Teleportation: Science or Fiction?

Since, early man invented the first wheel, we have come a long way. Only a century ago, the prospect of using touch-based smartphone would have been no less absurd than the idea of common man flying around in a cape,  – an idea found only in the pages of fiction. Fast forward to the 21st century, most of us are proud owners of one. Technology and science has broken numerous milestones and continues to do so at an unprecedented pace. As generations of technological tools and equipment improve over the last, it gets increasingly easier to further these. Moore’s law isn’t just limited to packing density of transistors in a specified area. It is applicable to storage units, processing power and almost everything that have improved over the years and is observed to have wider implications.  Smartphones have become an integral part of our existence. A couple inch wide rectangular screens dangling inside our pockets gives us access to libraries worth of information and have broken communication barriers like never before.But what could the future hold for us in this field?

quantum_teleportation

A very exciting new technology that can finally seal such barrier is one that have existed in the minds and hearts of visionaries and dreamers, of those who wish to travel light years in split seconds – the teleportation device. The concept of teleportation is not new. Countless television shows, films and fictional books have used several variations of this concept to magically transport someone from one point in space to another, and have amazed readers and audiences for generations. But to think that one could actually exist in real life, is sure to turn heads and wake up the latent skeptics in most of us.

Much to our amazement, teleportation is as real as gravity, and is guided by a less obvious principle known as the entanglement. An experiment conducted in 1998 by physicists at the California Institute of Technology, along with two European groups, made IBM’s teleportation theory a reality by successfully teleporting a photon. The  team read the atomic structure of a photon, sent this information across a meter of coaxial cable, creating a replica of the photon on the other side. As predicted, the original photon no longer existed once the replica appeared.

PRINCIPLES OF TELEPORTATION

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  • RELIABLE COMMUNICATION THROUGH “SPOOKY ACTION AT A DISTANCE”entangled_sm
    • In the 1920s , Quantum physics has witnessed two of the greatest minds – Bohr and Einstein, engaging in an philosophical debate in explaining the bizarre nature of our world at the quantum level. Experiments show us how two real life particles(photons) interact with each other, almost miraculously, influencing each other’s state at velocities greater than the speed of light! Two photons always seem to be in opposite polarization and is only known when a state of one is determined. The phenomenon is known as quantum entanglement, and the two particles to exhibit such behaviors are said to be entangled with one another. Einstein, referred to this phenomenon as “spooky action as a distance” due to it’s inexplicable nature. The advantage to such communication is that it is unlike any traditional protocol used to send/receive information( in the sense, there is no way of disrupting such communication through external changes). Unlike telephone signals that can be disrupted, there is no way of hampering the interaction between two entangled particles. This means, communication is reliable.
  • SPEED OF COMMUNICATION
    • During the process of interaction, there is no discernible time lag in between determination of one’s state as compared to another. That being said, the time lag isn’t null ,and is said to be millions of fraction of a second. In their ArXiv paper, a group of researchers have concluded the slowest speed of transmission to be approximately 10000 times faster than the speed of light, which is nothing short of instantaneous(zero time lapse) in all practical purposes! This means, one could travel light years in seconds.

HOW TELEPORTATION MIGHT TAKE PLACE

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A concept sci-fi teleporter device

 

PROCESS A : DECODING MATTER

The world at the smallest level is in binary ,not very different from computers. Here, instead of ONs and OFFs of electronic units, they exist as quantum spins. At the quantum level, nothing that exists in the world can be separated from one another by assigning subjective brackets that separates a table from a chair or a cat from a dog. Every object can be resolved as an arrangement of spins. It is believed that if one could re-create such spins in correct sequence, an entire object could be created and that includes human beings and all living things. Since 1998, scientists haven’t quite worked their way up to teleporting baboons, as teleporting living matter is infinitely tricky. Still, their progress is quite impressive. In 2002, researchers at the Australian National University successfully teleported a laser beam, and in 2006, a team at Denmark’s Niels Bohr Institute teleported information stored in a laser beam into a cloud of atoms about 1.6 feet (half a meter) away.

Teleportation, in theory, could be carried out, by scanning an individual’s quantum signature, transmitting it and comparing it to another set of spinning particles that would instantaneously acquire the states. This would destroy us an object in one place, and re-create us in another, hopefully keeping all our past memories intact. Even if we were to ignore the deep philosophical question concerning the persistence of our identity , before and after the teleportation, we know that such an experiment, isn’t feasible at a current date mostly because of the absurd number of quantum particles it would take, not to mention the complexity of living beings and energy resources it can potentially consume.

PROCESS B: BENDING SPACE

The concept of wormholes is based on the principle that space-time could be bend and two points on it could be connected much like a thin sheet of paper connecting two points through three dimensional space. If this could, somehow be carried out, then decomposing and re-composing matter wont be required saving us lots of effort.

Wormhole_expl
A wormhole

 

CONCLUSION

Both these ideas seem far-fetched and far from being implemented.Similar to what we have discussed earlier, humanity couldn’t dream of going into the outer space or walk on the moon only a century ago. But we have been there! Who know what the future holds for us? What we have discussed only as theoretical model in this article, could perhaps be grade school material centuries from now  or a dusty old machine lying in the basement of those who regularly travel dark corners of the milky way and beyond.

For more detailed understanding of quantum physics, read our previous articles:-

Quantum Physics Part 1 : The world inside an atom

Quantum Physics Part 2 : Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

Quantum Physics Part 3: Incompleteness and Interpretations of Quantum Physics

Some relevant/related articles and papers:-

Physicists transmit data via Earth-to-space quantum entanglement

Physicists use Einstein’s ‘spooky’ entanglement to invent super-sensitive gravitational wave detector

Unbreakable Quantum Entanglement

 

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