Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is It Possible To Transport Ourselves?

Many of us were introduced to futuristic technologies such as the idea of teleportation, by the remarkable Star Trek series based on tales written by Gene Roddenberry. But, have we ever thought whether it is even physically possible to teleport entities from one place to another?

The denotation meaning of Teleportation is the idea of the transfer of matter from one point to another, more or less instantaneously. Whereas technically speaking, it involves dematerializing an object at one point, and sending the details of that object's precise atomic configuration to another location, where it will be reassembled with exact accuracy. For a person to be transported, a machine would have to be built that can pinpoint and analyze all of the 1028 atoms that make up the human body: that's more than a trillion atoms. Then the transmission process occurs. Molecules couldn't be even a millimeter out of place, lest the person arrive with some severe neurological or physiological defect. [How Stuff Works]

In the past, the idea of teleportation was not taken very seriously by scientists, because it was thought to violate the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics which states that you cannot simultaneously know the location and the speed of a particle. But, in 1993, the idea of teleportation moved out of the realm of science fiction into the world of theoretical possibility with physicist Charles Bennett and a team of researchers at IBM confirming that quantum teleportation was possible. In subsequent years, other scientists have demonstrated teleportation experimentally in a variety of systems, including single photons, coherent light fields, nuclear spins, and trapped ions. [IBM Reasearch]

In 1998, physicists at the California Institute of Technology, along with two European groups, turned the IBM ideas into reality by successfully teleporting a photon, a particle of energy that carries light. The Caltech group was able to read the atomic structure of a photon, send this information across about 1 meter of coaxial cable and create a replica of the photon; the original photon no longer existed once the replica was made. In performing the experiment, the Caltech group had to face the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the main barrier for teleportation of objects larger than a photon. In order to teleport something without violating the Heisenberg Principle, the Caltech physicists used a phenomenon known as entanglement. In 2002, researchers at the Australian National University successfully teleported a laser beam. [How Stuff Works]

The most recent successful teleportation experiment took place on October 4, 2006 at the Neil’s Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, where a group of researchers teleported information stored in a laser beam into a cloud of atoms. According to them, "It is one step further because for the first time it involves teleportation between light and matter, two different objects. One is the carrier of information and the other one is the storage medium.  The information was teleported about 1.6 feet (half a meter).”

Quantum teleportation also holds promise for quantum computing. These experiments are important in developing networks that can distribute quantum information and build a quantum computer that has data transmission rates many times faster than today's most powerful computers. We could then have long distance secure communication. Also, space travel and instant transportation will be possible in future.

But like all technologies, scientists are sure to continue to improve upon the ideas of teleportation, combining properties of telecommunications and transportation to eliminate time and space from travel so that we could be transported to any location instantly, without actually crossing a physical distance. And one day, one of your descendants could teleport from another planet in a galaxy many light years from Earth!

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