Have you ever watched an episode of Star Trek? If you have then you’ll be familiar with the famous line, ‘Beam me up Scotty’. You see, the crew of the starship Enterprise never landed their craft on an alien planet. Instead, they used teleportation to get from one place to another.
Up until now, teleportation has belonged to the realm of science fiction – but no longer! Scientists have been taking their first tentative steps towards making teleportation a scientific fact. But, before you start thinking that cars, aeroplanes and all other forms of transport are obsolete, they still have a long way to go before humans can be ‘beamed’ from one place to another.
Way back in the 1990s scientists first managed teleportation – they sent a photon particle a distance of 1 metre. That might not sound very impressive but, when you consider that no-one had believed it possible, it was certainly a start! Since then the distance has grown and, just a few weeks ago, scientists in China managed to move a photon from their laboratory on Earth onto a satellite 1,400 km up in space. Captain Kirk himself would be proud!
So, how does it work? Well, it’s all do with quantum entanglement. When two particles become ‘entangled’, whatever happens to the first also happens to the second – even if they are separated by a large distance. This means that information (essentially what every piece of matter is) can be exchanged. It’s a little bit like a 3D printer. An object isn’t actually sent through space – rather, the instructions on how to make it are, and materials already present are used to put it together.
The word ‘teleportation’ makes you think that someone or something has been sent from one place to another without having to cover the intervening distance. The truth is not like that at all. In fact, in order to be teleported an object (or person!) must first be destroyed. Only then can a copy of it (or them) be made.
I think I’ll pass on teleportation thank you. It might be useful in the future for transporting goods, but I don’t think many people will volunteer to be disintegrated here and then reassembled somewhere else!
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