I don’t know if I consider myself to be a Trekkie; but I have always been a huge fan of the brand. Do I have a shirt with Spock on it, most definitely? Have I been eyeballing a painting of Data holding his cat? Oh yes. I mean, I started off watching Star Trek: The Next Generation at the same time that reruns of the original Star Trek TV show were starting again. This was also the same time that the original Star Trek movies started flowing out of the theaters. So I had it coming from all directions and I loved every minute of it. Since I had a little free time yesterday afternoon; I decided to sit down and watch some TV. While flipping through the free movies on Amazon Prime, I decided to watch the 2009 Star Trek movie for the dozenth time. It is one of my favorites and in my opinion of the best Science Fiction movies of the 00s. Since I had seen the movie countless times, I could observe the details (such as the scientific terms that they throw around so easily). What truly drew my attention was the scene where the crew are ‘beamed’ aboard a moving star ship at warp speed. My question was, since Star Trek has helped along so many technological advances (language translators, tablet computers, cell phone, etc); why is teleportation such an alien (no pun intended) feat? Is the instantaneous transportation of matter actually possible?
Back in 1998, scientists started applying Albert Einstein’s term for teleporting, spukhafte Fernwirkung (translation – ‘spooky action at a distance’) while ‘sending’ beams of light and actual atoms across space in a process that is called “quantum entanglement“. The researchers create three charged atoms (normally beryllium); and like all atoms, have certain unique properties. The magnetic field, spin, and motion of the atoms all are unique to each atom. In teleportion, the scientists move the properties of the first atom to the third atom which in essence ‘re-creates’ the first atom. Physicists face a giant hurdle when it comes to moving the first atom’s unique characteristics due to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle which states that ‘one cannot known with certainty the properties of a particle, including its location and speed’. To surpass this hurdle, scientists ‘entangle’ the second and third atom. Confused yet? Well essentially through the magic of quantum physics, the physicists can measure the properties of the atom without changing it. So they transmit the properties of the first atom to the third by going through the second atom leading it on to atom C which takes on the properties of the first atom.
So….when do we start teleporting ourselves? Since they are having difficulty transporting a single atom, it may be a while. Physicists can transmit light and atoms. They have successfully sent atoms about two feet, while being able to launch photons about 20 miles. Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, and the rest of the Starship Enterprise can at ease use their transporter; but in our reality the information contained in the photon’s quantum state is transmitted from one photon to another through the quantum entanglement. It doesn’t actually travel the distance. An exact copy appears in the new location; and the original photon is destroyed. Since our body consist of about 15 trillion cells; it will be a while before they create a machine smart enough to copy and reposition the trillions of atoms in the human body. And you can bet that I won’t be the first one to test it out if they do.
Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk from the Television program Star Trek accredited to NBC Television – eBay item photo front photo back press release, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17205358
Albert Einstein in 1947 (full original pic) by Photograph by Oren Jack Turner, Princeton, N.J. – The Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=254353
Quantum Entanglement Schematic by Quantuwiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44487854
Star Trek Enterprise Transporter photo from the fictional Star Trek universe by Konrad Summers – Originally posted to Flickr as Star Trek – Enterprise D Transporter, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7247765
Featured Image – Star Trek Crew Members photo from the Star Trek television series accredited to NBC Television – eBayfrontback, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37119483