A study, called the "Teleportation Physics Study",
on the feasibility of exploiting the phenomenon of teleportation for
military purposes. It was carried out in 2004 by Eric Davis
of Warp Drive Metrics, Las Vegas.
(Davis prepared an article "Wormhole
Induction Propulsion" for the 1997 NASA
Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Workshop, has been affiliated
with the privately-funded National Institute for Discovery
Science, Las Vegas, and has been involved with UFO studies).
According to the introduction to the
"This study was tasked with the
purpose of collecting information describing the teleportation
of material objects, providing a description of teleportation as
it occurs in physics, its theoretical and experimental status,
and a projection of potential applications.
The study also consisted of a search
for teleportation phenomena occurring naturally or under
laboratory conditions that can be assembled into a model
describing the conditions required to accomplish the transfer of
The author considered the following
possible forms of teleportation:
Teleportation – SciFi:
the disembodied transport of persons or inanimate objects
across space by advanced (futuristic) technological means
(adapted from Vaidman, 2001). We will call this sf-Teleportation,
which will not be considered further in this study. See
transporter (Star Trek).
Teleportation – psychic:
the conveyance of persons or inanimate objects by psychic
means. We will call this p-Teleportation. See psychic
Teleportation – engineering
the vacuum or space-time metric: the conveyance of
persons or inanimate objects across space by altering the
properties of the space-time vacuum, or by altering the
space-time metric (geometry). We will call this vm-Teleportation.
Teleportation – quantum
entanglement: the disembodied transport of the quantum
state of a system and its correlations across space to
another system, where system refers to any single or
collective particles of matter or energy such as baryons
(protons, neutrons, etc.), leptons (electrons, etc.),
photons, atoms, ions, etc. We will call this
q-Teleportation. See quantum teleportation.
Teleportation – exotic:
the conveyance of persons or inanimate objects by transport
through extra space dimensions or parallel universes. We
will call this e-Teleportation.
Also called teletransportation, the process of moving from
one place to another without traveling through the intervening
space. Teleportation is well known in science fiction, most famously
in the form of the transporter in Star Trek.
The term embraces both psychic
teleportation, a subject not taken seriously by most scientists, and
physical teleportation. The latter is now a scientific reality in
the form of quantum teleportation.
See also US Air Force teleportation
A brief history of teleportation
When teleportation goes
wrong - The Fly
The term "teleportation" was coined by Charles Fort
(after whom the term "Fortean," for an anomalous phenomenon,
derives) in his book Lo! (1931). The idea of a matter
transmitter first appeared much earlier than this, however, in
Edward Page Mitchell's story "The Man Without a Body." Arthur
Conan Doyle developed a similar theme in one of his Professor
Challenger tales, "The Disintegration Machine" (1927).
In Special Delivery (1945),
George O. Smith describes how transmitters scan an object
atom by atom and then take it apart, storing the particles in a
"matter bank." The information and energy released during the
breakup are then beamed to a second station that uses raw
materials in its own matter bank to recreate the body perfectly.
E. A. van Vogt, in The
Mixed Men (1952) and Algis Budry, in Rogue Moon
(1960), also used tapped the possibilities of the technique.
Not only did teleportation afford writers a quick way of getting
their characters from A to B, but the perils and possibilities
of the device itself offered new narrative potential. George
Langelaan's short story "The Fly," which formed the basis of the
classic 1958 horror film of the same name, explored the dire
consequences of a teleportation gone wrong.
Scientist Andre Delambre,
while researching matter transmission, suffers the gruesome
effects of dematerializing at the very moment a fly enters the
teleportation chamber. His molecules mingle with those of the
fly, and he begins a slow and agonizing transformation into a
By the 1960s, "transfer booths" for personal international and
interplanetary jet-setting had become SF de rigueur. Clifford
Simak put them to good use in his novel Way Station
(1964), while Larry Niven featured them in his award-winning
book Ringworld (1970).
And then, of course, there was Star
Trek with its sparkling transporters able to "beam up"
crewmembers in the wink of an eye.
Making teleportation real
Today, far from being a science fiction dream, teleportation
happens routinely in laboratories all around the world in the
form of quantum teleportation. This is restricted at present to
tiny particles, such as individual photons, or to quantum
properties of atoms. But the question naturally arises as to
whether it will ever be possible to teleport larger objects and
even human beings.
