Yes and No. Teleportation is a common mode of travel in Sci-fi stories. The ability to travel instantaneously long distances like from one country to another is amazing. What if I was to tell you that teleportation is already a reality? Unfortunately, it’s not as convenient as it is in those stories.  

 

Real-life teleportation uses the principles of quantum physics which is the study of matter and energy at the most fundamental level as well as their properties and behaviours i.e photons, electrons, and other minuscule particles that make up the universe. This means that the rules of the universe don’t apply to them.

Quantum entanglement

This form of teleportation is based on quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement is the phenomenon in which 2 particles are intrinsically connected to each other regardless of how far away they are from each other. This means that what happens to one particle affects the other.

 

Using this information, scientists have learnt how to teleport atoms and molecules thousands of kilometres away. This has many amazing applications such as the ability to transmit information over long distances in an instant. Another amazing application is security. Due to the nature of quantum entanglement, it’s impossible to eavesdrop on any information sent this way without disrupting the system, essentially keeping the information. 

 

One problem with this method is that it can transport information but not matter. Quantum teleportation essentially works by extracting information from A (original) and through entanglement creates an identical replica of the original, B at another location. The main problem with this method is that scanning the original results in its dematerialisation.  

 

Human teleportation

However this method can’t be used to transport humans for many reasons: both philosophical and practical. As stated above, this method creates an identical replica and results in the destruction of the original. This means that if someone (let’s call this person, John) tries to teleport from London to China, he doesn’t actually “arrive” there. What happens is that when John enters the teleporter in London, it takes a scan of his atomic structure and sends it to another teleporter in China, where it builds an identical replica to John while the original John dematerializes. 

 

This brings up many questions. The biggest of these being, can we call this replica at the end, John or is the original John dead? Based on the process, rather than teleportation, this might be more akin to murder and cloning.

 

Another problem is the sheer energy requirements. While it’s possible in theory to analyze the state of every atom in a person’s body and transmit it to a new location, where the person could be reassembled atom by atom. The human body contains around 7 x 1027 atoms which need to be transported with no room for error at risk of severe or fatal neurological or physiological damage. 

 

It’s been calculated that the computing power required to teleport a human being, your cells, broken down into data, equates to around 2.6 x 1042 bits and would require an enormous bandwidth, roughly 10000 gigawatt hours of power and take around 4.8 million million years to transfer. Needless to say, we are still a long way from this being impractical and it would probably be easier to walk there, regardless of its location. 

 

While scientists have come up with several possible ways for us to achieve our dreams of teleportation such as by warping space time or using plasma beams, at the moment, it’s all theoretical. Who knows, maybe one day, 100 or 500 years from now, someone may finally unlock this long held dream but for now, that’s all it is. A dream.

 

References

Drimmer, Stephanie Warren, (2022), “Could humans teleport?”, National Geographic Kids, https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/books/article/could-humans-teleport 

Bonsor, Kevin, Lamb, Robert, (2024), “How Teleportation Will Work”, HowStuffWorks, https://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/everyday-myths/teleportation.htm

Javier, Yanes, (2019), “Teleportation is Here, But It’s Not What We Expected”, OpenMind, https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/science/physics/teleportation-is-here-but-its-not-what-we-expected/

Powell, Corey S, (2020), “Will Human Teleportation Ever Be Possible?”, Discover Magazine, https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/will-human-teleportation-ever-be-possible

Hall, Dave, (2018), “Teleportation: will it ever be a possibility?”, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jun/12/teleportation-will-it-ever-be-a-possibility

National Science Foundation, (2020), “Is teleportation possible? Yes, in the quantum world”,

https://new.nsf.gov/news/teleportation-possible-yes-quantum-world

Wired staff, (2004), “Plasma Beam Eyed in Space Travel”, Wired, https://www.wired.com/2004/10/plasma-beam-eyed-in-space-travel/?currentPage=all

J4p4n, (2019), “Teleport Person [Image]”, Free SVG, https://freesvg.org/teleport-person

Europa.is, (2020), “Quantum-theory entanglement 2020 LQ [Video]” Vimeo, https://vimeo.com/475164177

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