(By, Kevin Le)
People are lazy. In today’s society, procrastination is rampant, and students could care less about their grades. Yet, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, this laziness may be why our society is so advanced in the first place. The entire purpose of engineering is to create something which requires the least amount of time, money, and effort to use. Ever since the invention of the wheel at the dawn of civilization, people have always been trying how to get from Point A to Point B in the fastest and easiest way possible – take the car or plane, for example. However, we still have not reached the peak of transportation: instantaneous teleportation – the complete elimination of having to traverse physical distances. But, using research from over a decade ago, this may become a reality.
In 1988, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), along with two European groups, successfully teleported a photon – an energy particle which carries light – across 3.28 ft (approx.. 1 meter) by creating a replica of the particle’s atomic structure with a coaxial cord. As predicted, the original particle had ceased to exist, and the replica was in a new place, thereby teleporting the photon.
In order to achieve this, the Caltech group had to find the loophole in the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle – which states that it is impossible to simultaneously know the location and speed of a particle – using a quantum physics phenomenon known as “entanglement.”
How entanglement works is simple. Take three photons – X, Y, and Z — for example, with X being the photon to be teleported, Y being the transporting photon, and Z being the photon that is entangled with Y. Without entanglement, the Uncertainty Principle would ring true and photon X’s position would be bumped and changed before scientists could get a complete idea about the location and speed of the photon. By entangling Y and Z, then some information about X can be taken by the scientists and the rest of the information would be sent to photon Y through entanglement, and then onto photon Z. Using the knowledge taken from photon X and photon Z, scientists can create an exact replica of photon X somewhere else. The original photon X no longer exists in a sense, and has been transported to a new location without having to traverse any physical distance, thus resulting in teleportation.
Research in quantum teleportation today continues to be promising. In 2002, the Australian National University successfully teleported a laser beam, and in October of 2006, Dr. Eugene Polzik and his team at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, managed to teleport actual information stored in a laser beam into a cloud of atoms for a distance of about 1.6 ft. (0.5 meters). In other words, it is now possible to teleport photons and matter in co-existence – the matter being the actual information, and the photons being a way to store that information as it teleports.
However, teleporting humans would be another task all together. Just a single person holds trillions of atoms, each which would need to be teleported separately and in the exact same arrangement as before. A machine of such proportions would require incredible amounts of power and precision to operate well. But despite all of the benefits of teleportation — such as the elimination of pollution caused by vehicles and prosperity as a result of trade being much easier to conduct – quantum teleportation of humans, if human teleportation ever does become possible, is still a controversial subject. After all, if entanglement requires the destruction of the original atom, then teleporting a human would be like killing them off atom by atom and then bringing them back to life by piecing the atoms together again. But, that leads to an even darker question. If entanglement makes the original disappear and replaces it with a replica, then would a person still be the same person after undergoing teleportation?
“It is one step further because for the first time it involves teleportation between light and matter, two different objects. One is the carrier of information and the other one is the storage medium.” – Dr. Eugene Polzik, Professor at Niels Bohr Institute