How close are we to human teleportation? Successes in quantum teleportation experiments abound.
- Teleporting humans presents technical and philosophical challenges.
- A recent experiment achieved tremendous accuracy in quantum teleportation over 27 miles.
- Human teleportation may be possible with advances in technology to process huge amounts of data.
How close are we to teleporting humans over distances? This staple of science fiction assumes the eventual existence of technical wizardry, whereby humans are scanned, disassembled, and then immediately reassembled particle by particle in a completely different location. An easy, hassle-free way to travel, assuming some crucial parts of you are not lost in the process.
Researchers have been making headway on making this happen, but on a very small scale, achieving successes in teleporting photons (particles of light) as well as atoms like cesium and rubidium. But how ready are we to get humans beamed up?
First of all, let's get one big philosophical issue with teleportation out of the way. What does it really mean to teleport someone? Let's say you're successful at building a device that can achieve sending a person from one location to another. But when that human being arrives at the second location, is that actually the same person? Wouldn't the person being teleported first have to be destroyed, atom by atom, and then a copy of him or her would re-created at the destination? As such, does teleportation necessitate what is essentially a murder on one end and rebirth of sorts on the other?
And that second person, even if they have all the exact same atoms and thoughts as the person they were before teleportation, are they really exactly the same or maybe more accurately – a clone of their former self? And if teleportation forces us to make clones of ourselves (potentially countless), then what does that really mean for the original human? They would essentially not exist after starting to use this technology. As theoretical physicist Michio Kaku said on this topic, if "you just saw the original die and if you believe in a soul that soul went to heaven or maybe the other place, but that person is dead, so who is this imposter over there?"
Michio Kaku: The Metaphysics of Teleportation
Of course, this conundrum describes one way of teleporting. While raising such great objections, Kaku actually thinks we will be able to overcome them within the next 100 years and potentially make human teleportation possible. So far, scientists have been able to mainly achieve quantum teleportation. This kind of teleportation concerns the very small and is about transferring informational properties between particles rather than actual matter. This technology can lead to uses like creation of the quantum internet — a next-generation internet with blazing speeds and tremendous accuracy and security.
In a late 2020 development, scientists were able to, for the first time, teleport quantum information over a fiber optic network of 27 miles at the accuracy of 90 percent. The information shared was in the form of photon qubits – two-state systems that are basic units of quantum information. They are shared across long distances via quantum entanglement, which links two or more particles to each other. Even if they are far apart, the encoded information in a pair of entangled particles gets teleported.
The research was carried out by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory affiliated with the University of Chicago, as well as AT&T, Caltech, Harvard University, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and University of Calgary.
One of the paper's co-authors, Fermilab scientist Panagiotis Spentzouris, who heads the Fermilab quantum science program, explained the significance of the accomplishment.
"We're thrilled by these results," said Spentzouris. "This is a key achievement on the way to building a technology that will redefine how we conduct global communication."
High-fidelity quantum teleportation at the Fermilab Quantum Network was achieved by connecting fiber-optic cables to off-the-shelf devices (displayed above), as well as state-of-the-art R&D devices.
Photo credit: Fermilab.
If successful, quantum internet could lead to a communications revolution, transforming computing, data storage, and precision sensors.
Prior to this achievement, successful teleportation experiments included the 2019 attempt by Japanese researchers to send information within the lattices of a diamond. They managed to use a nitrogen nano magnet to transfer the polarization state of a photon to a carbon atom, essentially teleporting it.
In another long-distance feat, in 2017 Chinese scientists were able to teleport photons to a satellite over 500km above. For this experiment, they created an entangled pair of photons on the ground, then beamed one of paired photons up to the satellite while the other one stayed on the ground. To make sure they were still entangled, the researchers measured both photons. While millions of photons were sent that way, positive results were achieved in 911 cases, underscoring the fact that we'd certainly want a better success ratio when it comes to teleporting humans.
In fact, a fun 2013 study by physics students at the University of Leicester came up with useful numbers to show how complex it would be to teleport a person, even if we approached it as sending information that is used to re-create the person elsewhere. They reasoned that the transferable data for a human would consist of the DNA pairs that make up genomes in each cell. As such, the total data for each human cell would be approximately 1010 bits (b), while the data for a full human would come in at about 2.6 x 1042 b. Sending this gigantic amount of data would need the kind of computing technology we didn't invent yet. By 2013 tech standards the students used, transferring data for just one human (at the bandwidth of 29.5 to 30 GHz) would take up to 4.85x1015years, much longer than the age of the universe.
