Scientists Say It’s Nearly Time To Let Scotty Beam Us Up

Coming soon! Well maybe not that soon, but I’ll settle for just “coming”! Report from NPR:

“Quantum entanglement” may sound like an awful sci-fi romance flick, but it’s actually a phenomenon that physicists say may someday lead to the ability to teleport an object all the way across the galaxy instantly.

The fictional teleportation machine used in the 'Star Trek.'

The fictional teleportation machine used in Star Trek.

It’s not exactly the Star Trek version of teleportation, where an object disappears then reappears somewhere else. Rather, it “entangles” two different atoms so that one atom inherits the properties of another.

“According to the quantum theory, everything vibrates,” theoretical physicist Michio Kaku tells NPR’s Guy Raz. Kaku is a frequent guest on the Science and Discovery channels. “When two electrons are placed close together, they vibrate in unison. When you separate them, that’s when all the fireworks start.”

This is where quantum entanglement — sometimes described as “teleportation” — begins. “An invisible umbilical cord emerges connecting these two electrons. And you can separate them by as much as a galaxy if you want. Then, if you vibrate one of them, somehow on the other end of the galaxy the other electron knows that its partner is being jiggled.”

This process happens even faster than the speed of light, physicists say.

Quantum entanglement isn’t a new idea — Einstein once famously referred to it as “spooky action at a distance” — but it wasn’t until the past 30 years that scientists were first able to observe this process.

It could one day lead to new types of computers, and some even think entanglement may explain things like telepathy. Scientists aren’t quite ready to beam up Scotty yet, but this is the technology that one day may lead to such a feat…

[continues at NPR]

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  • ET

    Kaku needs to be more careful with how he describes things. I didn't like his explanation of entanglement (I didn't hear those magic words “as though''); and, at least on first hearing, what he said about quantum computers “breaking all the codes in the word'', is flat out wrong. Yes, many codes could be broken if a quantum computer with enough q-bits could be built, as certain mathematical problems (like integer factorization, and elliptic curve discrete log problems) upon which certain cryptosystems are based, can be solved in “quantum polynomial time''; but there are other mathematical problems that are believed NOT to be solvable in “quantum polynomial time'', upon which one can base new cryptosystems. Furthermore, there are “symmetric cryptosystems'' already in use that are believed not to be solvable in polynomial time by a QC. So, QC's would not be the end of the world for cryptology!

    • Connie Dobbs

      It's the end of the world for cryptography as we know it, though. Your 128bit verisign certificate isn't going to last 10 seconds if they ever perfect the quantum computer.

      You should really stop criticizing soundbites for their lack of information – or at least apply the criticism to the concept of the soundbite itself. There's nothing inherently incorrect about Dr Kaku's statement, it is merely incomplete (and that by itself can be rectified if you, I dunno, read a book). This piece is grossly oversimplified, for an audience that thinks “electron” could be Disney's November marketing campaign for Tron Legacy. So yeah, good job for being able to point out exactly what Dr Kaku pointed out in at least two of the books of his that I've read.

      Oh and major headline fail. :) There will be no beaming of people any time soon with QT, if ever.

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  • Haystack

    “Teleportation” usually translates to “replication;” that is, remaking a person in a different location. Maybe you're taking apart all of their atoms and assembling them, or using quantum entanglement, as described here, to influence particles that exist elsewhere. The result is a copy of you, who has all of your memories, and will, to any external observer, be indistinguishable from the original…but is that truly you, or are you being killed and replaced by an exact clone? Perhaps, every time Kirk beams up, it's creating a new Kirk who believes he's the original, but the original died long ago, the first time he used a transporter.

    Probably you're thinking that there's no difference…There is no difference between yourself and a duplicate, because your consciousness is reducible to the atoms in your brain/body. In that case, suppose the transporter produces two of you. Do you experience a continuity of consciousness between the one on the left, or the one on the right?

    I can take this further, but I'll spare you…suffice it to say, the idea of transporters troubles me with existential questions. *g*

    • ET

      I've thought that too… and so have people like David Chalmers (a property dualist). Are we really that confident in our understanding of physics and its connection to mind to use a transporter?

      And now consider this: Each night when you go to sleep, your conscious mind shuts down… and in a sense, you die. When you awake the next morning, a copy of your conscious mind `boots up' with the memories of the you of yesterday.

      Imagine now that I, an alien scientist with access to technologies beyond your wildest `dreams', clones you… and then transfers your memories to the clone as you sleep. Then, I give you a strong sedative so you can't wake up, haul you in to my disintegration chamber, and flip the switch. Finally, I place the clone in your bed… and it wakes up. And now the question: Can you be sure I haven't done that already?

      Another question: Say I quick-freeze you — so quick that large ice crystals can't form to destroy your cells, and so that I can revive you later. And then I leave you that way. Are you dead? Does the ontological status of whether you are `dead' or `alive' depend on my whim… whether I decide to revive you or not?

      • Haystack

        I like Chalmers a lot, especially on the irreducible subjectivity of the mind.

        With respect to your 1st and 3rd thought experiments, these remind me of what happens when you are put under certain forms of anesthesia, which freeze most activity in your brain (automatic stuff like breathing still works). Unlike sleep, patients who are revived do not report dreams or any other internal phenomena–their mental state is indistinguishable from death. Sometimes I wonder if the original me died when I had gall bladder surgery. *g*

        With respect to #2, I think it's very possible that we live in a universe where time/reality regularly change without us being able to perceive it.

        These questions seem to point to the concept of “self” being meaningless. We have identities that derive from varies memories, and so on, but could the underlying phenomenon, the “qualia” and so forth, be singular? That is, all conscious beings share the same “soul,” but it's fragmented in such a way that we perceive one another as separate? I can't articulate that into a cogent philosophical argument, but thought experiments like these cause me to think in that direction.

  • Haystack

    I like Chalmers a lot, especially on the irreducible subjectivity of the mind.

    With respect to your 1st and 3rd thought experiments, these remind me of what happens when you are put under certain forms of anesthesia, which freeze most activity in your brain (automatic stuff like breathing still works). Unlike sleep, patients who are revived do not report dreams or any other internal phenomena–their mental state is indistinguishable from death. Sometimes I wonder if the original me died when I had gall bladder surgery. *g*

    With respect to #2, I think it’s very possible that we live in a universe where time/reality regularly change without us being able to perceive it.

    These questions seem to point to the concept of “self” being meaningless. We have identities that derive from varies memories, and so on, but could the underlying phenomenon, the “qualia” and so forth, be singular? That is, all conscious beings share the same “soul,” but it’s fragmented in such a way that we perceive one another as separate? I can’t articulate that into a cogent philosophical argument, but thought experiments like these cause me to think in that direction.

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