spaceSpace and Physics

The Horrifying Truth About Star Trek Transporters


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockMar 17 2016, 15:01 UTC
456 The Horrifying Truth About Star Trek Transporters
To boldly go... JD Hancock/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

We’ve all watched the transporters in "Star Trek" and seen them as a distant sci-fi pipe-dream. But the more we find out about quantum mechanics, the more attainable this idea becomes.

Last week, CGP Grey released a YouTube video (below) explaining the practical considerations and philosophical head-scratching involved in a "Star Trek"-esque transporter. In short, it would involve the atoms that make us up to be broken down and then reassembled in a different state. Of course, the atoms would be identical to you; the way you look, the structure of your brain, even technically your thought patterns and memories. But then comes the metaphysical headache of whether that is you or just a copy of you. If it does just copy you, then the transporter is pretty much a fancy suicide booth.  




Well, the plot thickens. This week, MinutePhysics has released a rebuttal that thinks it might have the answer. In their video (below) they explain that scientists began looking at a thing called quantum teleportation in the nineties. This is the process whereby quantum information – such as the state of an atom–- could be transmitted. However, a major clause in this theory is the “no cloning theorem.” Essentially, to create a replica of a quantum state, the original must be destroyed in order to obtain all the information.

Science is still pretty shady on what exactly constitutes consciousness and what makes you “you,” so it's still hard to say. However, if it was something to do with the quantum state of certain electrons and atoms in our brain, then it doesn’t look too hopeful that “you” would survive the journey.





Main image credit: JD Hancock/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

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