Does it matter that you "die"?

    Well yeah, because you actually die. What do you think, that because some machine created a carbon copy of you you'll be somehow magically linked to it? No, that's if as you grew a twin/clone and then killed yourself. You die, you're getting killed, the way you chose, and life goes on for your copy, who is a copy of you, but not you.

    And actually you don't actually have to get killed when you get teleported, you're "telecopied", you're only killed for the sake of not spamming the universe with copies of yourself.

  • by Hyperspite (980252) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @01:57AM (#22105714)

    But does that really matter? Your atoms are being replaced all the time, just small bits at a time.

    About a year ago, I tried to answer that question and I came up with an interesting answer. Excluding religious answers (ie assuming everything in the universe is physically based), your consciousness has to be somewhere physically. There are two places where this could be (one of which I just thought of incidentally). Either it resides in matter, or it resides in an energy field (like an electric field for example). If it is in a field, then that probably means your conscious state is an artifact of the surroundings. I don't like this idea because we walk near strong energy fields all the time without feeling affected (something would budge!), but I don't think it is impossible.

    The other idea is that it has to reside in matter. What level of matter though? My guess would be that it would be a fundamental property of elementary particles like mass or charge (something like that can't just appear out of higher order, there has to be something basic that it arises from). If that is true, and the state is changed based on its interactions with other particles nearby, then you can have transient particles, ones that just wander by, taking on an organized consciousness. It also means they can lose this property by acquiring another spontaneously (such as when they exit your body).

    Since consciousness is a fundamental property like mass, spin, or charge, there must be a set of variables that describe it. This means is that consciousness is a singular state that evolves in time in a way that should be possible to describe mathematically (at t0 consciousness parameters = and at t_F they = for instance according to some law). This also means that as you disbelieve this, the next instant those parameters could change and you could be lung or a rock with no memory of your past. IE: you are the parameters, and if the parameters are different, you would not know how it would be like to have a different set.

    The upshot of this is that (IF IT IS TRUE OF WHERE THERE IS NO PROOF.... YET?), since everyone is just transient particles, human affairs are transient things that could last anywhere from nanoseconds to years. It also means that when a human representation dies, some of those particles will retain their representation for some time, others will reconfigure immediately, etc. It means that the physical-chemical model of humans is right and there really is no such thing as morality because no human is conscious, they are just chemical automations AND everyone survives a human's death anyway, albeit with a different state (until they meet an antiparticle?).

    Anyway, the way this would resolve the teleportation thing is that, if it's true, it does and doesn't matter that you're made of different stuff. It matters because none of the old particles will be in the same state anymore. However, they wouldn't have been in that state very long anyway and would have been replaced.

    Food for thought?

    PS: I didn't really review this carefully so if something is unclear just ask.

  • by BungaDunga (801391) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @03:18AM (#22106176)
    I've only read pop versions of quantum mechanics but the basic idea requires information to be transmitted from the sending location to the destination classically, slower than the speed of light. This rather large caveat tends to be left out of articles like this. The point of teleportation is not that it is instantaneous, its that it allows you to transmit quantum states without physically transporting the particles in the special state from one place to another.

    In a relativistic sense, FTL communication would actually end up sending information back in time rather than in "real time" and cause all hell to break loose with causality; see this "tachyon pistols" thought-experiment []
  • by nospam007 (722110) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @07:27AM (#22107338)
    ... what is essentially a perfect clone is born with your memories. Of course, it would be seamless, and your teleported self wouldn't have any recollection of having died. This would also be impossible to prove, but it's what I choose to believe about this fictional device. Teleportation engineers kill humans!


    Just the contrary. Actually they would rebuild the body without the cancer, the anemia etc and only the brain from the current consciousness-state, the rest of the body would be built according to the recording done when the subject was 21 year old.
    IOW immortality.
  • by Kirth Gersen (603793) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @03:32PM (#22111082)
    This is not the only post which makes the point that the teleported version is a copy, not the original.

    This point was addressed at length in the 1960 sf novel by Algis Budrys, "Rogue Moon": []

    The trick in the novel is, the original is *not* destroyed. Instead, the *copy* is (after a time) destroyed. I can recommend it, although I have not read it for about 30 years; Wikipedia says it lost the Hugo to "A Canticle for Leibowitz".

Truly simple systems... require infinite testing. -- Norman Augustine