AiPT!’s Editor-at-Large Chris Hassan here with a very important scientific question: Teleportation – is it possible?
It’s a question comic book and science fiction fans have no doubt pondered. After all, it’s a natural part of the many Star Trek television and film series. It’ll surely play a role in Star Trek: Discovery (premiering September 24). Then, there are the pop culture characters, like the X-Men’s Nightcrawler and Jumper’s … uh, Jumper (?), that were born with the ability to teleport themselves (and others).
So what’s the deal? Do I need to have blue skin and a tail to teleport, or is there a science to teleportation that will make science fiction science reality in the not-too-distant future? For answers, let’s turn to two actual scientists – Ryan and Dave!Ryan: I can’t believe it, but Chris may have found the first question in the long and august history of this column that Dave and I, as physicists AND insufferably huge Star Trek dorks, may not be able to skate around in our trademark style!
Let’s start at the beginning. As we all know, at some point in the early 2100s, the matter transporter will be invented by Emory Erickson. For a century or two, humans will be afraid to use it, but by the 24th century, blind spaceship engineers will widely consider it “the safest way to travel” (as an inexplicable backwards reference to current-day fear of airplanes) despite the fact that horrible transporter accidents will be routine.
Transporters will work by fully dematerializing a person or object and then employing a “matter confinement beam” to move those atoms to a second location and re-assemble them in their previous form. And when that happens, it creates a whirring wind chime noise and a sparkly visual effect. Also, Heisenberg Compensators are involved. The “question of consciousness” will go unanswered throughout all known pre-documented history.
What are your favorite transporter observations, Dave? Would you allow yourself to be transported?Dave: I admit to having been in the bathroom for most of what you said there, Ryan, but I did catch your question at the end and I’ll take a quick stab at the answer. To put it bluntly, Jason Statham is the best in the business. He doesn’t change the deal, he doesn’t ask names, and he never opens the package. I can’t imagine how he would react if the package was a person, though. Maybe he’d be fine with it.
As for Chris’s question, this issue has long been settled. I frequently use a device which can transport me anywhere. I can visit anywhere in the world, or any other planet, at any time. I can even visit alternate realities. Imagine a world where we studied astronomy instead of cosmology!
[FOOTNOTE: Ryan had believed that he and Dave were astrophysicists; Dave still isn’t clear exactly what their PhDs are in]
Anything is possible. This device I speak of is, of course, the paperback novel. It takes me wherever I want, in the only universe that I recognize as reality: The theater of the mind.
Not to be a braggart, but I did walk into a freshman philosophy class as a goatee-sporting senior and blow the kids’ minds. You see, I was the first person back in 2006 to ask, if a transporter were to exist, does it really move the soul? If not, what comes out of the other end of the transporter? Is it you? By whose definition?
And then I settled the debate by pointing out: Not your definition, because, let’s be honest, you’re dead. You got Fargo woodchipper’d by a fancy machine, and now the glued-together bits and pieces are lurching around on some planet, continuing to disappoint friends and loved ones in a style that is a one-for-one copy of your own. And then I just turned and booked it. There is nothing more rewarding than touching young minds.On the other hand, even though transporters seem to kill everyone as a base function, shuttlecraft somehow have an even worse track record in getting people from point to point safely. Which mode of transport do you consider the most dangerous, Ryan?
Ryan: Sorry Dave, I was just in the bathroom for most of that. But I heard your question, and I can say unequivocally that the most dangerous method of transportation (other than transportation) is skiing. Just look at that word, there are two ‘i’s right together. Who decided that that was the best way to spell that, or, indeed, to strap two planks to their legs and use them to slide downhill over frozen precipitation? Everything about it is nonsense. How does anyone come back from ski vacations alive or with functional legs?
And that is why in Star Trek, there is absolutely no skiing. There are occasional scarves or mentions of polar regions, but no skiing. Instead, everyone rides horses, or has sex with the holodeck, or fights with giant Q-tips, and these choices make way more sense than skiing does.That being said, the one way I will not consent to be transported by is by gondola. Every few 100 years, those cables probably snap. I also refuse to travel by Ferrari or Lamborghini, because I don’t wish to invite speculation into the quality of my genitals.
What about you, pal?
Dave: Avoiding speculation into the quality of my genitals is indeed the watchword. Typically, though, that happens within 15 seconds of me opening my mouth. So, damage done, I suppose, but let’s conclude here.
Chris: Thanks, guys! I’ll admit, I was in the bathroom while you two talked, but I trust that you answered my Nightcrawler question. Get those thank-you comments ready, X-Men fans!
And as always, if you have scientific questions you want Ryan and Dave to answer in a future article, just comment below!