The technology behind the replicator is also what powers the transporter – the Star Trek teleportation machine. By measuring and memorizing the position of every particle in an individual or an object, the transporter was able to dematerialize, transmit, and rematerialize people wherever they chose.
In simplistic terms, quantum teleportation follows very similar principles, although it doesn’t actually move any matter. What is transported is the state of a particle, which is sent from a particle in one location to a particle somewhere else (as long as the particles are entangled). Atoms have been successfully teleported, but we are yet to do the same for molecules.
Could we one day quantum teleport something as big as a person? There are over 1,000 billion billion billion particles in a human body. Even if we could store all teh information about every particle on a single byte, it still means that every person would require over 1 billion billion terabytes. We are going to need bigger computers.
There’s also another issue. Quantum information cannot be copied, which makes the transporter a death machine. To be transported, your original body would have to be destroyed, with the quantum information then used to reassemble an identical body with all your memories, yet made of completely different (but identical) atoms.
The famous transporter room from TOS. CBS Archives/Getty Images
So, the transporter might not be a good idea after all, but there are other ways to move around in the Star Trek universe, and the absolute best is the warp drive. This engine technology is a clever way to get around the limit of the speed of light, by warping space-time around the spaceship.
Warp drive is allowed according to our current laws of physics. Light has a maximum speed, but the contraction and expansion of space-time does not. Following this reasoning, theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a solution in 1994 of general relativity that allows for faster-than-light travel. This doesn’t mean the warp drive will happen. The solution might violate some unknown law of physics, or maybe the engine is too complicated to be built, but humans are a stubborn species: If there’s a will, there’s a way.
All in all, the direct and indirect impact of Star Trek has helped science. Star Trek portrays a peaceful society dedicated to research, exploration, and the common good. It’s hard to find a more positive underlying message, and we hope it will continue to inspire and encourage for many years to come. Star Trek, live long and prosper.