Teleportation is a mix of the words “telecommunication” and “transportation.” The idea is to translate a physical thing into data, stream it to somewhere else, and then re-assemble it. It sounds unbelievable, but physicists at the California Institute of Technology accomplished their first teleported object back in 1998. In comparison to Star Trek, the accomplishment might seem limited; the physicists teleported a single photon a little over 3 feet. Since then, they’ve been able to teleport as far as 89 miles, but they’re still working mainly with photons.
There’s a rule in physics called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. This principle says that you can know how fast something is moving or its location, but not both at the same time. This rule is the barrier for teleporting larger things. Smarty-pants researchers got around the principle using something called entanglement. This means that they got photons to tangle, or interact, which caused them to share their traits. By using three photons, scientists can teleport one of them to a new place. It’s easy! Well, maybe not…
A person has a lot more information than a single photon! There are trillions of atoms in the human body. Each of them would have to be entangled, read, digitized, teleported, and then the process would have to be reversed. This would take forever! According to the students at the University of Leicester, the amount of data contained in an entire human, including the physical body and some memories, is trillions of Gigabytes of information. Even with a high bandwidth transfer, that data would take quadrillions of years to teleport or about 350,000 times the age of the universe!
If that’s not a big enough issue, there is another problem. The exact thing that arrives is not the exact same thing that left. It’s been reconstructed. When scientists entangle and teleport photons, they’re actually destroying them in order to read all of the information. This means that the original photon is gone until it can be reconstructed miles away. If it were a person, you would have to die in order to be teleported. However, you would be alive again once you were reconstructed.
It seems like we’re not quite there yet. For now, Teleportation technology will remain in the digital world.