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Is teleportation possible at all?

by Beth Divine 27 Sep 2018

Teleportation, jet packs, and flying cars. These were the promises made by shows like Tomorrow’s World in the 70s and 80s – we were going to have teleportation, jet packs and flying cars. Flying cars exist, but they cost far too much for them to be a regular sight in the skies, plus the immense legislation surrounding small flying gadgets (think drones) has made a mockery of the idea of flying traffic in any quantity… Jet packs, too, are real, but again, the practicality of the invention is not wonderful. Jet packs are intensely energy-inefficient, burning up gallons of fuel on relatively short flights, they are hard to steer and as a means of transportation they are almost the most impractical one there ever was!

The only one of the three that hasn’t been attempted at all (until very, very recently!) is teleportation. And the recent experiments that have been conducted have been performed on tiny, tiny quantities – literal atoms. Now, unfortunately, what successes they have at this level may not easily scale up, because of quantum entanglement and a number of other physical absolutes.

Firstly, how teleportation would work: it is NOT possible to break an object down into atoms or a data stream, transport it millions and millions of miles in the blink of an eye, and then reconstitute that object in the destination. Quantum entanglement requires there to be two entangled particles, one in the original destination and the other at the target destination. Once those are in place, information can be sent from one particle to another about a third particle. The information about this third particle can be used to make an identical replica in the secondary location.

Thus, it is not the object that is transmitted, what happens is that a copy of the original is created in the other location. Sci-fi television shows, like Dark Matter, have made use of this – with protagonists creating body shells that can travel about and get killed without the character dying. However, the shells must return to the transportation pod in order to download their memories into the real body – the memory is then part of the original person’s memory, as though they were the one who had travelled.

The second major reason why teleportation will not be possible for many years is the sheer amount of data involved in teleporting even the information for an atom or two – the computing power needed to stream an entire human body does not currently exist at all…

Thirdly, nothing can happen faster than the speed of light. But teleportation would require the information to travel in literal instants, which is too fast for current physics laws.

Also, and finally, the act of transferring the information of a particle destroys the entangled pair, separating them and thus, losing the connection between them. So each instance of teleportation would be excessively high in cost, resources and efforts – for not very much return on investment.

So any Star Trek dreams about being ‘beamed up’ or travelling across the cosmos in the blink of an eye must be shelved once again – possibly never to be taken out and admired in quite the same way again…