Certainly, better technology and new approaches are necessary for human teleportation to ever become a reality. If you're hopeful it may one day happen, you're not alone. Professor Ronald Hanson from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands said this in an interview, upon completing a successful quantum teleportation experiment in 2014:
"If you believe we are nothing more than a collection of atoms strung together in a particular way, then in principle it should be possible to teleport ourselves from one place to another," shared Hanson. "In practice it's extremely unlikely, but to say it can never work is very dangerous. I would not rule it out because there's no fundamental law of physics preventing it. If it ever does happen it will be far in the future."
How far that feature will be is up for debate. For reference, "Star Trek," the show that made teleportation famous, was set between the 22nd and 24th centuries. Let's see if our imagination can catch up to reality.
The Trouble with Transporters
Researchers detect a large lake and several ponds deep under the ice of the Martian South Pole.
- Italian scientists release findings of a large underground lake and three ponds below the South Pole of Mars.
- The lake might contain water, with salt preventing them from freezing.
- The presence of water may indicate the existence of microbial and other life forms on the planet.
Scientists revealed the possibility that salty ponds and a large underground lake may be hiding underneath the South Pole of Mars. Could it be teeming with Martian life? Italian scientists think it's possible.
In a new study, a team of researchers reported findings that followed the discovery of a large underground lake, detected two years ago. Since that time, the team has expanded the search area by hundreds of miles and used 9 years worth of radar data (2010-2019) from the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter.
The team led by Sebastian Emanuel Lauro from Roma Tre University used a radar technique that's been employed on Earth to find lakes deep under the Antarctic and Canadian Arctic. Called Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), the method relies on sound waves bouncing off different materials on a planet's surface to indicate what kind of object it might be – rock, ice, etc., as reports Nature.
The results provide more support for the existence of a lake about a mile under the ice of the South Pole. While the previous research on the lake was based on 29 observations, the new study relied on a dataset that included 134 more recent observations.
The lake is approximately 12 to 18 miles across, propose the scientists. Next to the lake, the researchers detected three other bodies of water – possible smaller ponds, each over a mile wide. Overall, the area with potential water is about 29,000 square miles - about one-fifth the size of Germany.
"We identified the same body of water, but we also found three other bodies of water around the main one," explained the paper's co-author planetary scientist Elena Pettinelli from the University of Rome, adding: "It's a complex system."
Mars colony: Humanity's greatest quest | Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, & more | Big Think
The presence of so much water on Mars offers tantalizing speculation on the potential microbial life that may be living inside it. The salt content of the lake is likely keeping the frigid water from freezing. It is estimated to be as low as 172 degrees Fahrenheit (- 113 degrees Celsius) on the surface of Mars's South Pole.
Future missions are bound to target this area for further investigation.
Leaning too far in either direction is a recipe for stagnation and perhaps even failure.
- When it comes to thinking about the future, is it best to assume the best or the worst? Like with most things, it's actually a little column A and a little column B. This video features theoretical physicists, futurists, sociologists, and mavericks explaining the pros and cons of both.
- "In the long term optimists decide the future," argues Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick for Wired and the magazine's founding executive editor. "It's the optimist who create all of the things that are going to be most important in our life." Kelly adds that, while every car runs on an optimistic engine, "you certainly need breaks to steer it."
- Finding a balance between the optimism that fuels innovation and a grounded pessimism is the key to a better future.
Our ability to make predictions about the future distinguishes our level of consciousness.
- One of the great questions in all of science is where consciousness comes from.
- When it comes to consciousness, Kaku believes different species have different levels of consciousness, based on their feedback loops needed to survive in space, society, and time.
- According to the theoretical physicist, human beings' ability to use past experiences, memories, to predict the future makes us distinct among animals — and even robots (they're currently unable to understand, or operate within, a social hierarchy).
Soon we'll be able to blink and instantly go online via computer chips attached to our eyes.
- Computer chips will eventually cost a penny, which is the cost of scrap paper, says theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. They'll be so pervasive, they'll even be attached to your eyeball, he predicts.
- They'll be in your contact lens, allowing you to blink and go online—you'll have access to the internet and will be able to access the knowledge stored on the internet.
- In the future, Kaku says, we'll be able to convey emotions and memories to one another via "brain net." This will render emojis and current forms of entertainment, such as sound-and-screen movies, obsolete.