Is the future in teleporting?

Welcome to a new appointment with Science & Gnorri.

Have you ever found yourself stuck in traffic, exhausted by the fumes flooding into your car and the clock signalling your impending delay at work? Inside, besides swearing animatedly, you may be begging the scientists to invent teleportation, Star Trek style.

Think about it: no more delays, no more petrol expenses, no more parking problems, no more car insurance/duties/revisions. An idyllic world you might think. But is teleportation really possible? Scientists have been studying it for several years and the answer is... Happy reading everyone!

What actually is teleportation?

Teleportation is the almost immediate transfer of objects and/or people from one predetermined point to another, even at very long distances, within seconds. The first mention of the term 'teleportation' is found in the short story 'The Man Without a Body' by Edward Page Mitchell, written back in 1877. In that story, a scientist finds a method to disassemble the atoms of an animal and transmit them via telegraph.

At present, there is already a form of teleportation, which scientists around the world are testing with specific experiments, which is quantum teleportation, which represents the transmission of data at very high speed using the concept of quantum entanglement. This futuristic new system of data transmission will see applications in the quantum-based supercomputers that engineers have been working on for some time.

But speaking of objects or people, is teleportation really possible for people, as in common science fiction films?

In theory, it is possible to transport small objects or creatures with the dimension as a virus. Unfortunately, however, for larger objects there are physical limitations that prevent its real application, as it would require the transfer of single particles at a time.

The first problem is obviously the current inability to accurately manipulate matter in such orders of dimensions. Even if this problem is overcome, a major new obstacle would arise: the human body is composed of some 7x1027 atoms. Even if we could process a trillion atoms per second, scanning such a mass of matter would take about 200 million years, and a huge chunk of information would still be missing.

Moreover, the energy required for such a transfer would be around 1012 gigawatt hours. In 2013, Italy produced around 124 gigawatts in one year. So the energy required would be equivalent to that produced in a million years.

There is a further hitch: the object, or the person teleported from point A, would not be the same person who finally reaches point B. As in a fax machine, the paper that is thrown out of the arrival machine is not the same one that we put into the departure machine. Your teleported 'self' may be identical to you, but it would no longer be the original object, which would then be destroyed during teleportation. The question then is: do we really want teleportation to be a future method of transport?

Reading tips

Stringhe, teletrasporto e tempo multidimensionale

How quantum teleportation works

See you next week with Scienza & Gnorri!

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