Teleportation is the hypothetical transfer of matter or energy from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them. It is a common subject in science fiction literature, film, video games, and television. Teleportation is often paired with time travel, being that the travelling between the two points takes an unknown period of time, sometimes being immediate.
Teleportation has not yet been implemented in the real world. There is no known physical mechanism that would allow this. Frequently appearing scientific papers and media articles with the term teleportation typically report on so-called "quantum teleportation", a scheme for information transfer.
The use of the term teleport to describe the hypothetical movement of material objects between one place and another without physically traversing the distance between them has been documented as early as 1878.
American writer Charles Fort is credited with having coined the word teleportation in 1931 to describe the strange disappearances and appearances of anomalies, which he suggested may be connected. As in the earlier usage, he joined the Greek prefix tele- (meaning "remote") to the root of the Latin verb portare (meaning "to carry"). Fort's first formal use of the word occurred in the second chapter of his 1931 book Lo!:
Mostly in this book I shall specialize upon indications that there exists a transportory force that I shall call Teleportation. I shall be accused of having assembled lies, yarns, hoaxes, and superstitions. To some degree I think so, myself. To some degree, I do not. I offer the data.
Teleportation is a common subject in science fiction literature, film, video games, and television. The use of matter transmitters in science fiction originated at least as early as the 19th century. An early example of scientific teleportation (as opposed to magical or spiritual teleportation) is found in the 1897 novel To Venus in Five Seconds by Fred T. Jane. Jane's protagonist is transported from a strange-machinery-containing gazebo on Earth to planet Venus – hence the title.
An actual teleportation of matter has never been realized by modern science (which is based entirely on mechanistic methods). It is questionable if it can ever be achieved, because any transfer of matter from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them violates Newton's laws, a cornerstone of physics.
Almost all physics is local, that is, any event only influences its immediate neighborhood and any consequence only propagates continuously through space, in direct contrast to what teleportation would be. The only known exception to date are correlations from quantum entanglement. It appears that those cannot be employed to transport matter, energy or information through space, but even after one hundred years of research their interpretation has remained unclear.
Beaming is often used as a synonym for teleportation and refers to the hypothetical transmission of an object in the form of radiation. To this end, the object must be “dematerialized” at the sender, i.e. broken down into its components, which are then sent as a beam and “materialized” at the destination, i.e. reconverted into matter. In this way it is achieved that an object, similar to teleportation, disappears at the place of origin and reappears at the destination. However, there is a continuous transmission path along which the matter (possibly in a converted form) traverses the physical space. Therefore, strictly speaking, beaming is not teleportation. The concept mainly originates from the science fiction series Star Trek, where people and inanimate objects are transported back and forth between places using so-called transporter devices.
In the real world, it has so far not been possible to beam objects. For one thing, there is no available technology that can disintegrate or reassemble arbitrary objects atom by atom, let alone within seconds. Furthermore, the required amount of information to fully represent macroscopic objects is far too large for today's available information technology. Another obstacle often cited in this context is Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which prohibits the simultaneous measurement of position and momentum of individual particles with arbitrary precision. At room temperature and even far below, however, this poses no limitation, since position and momentum of individual particles fluctuate statistically and do not have to be determined precisely.
Moreover, the science fiction concepts for beaming do not get it exactly clear what kind of radiation the matter would be converted to. There are only two types of radiation in physics that come into question: Electromagnetic radiation (radio waves, light, X-rays, gamma rays etc.) and particle radiation (alpha and beta rays, neutrons, neutrinos, atoms etc.). According to the current state of knowledge, electromagnetic radiation alone cannot transport matter, since it only transmits the energy, but not the baryons and leptons required to create atoms. If, alternatively, a beam of matter particles was sent, this would offer hardly any advantage over transporting the object as a whole. On the one hand, accelerating and decelerating the particles would require the same amount of energy as for the original object. So there would be no speed advantage. On the other hand, particle beams can hardly penetrate layers of matter along the transmission path (which is supposedly possible in the science-fiction concepts within some limits).
A realistic form of beaming could be the transfer of pure information and the use of matter available at the destination to perform materialization. Then however, beaming would merely be the construction of a remote copy.
Quantum teleportation is distinct from regular teleportation, as it does not transfer matter from one place to another, but rather transmits the information necessary to prepare a (microscopic) target system in the same quantum state as the source system. The scheme was named quantum “teleportation”, because certain properties of the source system are recreated in the target system without any apparent information carrier propagating between the two.
In many cases, such as normal matter at room temperature, the exact quantum state of a system is irrelevant for any practical purpose (because it fluctuates rapidly anyway, it "decoheres"), and the necessary information to recreate the system is classical. In those cases, quantum teleportation may be replaced by the simple transmission of classical information, such as radio communication.
In 1993, Bennett et al proposed that a quantum state of a particle could be transferred to another distant particle, without moving the two particles at all. This is called quantum state teleportation. There are many following theoretical and experimental papers published. Researchers believe that quantum teleportation is the foundation of quantum calculation and quantum communication.
In 2008, M. Hotta proposed that it may be possible to teleport energy by exploiting quantum energy fluctuations of an entangled vacuum state of a quantum field. There are some papers published but no experimental verification.
In 2014, researcher Ronald Hanson and colleagues from the Technical University Delft in the Netherlands, demonstrated the teleportation of information between two entangled quantumbits three metres apart.
In 2016, Y. Wei showed that in a generalization of quantum mechanics, particles themselves could teleport from one place to another. This is called particle teleportation. With this concept, superconductivity can be viewed as the teleportation of some electrons in the superconductor and superfluidity as the teleportation of some of the atoms in the cellular tube. This effect is not predicted to occur in standard quantum mechanics.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Teleportation.|
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- Lawrence M. Krauss (1995), The Physics of Star Trek, Basic Books, ISBN 978-0465002047
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- Will Human Teleportation Ever Be Possible?
- Human teleportation is far more impractical than we thought
- Y. Wei (2016), How to teleport a particle rather than a state Phys Rev E 93. 066103