The issue here is one of complexity. Teleporting an electron or
an atom is one thing, but an average human body is made up of
about 7,000 trillion trillion atoms. How could the instantaneous
quantum states of so many specks of matter be made to
dematerialize and reappear perfectly in a different place?
Human teleportation isn't going to
happen tomorrow, or, barring some stupendous breakthrough, in
the next few decades. However, that needn't stop us from
thinking about the consequences if it ever does become possible.
In fact, a number of philosophers
have already used teleportation, and teleportation incidents, to
delve into the mysteries of personal identity.
Who gets teleported?
One of the features of quantum teleportation – the only form of
teleportation that allows the creation of a perfect copy of the
original someplace else – is that the original is destroyed.
Does this matter? One argument says it doesn't because a perfect
copy is as good as the original. At the atomic level, all
particles are identical.
Also, the stuff in our bodies is
constantly being replaced anyway. Even without teleportation,
atoms and molecules are continually streaming into and out of
your body, so that over time every bit of matter of which you're
made is exchanged. According to one estimate, you're completely
replaced at the cellular level about every seven years.
So teleportation wouldn't do
anything qualitatively different from what happens in the normal
course of events. It just happens to replace all of your
particles in one fell swoop rather than over a period of time.
Another argument insists that teleportation, far from being an
efficient form of travel, is equivalent to death.
A person who believes in the soul
may also believe that, whereas the physical body can be
teleported, the soul cannot. But even leaving the soul out of
it, it's possible to argue that becoming a perfect clone means
becoming someone else.
Perhaps non-quantum forms of teleportation will be developed and
applied to human beings. Then the original would not need to be
destroyed, thus raising the specter of multiple nearly-identical
copies of a person being created. Would each of these new
individuals have the same rights as you – part ownership in all
your belongings, some share in your spouse?
A non-destructive teleporter could
be used as a replicator, for virtual medicine (manipulating the
stored data to create a copy better than the original),
travelling into the future (creating a copy many years after the
information was stored), or making backup copies (creating a
copy from recently stored information if the original was
involved in a mishap.)
Transporter (Star Trek)
The device, first seen aboard the Starship Enterprise in the Star
Trek original series, which made the concept of teleportation
familiar to a wide audience. "Beam me up, Scotty" became one of the
small screen's most oft-repeated lines (though trivia hunters will
find that "Beam me up, Mr. Scott" is the closest the show actually
came to that immortal line).
In the twenty-third century world of
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, shuttlecraft are used only in special
circumstances when beaming someone's molecules around might prove a
health hazard. But, ironically, the reason that Trek mastermind
Gene Roddenberry chose to equip his starships with
"transporters" had less to do with high-tech future possibilities
than with low-tech Beatles-era reality.
It wasn't feasible, in terms of budget
or sixties-level special effects, to show convincingly a spacecraft
landing on a different planet every week. Much easier to have a
crewmembers shimmer out in one scene, then twinkle back an instant
later someplace else. With realistic computer graphics still a
couple of decades away, the effect called for plenty of ingenuity
and homespun improvisation.
The sparkling dematerialization and
rematerialization sequences were created by dropping tiny bits of
aluminum foil and aluminum perchlorate powder against a black sheet
of cardboard, and photographing them illuminated from the side by a
bright light. When the characters were filmed walking into the
transporter, they stepped on to the pads, Kirk gave the order to
energize – and the actors stepped off.
In the studio lab, after the film was
developed, the actors were superimposed fading out and the
fluttering aluminum fading in, or vice versa. By 1994, when
production started on the fourth TV incarnation of the franchise,
Star Trek Voyager, computer graphics was well into its stride and a
new transporter effect was devised in which little spheres of light
expand to cover the person, a shower of fading glitter providing a
node to the past.
According to The Star Trek Encyclopedia, the transporter,
"briefly converts an object or
person into energy, beams that energy to another location, then
reassembles the subject into its original form."
A key element of the Trek-style
transporter is the so-called annular confinement beam (ACB), a
cylindrical force field that channels and keeps track of the
transportee from source to destination.
