Teleportation of Energy: Coming Soon to a Mall Near You
Ok, I’m fudging a little bit here, but some physicists believe they have discovered a method via quantum physics to actually transport (or “teleport”) energy.
Now, if you’re a follower of quantum theory (or maybe you’ve just watched a lot of Quantum Leap), you know that the theory goes thus: all matter in the known universe is made up of atoms, those atoms are made up of tiny particles of energy. A quantum particle is the smallest form of any physical entity involved in an interaction. For example, a photon is a single quantum of light, the smallest form of light that can exist.
From the article at PhysOrg:
Previously, physicists have demonstrated how to teleport the quantum states of several different entities, including photons, atoms, and ions. Researchers predict that the principles of teleportation could also extend to molecules, viruses, and other more complex objects. Over the past year, physicists have also been exploring quantum energy teleportation, and Hotta’s latest paper builds on these studies.
In quantum energy teleportation, a physicist first makes a measurement on each of two entangled particles. The measurement on the first particle injects quantum energy into the two-particle system, which is possible because there are always quantum fluctuations in the energy of any particle. This energy can then be immediately extracted at the second particle by making a second carefully chosen measurement on that particle. Throughout the process, the energy of the overall system remains the same.
As in previous examples of teleportation, the actual particles aren’t teleported since they’re basically identical at the quantum level. Rather, the information they carry is the important part. For this reason, physicists can simply send the information within a particle and not the particle itself. A receiving particle accepts the information from a sending particle, taking on the identity of the sending particle.
Hotta’s paper marks the first example of the energy-entanglement relation for the smallest kind of quantum energy teleportation model. As he explains, the findings could enable scientists to explore the foundations of physics: specifically, the relationship between quantum information and quantum energy.
“These energy-entanglement inequalities are of importance because they help in gaining a profound understanding of entanglement itself as a physical resource by relating entanglement to energy as an evident physical resource,” he writes.
As a story in MIT’s Technology Review explains, these new ideas about entanglement and information could have far-reaching implications: “There is a growing sense that the properties of the universe are best described not by the laws that govern matter but by the laws that govern information. This appears to be true for the quantum world, is certainly true for special relativity, and is currently being explored for general relativity. Having a way to handle energy on the same footing may help to draw these diverse strands together.”
So what does it all mean for your Star Trek nerds wishing you could just be transported to Hawaii instead of going to the airport? Well, remember that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Second Chances?
In Second Chances we discovered that during some planetary electromagnetic thing, it caused the transporter beam that was transporting Riker back to the Enterprise to be reflected back down on the planet he was coming from. Result: Two Rikers, and then of course the hilarity ensued. More importantly, the careful observer comes to realize that you FUCKING DIE every time you get transported, but the computer remembers the information of your genetic pattern, and basically just puts your energy back together in the same configuration to form a whole new you!
So, besides the whole creepy “you die and they make a new version of you every time you get in a transporter” concept, the theory behind the faked up science of the Star Trek transporter was exactly the same as Hotta’s supposition: That while we may not be able to actually transport matter, you can transport the information stored in the matter, and thus replicate or recreate the same pattern of energy you “transported.”
Theological and philosophical questions aside (IE: Do you still have a soul? Is your consciousness the same, or do you only think you’re the same being? Are you now being computer generated, or are you still a real human being?) this is some super exciting technology. We’re a long way away from being able to “transport” people from point A to point B (and I’m not sure I would anyway, see previous parenthetical philosophical questions), but it’s an exciting leap forward in our understanding of matter, energy, information, and the universe.