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Innovation Science & Physics Technology

Teleportation? It’s a matter of fact!

“Very funny, Mr. Scott. Now beam down my clothes!”

While we’re still many years from such high-tech’ practical jokes & japes, some very, very, very clever people are making great leaps over short distances with some very, very, very small stuff.

“Until now scientists have teleported similar objects such as light or single atoms over short distances from one spot to another in a split second.

But Professor Eugene Polzik and his team at the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University in Denmark have made a breakthrough by using both light and matter.

Although teleportation is associated with the science-fiction series ‘Star Trek,’ no one is likely to be beamed anywhere soon.

But the achievement of Polzik’s team, in collaboration with the theorist Ignacio Cirac of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, marks an advancement in the field of quantum information and computers, which could transmit and process information in a way that was impossible before.”

So what we see is one advancement that has two practical applications. The most immediate and much more contemporaneous is in the field of quantum computing. Right now, quantum computing is the principle ‘next step’ in computing. So much has been said about quantum computing and so much has thus far been achieved that the common perception is that quantum computing is much closer than it actually is.

In practical terms, it’s still possibly a decade or so away. But at any rate, it’s certainly a lot closer than the second application of this recent research break-through, that being matter teleportation, which is more likely to be several decades away.

There are fundamental problems with teleportation, more than just the raw mechanics, for example. For anyone who’s watched Star Trek: Enterprise, then you’re already familiar with the limitations of their ‘transporters’.

In the series, the transporters; which are teleportation devices, are not up to scratch when it comes to sending organic material. It’s interesting that they should include this as an technological issue, because it’s the issue of choice with such technology.

In the series of Star Trek that are set in the more distant future, the ones that we’re more familiar with, they’ve found a way around this, by way of the enigmatic ‘Heisenberg compensator‘ which — as it’s name would suggest — compensates for an area of physics known as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle named after the eminent German physicist and Nobel laureate, Werner Karl Heisenberg.

Now that all of that annoying physics stuff is out of the way, I’ll attempt to distill the ideas into something much more easily understood: put very simply, you can either know the position of a particle or the direction in which a particle is moving, but you can’t know both.

So going back to the USS Enterprise for a second, if you’re sending inanimate objects, like medical equipment, clothing, goods for the ships stores and mechanical parts, you’re fine.

Why? Because they’re fixed and inorganic. So they’re either dead, or they were never alive to begin with.

So what about us humans? We’re alive, and our atoms are in near-constant motion. We’re not quite as static or as stationary as a chest of drawers. Even when laid down and apparently motionless, we’re still breathing, we’ve still got a beating heart and our brain is active.

Imagine you take a photograph of your friends and two of them move suddenly. The final picture will look fine with exception of those two friends moving, where their bodies are blurred and indistinct.

Now imagine that you hand this photograph to a forensic scientist and charge her with the task of reconstructing those two people purely from the photograph you just gave her .. it ain’t happen’, is it?

Well, the same applies to any device that would move you from one location to another. All of that motion would disturb the crucial moment that the device in question performs the action analogous to the camera taking a photograph of your entire body. Some parts of your body would look fine, others would be blurred and unclear.

Meanwhile, at the other end, the contraption that receives the stream of atoms that is your entire body has much the same job as the forensic scientist; to reconstruct your entire body from a poor quality photograph .. so it ain’t happen’, is it?

So this is a two-part problem; on the one hand, we could have a very basic matter transportation device up & running inside a decade, but we’d have to wait some time after that for the travel time for our trip to Tenerife to be shaved down to minutes rather than hours.

In the meantime, imagine the possibilities!

Imagine what would happen to things like goods shipments, cargo handling, military logistics, disaster recovery operations, and precision construction in inaccessible geographical locations.

The list goes on and on and on.

It’s all just a matter of time and imagination…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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