It seems that the ACB first locks onto
and then disassembles the subject into an energy- or plasma-like
state, known as phased matter. The subject's matter stream is fed
into a pattern buffer (a hyperlarge computer memory that briefly
stores the individual's entire atomic blueprint), piped to one of
the beam emitters on the hull of the starship, and then relayed to a
point on the ground where, all being well, the ACB will put the
subject back together again.
There's even a component of the
transporter, called the Heisenberg compensator, designed to sidestep
one of the most basic laws of quantum physics – Heisenberg's
One (or two) of William Shatner's
better performances as Kirk came in Star Trek's first-season
episode, "The Enemy Within."
Having beamed up from a mission on the
planet Alpha 177, Kirk feels faint and is helped from the
transporter room by Mr. Scott.
A moment later a duplicate Kirk appears
on the pad. Apparently the magnetic effects of an ore on the
planet's surface interfered with the transporter and caused it to
split the captain into two selves: one good but incapable of making
decisions, the other evil and strong-willed. In this interesting
twist on the Jekyll and Hyde theme, it becomes clear that the
two halves can't survive apart and that the violent, animal-like
component is just as essential in making Kirk an effective leader as
his benign side.
Transporter fission turns to fusion in the Voyager episode "Tuvix,"
when crewmates Tuvok, the Vulcan security officer, and Neelix, the
spotty Talaxian, longtime antagonists, are merged during a
teleportation into one person. The resulting Tuvix harbors the
memories of both progenitors but has a single consciousness.
Initially confused and ambivalent, Tuvix eventually carves out a
clear identity and personality of his own, and when a means is
discovered to undo the mix-up caused by the transporter accident, he
objects, not unreasonably, on the grounds that it will kill him.
Captain Janeway is faced with the moral
dilemma of either ending the brief existence of a distinct, unique
individual who has become well-liked among the crew, or denying the
rights of Tuvok and Neelix to resume their separate lives. Ensemble
casting and contractual arrangements being what they are, Tuvix is
consigned to oblivion.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Second Chances,"
an identical copy of commander Wil Riker is created. Years ago,
while a then-lieutenant Riker was beaming up from a planet's surface
through severe atmospheric interference, the transporter chief
locked on to Roker's signal with a second tracking beam. When this
second beam turned out not to be needed, it was abandoned – but not
Unbeknownst to everyone on the ship, the
ionic disturbance in the atmosphere caused the second beam to be
reflected back to the planet and result in the creation of a second
Riker. Fast forward eight years and the two Rikers meet.
Confusion reigns, Riker-2 gets together
with Riker-1's old girlfriend before matters are resolved, and
Riker-2 departs to pursue his separate existence.
Sometimes referred to as psychoportation, a putative form of
teleportation achieved by psychic or other non-physical means. It is
not to be confused with quantum teleportation, which has been
scientifically verified, on a very small scale, in the laboratory.
Psychic teleportation was one of the forms addressed in a U.S. Air
Force study of teleportation carried out in 2004.
Of course, the idea of people vanishing from one place and
mysteriously reappearing in another goes back thousands of years.
Stories of ghosts and spirits
are at least as old as civilization and probably very much older,
judging by the beliefs of primitive tribes today. In Oriental
mysticism and Western occultism there's the notion of apport:
an object or person winking out in one place and, driven by some
unknown mental power, materializing somewhere else, perhaps far
away. The Buddha reputedly vanished from India and reappeared
shortly after in Sri Lanka.
Devotees of the Indian yogi Satya Sai
Baba hail him as the current king of apport.
Other instances of supernatural
transport crop up in the Bible, including one in Acts 8:39-40:
"The Spirit of the Lord caught away
Philip... But Philip was found at Azotus."
Also high on the list of odd comings and
goings is bilocation – the phenomenon of being in two places
at once – which is talked about in Catholic philosophy.
Several Christian saints and
monks were supposedly adept at this, including St. Anthony of Padua,
St. Ambrose of Milan, and Padre Pio of Italy. It's said that in 1774
St. Alphonsus Maria de'Ligouri was seen at the bedside of the dying
Pope Clement XIV, when in fact the saint was confined to his cell
four-days' journey away.
