Home > Quantum Physics, Transport > Beam me up Scotty !

Beam me up Scotty !



Apart from this being a mis-quote, ie no character ever said these words on Star Trek, these emotive words conjure a vision of ease of transport, or if you understand the principles, a fear of having your body destroyed by ripping all the atoms in a body and converting them to energy and then recreating a new version of the body in a different place.  One has also to consider that quantum mechanics, especially Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, have a lot to say as to why it is not possible.  To overcome this the producers of Star Trek invented the ‘Heisenberg Uncertainty Compensator’ as a key component in their transporter.  One physics-savvy reporter was curious and asked a producer how the Heisenberg compensators worked, to which the reply was ‘they work very well, thank you’.

However, a giant leap (a quantum jump ?) has been taken in the development of quantum computers with some very excited about the possibility of a teleportation device becoming a reality as a result.   A team from the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) at the University of Maryland (UMD) and the University of Michigan has succeeded in teleporting a quantum state directly from one atom to another over a substantial distance (1 metre).  The previous efforts have only succeeded over distances of micrometres.  Other attempts have transferred the quantum information of photons over very large distances.   The newest attempt has not actually moved matter over a distance, but provides a feasible means of holding and managing quantum information over long distances (the data stream in Star Trek).  The report claims that it works 90% of the time, so some way to go before 100% reliability is achieved.

Quantum teleportation depends on entanglement, one of the strangest of the many strange aspects of quantum mechanics. Two particles can become “entangled” into a single entity, and a change in one instantaneously changes the other even if it is far away.  This theory was well known by Einstein who described it as “spooky action at a distance”.  However, for the moment I think I’ll stick to Emirates Airline to transport me from one location to another distant one.

Categories: Quantum Physics, Transport
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