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The real, true history of teleportation
In fiction, anyway.
- People have been intirgued with teleportation for over a century.
- These days, our tech entitlement is making some of us impatient to start beaming ourselves all over the place.
- The Thotheen could do it, why not us?
People are fascinated with the idea of near-instantaneous travel, or teleportation. What could be sweeter than stepping onto a platform during a frigid winter day and stepping off it into Hawaiian sunshine? Sign us up right now. We're not talking about quantum teleportation, mind you, which is something else. We're talking about that fictional mode of transportation that zaps us from one place to another, a la Star Trek.
Star Trek dates from the 1960s, but, really, the idea has been around for a long time in one form or another.
Image source: CreateSpacePublishing
- The very first mention of a teleportation-like device in fiction appears to have been in Edward Page Mitchell's The Man Without a Body, published in The Sun, a New York City daily, in 1877. Mitchell's teleportation was actually referred to by another name, "matter transfer." This was three years after H.G. Wells wrote anonymously about a "tachypomp," a device designed to travel at "infinite speed" — not quite teleportation, but clearly en route to one as a concept.
Teleportation's first use as a way to hop from one planet to another popped up in Fred T. Jane's 1897 science-fiction parody, To Venus in Five Seconds. In the satire, two Venutian species, the humanoid Sutenraas and the Thotheen — interestingly described as a cross between an elephant and a horsefly — used matter transfer to zip around Venus and also make quick trips to our planet, where they beamed themselves between the Egyptian pyramids and Mexico. While Jane never describes the tech behind his matter transfers, it would presumably have been more science-y than Edgar Rice Burroughs' means of getting to Mars: wishing.
The word "teleportation" first appeared in the writings of one Charles Fort, whose raison d'etré was unexplained phenomena. Teleportation could be involved, he suggested, in the way objects show up in surprising places and also might explain the sudden disappearances and reappearances of people via in alien abduction. (He was an early proponent of extraterrestrial visitation.) Fort also wrote about frogs raining down from the sky, spontaneous combustion, ball lightning, and so on.
"Mostly in this book I shall specialize upon indications that there exists a transportory force that I shall call 'Teleportation."' — Fort's Lo!, 1931
Writers knew a catchy idea when they saw one, and teleportation went on to become a tried-and-true trope in movies:
- Buck Rogers — The classic 1933 serialized stories that didn't intend to be campy.
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory — See young Mike Teavee transport over other characters' heads and into a TV.
- The Fly — Sorry, your teleport's not working so well: It turned you into an insect.
- Galaxy Quest — Teleportation is a terrifying, definitely iffy operation in this hilarious ode to sci-fi.
- Jumper — Great instant-travel effects in the thriller that proves Hayden Christensen can actually act. (Cough, Darth Vader.)
- "Logan's Run" — Characters use teleportation for futuristic booty calls.
- X-Men — In X2 and X-Men:Last Stand, Alan Cumming's Nightcrawler certainly gets around.
And on TV:
- Twilight Zone — A teleporting character is forced to consider whether instantaneous travel would benefit or harm humanity if revealed. Bad guys and warriors popping up out of nowhere would be a bad thing, right?
- Doctor Who — We want a teleportation bracelet made from Aquatar, but not the ones humans make. Aliens make the good ones.
- Charmed — People and demons, also Whitelighters, are popping in and out all the time in both generations of this show.
- Heroes — In this series, some characters can teleport and move through time, while others can only teleport. Losers.
- Fringe — I'm not crying, you're crying. One of the series' most moving episodes, "White Tulip" involves a scientist who teleports back and forth through time seeking forgiveness.
- Stargate SG-1 — What do you think happens when you go through a stargate?
- Star Trek — But of course.
Why do we so badly wish teleportation was real?
Image source: ImageFlow/Shutterstock/Big Think
It's easy to understand why writers love teleportation. Moving characters around can be an arduous, pace-killing problem, especially when the plot demands that they traverse large distances. The poor teleportation-less spacetrotters of Star Wars have to pretty much drive from one end of the galaxy to another (usually via a time-saving screen wipe.)
But what about its appeal to the rest of us?
Some of it undoubtedly comes from our societal sense of tech entitlement as we see so many sci-fi tropes becoming real. Though not generally available, there are flying cars, jet packs, invisibility cloaks, and even 3D printers that produce food in a manner not so very different than replicators.
The most obvious "real" thing teleportation would offers us is effortless mobility, an experience of increasing rarity as air travel becomes more and more difficult for the average person, with cancellations, delays and experiences that seem designed more for the benefit of the airline than us. Slower modes of travel — cars, busses, trains — are typically cheaper, but take so much time. And as long as we're using our imaginations here, maybe teleportation would be safer, too?
One genuinely cool use of teleportation would be making it easier — or even possible in the first place — for people with mobility issues to get from place to place.
Then there's the exploration of remote locations, from uncharted places on Earth to distant planets we may otherwise never reach in a single generation, if at all.
Finally, maybe we can just let climate change ruin Earth and migrate via teleportation en mass. just in time, to some new world we can destroy. Hey, when science sees a dim future ahead, there's alway sci-fi.
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU2NzY4My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTUwMzg0NX0.BTK3zVeXxoduyvXfsvp4QH40_9POsrgca_W5CQpjVtw/img.png?width=980" id="b6fb0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2739ec50d9f9a3bd0058f937b6d447ac" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1512" data-height="2224" />
What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7XqcvwWp" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="8506fcd195866131efb93525ae42dec4"> <div id="botr_7XqcvwWp_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7XqcvwWp-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7XqcvwWp-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7XqcvwWp-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.</p><p>Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:</p><p>"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region." </p><p>The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its <a href="https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/research/sjades2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" style="">head</a>. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">Great Old Ones</a>. <em></em></p>
Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.
- Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
- Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
- In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.
The newly discovered galaxies are 62x bigger than the Milky Way.
- Two recently discovered radio galaxies are among the largest objects in the cosmos.
- The discovery implies that radio galaxies are more common than previously thought.
- The discovery was made while creating a radio map of the sky with a small part of a new radio array.