Many such tales of strange
materializations were collected by Charles Fort, who coined
the term "teleportation" in his 1931 book Lo!.
The only form of teleportation that is currently a scientific
reality and the only form of teleportation in which it is known that
an absolutely perfect copy of the original is created.
Quantum teleportation, an
outgrowth of quantum information science, enables the transfer of a
quantum state to an arbitrarily distant location. However, the
so-called "no-cloning theorem" stipulates that, in the process, the
original quantum state is destroyed.
Because the physics if quantum
teleportation is somewhat esoteric it may be useful to
outline it in familiar terms.
A birthday analogy
A basic quantum teleportation
involves three parties – say, three friends: Alice, Bob, and Claire.
Claire wants to send Bob, who lives some
distance away, a present for his birthday but has left it to the
last minute. The only way it will arrive on time is by
teleportation. She also doesn't have much money. All she can afford
is the polarization state of a single light particle – the direction
in which a solitary photon is vibrating.
Claire isn't very good at teleporting things, so she asks more
technosavvy Alice to help. Alice can't simply look at Claire's
polarized photon (X) and send the result to Bob because the act of
looking – making a direct measurement – would cause a random change,
in accordance with the uncertainty principle) so that the
measurement wouldn't be identical to the photon's original state.
The key to getting a perfect copy to
Bob, as Alice knows, is by not looking, even surreptitiously, but by
instead using the weird phenomenon of quantum entanglement. What's
needed are two more photons, A and B, that have been created in such
a way that they form an entangled pair. One member of the pair, B,
is sent directly to Bob, while the other goes to Alice.
Alice now takes her entangled photon, A,
and combines it with Claire's unseen photon gift, X. To be precise
she measures A and X together in a special way known as a
This measurement does two things:
Bob's photon alters to correlate with a
combination of the result of Alice's measurement and the original
state of X. In fact, Bob's photon is now in either exactly the same
polarization state as the photon that Claire bought for him or in a
state that's closely related to it. He doesn't yet know which.
The final step is for Alice to send Bob a message by conventional
means, such as a phone call, to tell him the result of her
Bell-state measurement. Using this information, Bob can transform
his photon so that, if it isn't already, it becomes an exact replica
of the original photon X. The transformation he has to apply depends
on the outcome of Alice's measurement. There are four possibilities,
corresponding to four quantum relations between photons A and X.
Which one of these Alice obtains is
completely random and has nothing to do with X's original state. Bob
therefore doesn't know how to process his photon until he hears from
Alice what she found out. He may, for example, have to rotate the
polarization through 180 degrees, or he may have to do nothing at
When he's made whatever change is
necessary, he's guaranteed to have a perfect copy of the present
that Claire got for him – a photon with exactly the same
polarization state as the original X.
Aspects of quantum teleportation
A few points are worth emphasizing.
First, for all practical
purposes, photon B has become the original photon X, while X
itself has been permanently altered (it has effectively lost
all memory of the quantum state it started out with) so that
it is no longer X in any meaningful sense. This is why the
effect is called teleportation: it's equivalent to X having
physically jumped to the new location, even though it hasn't
moved materially at all.
Second, X's state has been
transferred to Bob without Alice or Bob ever knowing what
the state is. In fact, this lack of knowledge is the very
reason that teleportation is able to work. Because Alice's
measurement of A and X is completely random, it sidesteps
Heisenberg's uncertainty principle; entanglement then primes
Bob's half of the entangled photon pair automatically.
Third, teleportation relies on
there being two channels or conduits for information – a
quantum one and an ordinary or classical one. The quantum
channel supports the link between the entangled photon pair
and operates instantaneously, as if there were no separation
between Bob and Alice.
The classical channel carries
the information that Alice has to provide to Bob to be able
to ensure that his photon is an exact replica of the
original X or, if it isn't already, that it can be made into
an exact replica by a simple operation. The necessity of
this classical channel, across which signals can travel only
at light-speed or below, means that teleportation takes time
even though the entanglement part of it works
Fourth, there are no limits in
principle to the distance over which teleportation is
effective. An object or property could theoretically be
teleported across many light-years. But, again, the process
couldn't happen faster than the speed of light and there's
be enormous technical difficulties in making it work over
such large distances.