We live in a time when travel has become cheaper and more convenient than ever before. Long haul flights between thousands of destinations, high-speed rail, cars, taxis and Uber…travel solutions for everyone. A hundred years ago it would take 3 to 5 days to travel from New York to London by steam ship, but it was only available to the richest of people. Today you can fly, and it takes just 5 hours with options from economy to luxury…and with Elon Musk bringing rocket power to the masses, future travel times could soon become even shorter. So how quick and convenient can travel really become? What if you were able to pack your bags for the holidays, grab the beach towel and sunglasses, and a split-second later arrive at your destination?
Teleportation is the process of relocating a physical object from one place to another, without touching it in anyway, or using any mechanical device directly. The most likely way for this to happen would be by the physical body being dematerialized and disappearing before being reconstructed and reappearing in a different place…all in an instant. Just like in Star Trek – “Beam me up, Scotty” is the catchphrase that people associate with the popular TV series. It was used in the original series as a command given by Captain James T Kirk to his chief engineer, Montgomery Scott or “Scotty”, when he needed to be transported back to the Starship Enterprise. Kirk would then be teleported back to his ship. Let’s imagine for a minute that it was available to all of us today. How would your life change? Well you could get up in the morning, teleport to China for work, go to Mexico City to meet a friend for some fajitas over lunch, head to a client’s office in Sydney for a 20 minute afternoon business meeting, to Paris for beers after work, maybe your partner could join you in Venice for dinner, before heading home at the end of your day. Sounds pretty awesome, eh? And many other things would also change with instant travel. A person sitting in Thailand could order the best take away pizza from New York City and have it delivered within minutes. Long distance relationships would become a thing of the past and you could date any person, in any country, around the world. And we could solve the issue of overcrowding in cities, because everyone would be able to live wherever they wanted to.
It’s a lifestyle that sounds too good to be true. Surely there would be some downsides to this imaginative reality? In the 1986 movie, The Fly, a scientist played by actor Jeff Goldblum, creates a teleportation device and decides to test its abilities on himself. But unbeknown to him, a housefly slips in to the device during the process. This leads to a merger of man and insect, creating a terrifying human/fly monster combo. However, if this transporting technology existed in the real world, then a fly would be the least of our issues. According to Discovery Magazine, we share our bodies harmoniously with 90 trillion or so microbes…so the transported result would be a very strange looking multi being. Another issue is that to instantaneously transport from one place to another, our bodies would need to become energy and then go back to solid matter. Even if we combined the storages of every computer available today, that would hold just a fraction of the data that makes up one human being, says Caltech physicist Philip Hopkins. And the energy itself isn’t anything to scoff at either. He says, “It would be like launching all of the U.S.’s and Russia’s nukes in one spot and trying to contain it.” And then there’s the question of consciousness. Even if there was enough energy and data storage, and we had a device that could stop you merging with the microbes and bacteria on your body, where would your consciousness end up? Would it materialize at the new destination or float away like a feather, leaving you to be stranded zombie-like with a mind floating elsewhere. Let’s imagine for a minute that all of these things had solutions, what then? Would it all be plane sailing, holidays, and living wherever we wanted to. One major negative effect, if only short-term, would be on the economy. Airlines, trains, buses, taxis, and nearly all transportation services would go out of business. As would the thousands of manufacturing and services companies that support them. Then there’s postal, shipping and courier companies. The list goes on. Many people would find themselves out of work. Then there’s complication with passports or traveling without them, border crossings and security, which would be put in to disarray. A drug trafficker could have a very fast growing business, in the age of teleportation.
So there are pluses and minuses to teleportation, and this is all very fun to imagine, but will it ever be possible, I hear you asking. We took a look at a few science journals to see what we could find out, and we came across a process called quantum teleportation. Quantum refers to the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles, and quantum teleportation is a process by which information about the state of these tiny particles can be transmitted from one location to another. This quantum information transfer has been successfully carried out between earth and a satellite in space. But don’t go trading in your bus pass just yet. Applying these same rules to large objects is not at all straightforward, and even if science does manage to do it, it will more likely be your grandchildren’s grandchildren who are around to experience teleportation.
When teleportation does ultimately happen, it’s sure to change a lot about the way we live our day to day lives. Can you think of other awesome applications of teleportation? How would you use a teleportation device, if you had one at home? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called Why do Astronauts Experience Space Puberty! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!