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Teleportation Breakthrough
October 5, 2006 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Teleportation Breakthrough. Until now scientists have teleported similar objects such as light or single atoms over short distances from one spot to another in a split second. But Professor Eugene Polzik and his team at the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University in Denmark have made a breakthrough by using both light and matter. A more technical explanation.
posted by empath (67 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
So could I use this to beam Pepsi to my mouth without leaving my chair?

(this totally reminds me of that "How Star Trek changed the world" telly show where William Shatner explains how the guys who invented mobile phones wanted communicators etc.)

(oh and transparent aluminium)
posted by 13twelve at 6:40 AM on October 5, 2006


After reading the technical explanation, am I correct in stating that the scientists did not actually teleport an object from one location to another? This story is all over the web, and other sites seem to imply that they did.
posted by jsonic at 6:40 AM on October 5, 2006


This is pretty confusing to me. Is it correct to say: the cesium had to be moved in a conventional fashion from point A to point B, but its exact state (as it was at point A) was preserved when delivered to point B, so that counts as teleportation from point A to point B?
posted by rxrfrx at 6:40 AM on October 5, 2006


The experiment involved for the first time a macroscopic atomic object containing thousands of billions of atoms.

This article is confusing... it mentions this object, but then gets all vague about whether it was teleported or not.
posted by hodyoaten at 6:42 AM on October 5, 2006


You can't teleport an object, technically. However, it seems like they teleported an object's quantum state.
posted by empath at 6:44 AM on October 5, 2006


i think. IANAP.
posted by empath at 6:44 AM on October 5, 2006


That's my best understanding, empath. It took time and regular "carrying the thing from one place to another" to move the cesium in space, but its quantum state was perfectly preserved.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:45 AM on October 5, 2006


"Creating entanglement is a very important step"

and, then comes the divorce...trust me..
posted by HuronBob at 6:50 AM on October 5, 2006


Why is science writing always so clueless and bad?

Yes, from the description on the PhysicsWeb site, they didn't actually teleport anything other than the light. Which still had to travel over the intervening distance.

It sounds like this was just a more elaborate verification of the EPR paradox.
posted by bshort at 6:55 AM on October 5, 2006


*sigh* And here I was, all excited. I'm sorry, it's just not teleportation until it a) makes an object disappear from point A, b) makes it reappear at point B, and c) makes bingley-bingley noises.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:58 AM on October 5, 2006 [4 favorites]


moving quantum states around is teleportation.
posted by paradroid at 7:02 AM on October 5, 2006


What I want to know is how will the porn industry embrace, then advance, this breakthrough?
posted by NationalKato at 7:03 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


Presenting Iridic's Uncertainty Principle: A news article about a quantum physics breakthrough can be technically accurate or intelligible to the layman, but it cannot be both at the same.
posted by Iridic at 7:04 AM on October 5, 2006 [3 favorites]


moving quantum states around is teleportation.

I'll quantum state you.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:08 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


They didn't teleport anything, except quantum states, and information. STill impressive.

But the fact that this is hyped as teleporting an object around these here intertubes is proof that too many scientists and regular folk have Star Trek on the brain, which is one of my pet peeves.

13twelve mentions that stupid shatner show. The scientists who invented cell phones were trying to get communicators? I doubt it. We had star trek style communicators in in world war two, it was called a wireless. After the transistor, we called them walkie-talkies, or CB radio. (Remember how the person using the communicator had to identify himself - "Kirk here," etc.)

On the subject of transparent aluminum, meh. They had invented/discovered transparent metal and were using it in consumer products well before Star Trek IV. Any liquid crystal dislay is covered with a transparent metal, indium tin oxide or indium zinc oxide. That's the same metal in top end oakley sunglasses, too. Before that, it was in welding masks, fighter pilot helmets and astronaut helmet visors.

Star Trek is responsible for making some very simple science seem extremely difficult and futuristic (communicators, transparent metal, touchscreens,etc), and some well-nigh impossible pseudo-science seem trivial (warp drive, wormholes, etc).
posted by Pastabagel at 7:11 AM on October 5, 2006


I'll quantum state you.

Soon to be a motion picture starring Scott Bakula and Natalie Portman.
posted by hangashore at 7:12 AM on October 5, 2006


Soon to be a motion picture starring Scott Bakula and Natalie Portman.

Raise your hand if you just saw some space titties.
posted by spicynuts at 7:17 AM on October 5, 2006


if you can cause particle B to have the same quantum state as particle A, except for position, then you have teleported A to B. no kidding.
posted by paradroid at 7:18 AM on October 5, 2006


I saw this movie one time, where this dude invented THIS EXACT THING! Except, when he tried transporting himself, a fly got in there with him...then all hell broke loose! I can't remember what it was called...but dude!
posted by Shfishp at 7:37 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


if you can cause particle B to have the same quantum state as particle A, except for position, then you have teleported A to B. no kidding.

If you can cause C and D to happen, then you have foobled. No kidding, because I get to define what "foobled" means as whatever I want.
posted by tkolar at 7:37 AM on October 5, 2006


what they did is transport quantum information. The cesium atoms can be thought of as a storage medium for this info.

This is important not for 'star trek' moving of large objects, but instead very useful for high speed quantum computing.

They have built the first step in what could become large spatially distant quantum nodes in a large quantum computer.

In layman's terms: in the future stuff like this will make video games about as freaking sweet as you could ever imagine. Oh and the porn industry will use it to make sure you can never break the password on the smut library.
posted by stilgar at 7:38 AM on October 5, 2006


how will the porn industry embrace, then advance, this breakthrough?

To remove stubborn objects from the rectum without the usual visit to the E.R. and the awkward explanations.
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:46 AM on October 5, 2006


I want somebody to teleport me a quantum hamburger.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:48 AM on October 5, 2006


Oh and the porn industry will use it to make sure you can never break the password on the smut library.

Funding for this dangerous ungodly technology must be stopped at once! Will no one think of the teenage boys (apart from that nice Mr Foley)?
posted by patricio at 7:49 AM on October 5, 2006


Metafilter: Makes bingley-bingley noises.
Sorry.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 7:51 AM on October 5, 2006


craven_morehead : I want somebody to teleport me a quantum hamburger.

Unfortunately for you, because it is a quantum hamburger, you will either be able to have it, or eat it, but not both. Just like cake, really.
posted by kcds at 8:01 AM on October 5, 2006 [2 favorites]


Note that the teleportation involves two components. The first is the "teleportation" (what a bad term... it's really "entanglement collapse") of the information encoded in a laser signal. The second is a classical (read "normal humdrum over the telephone) communication, necessary to compare two pieces of information and make the final measurement of the "teleported" state. So no FTL, kiddos.
posted by noble_rot at 8:12 AM on October 5, 2006


stilgar wrote...
the porn industry will use it to make sure you can never break the password on the smut library.

I'm looking forward to the attempt, as it will put an end once and for all to this "quantum encryption will be unbreakable" bullshit.

I'll bet on the raging hormones of every teenage boy on the planet over the warblings of scientific theorists any day of the week.
posted by tkolar at 8:12 AM on October 5, 2006


Mmmmm . . . quantum cake. . .
posted by The Bellman at 8:13 AM on October 5, 2006


I ate a quantum cat once, but I'm afraid it might have still been alive.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:26 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't this be more akin to cloning an atom?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:29 AM on October 5, 2006


What they do is they have two groups of particles, separated by some distance. Then they take the quantum information from one and put it onto the other, and in the process, they destroy the state of the original group of particles...

What they did is transport quantum information.

Fine, but the distinction is just semantic. There are a finite number of quantum numbers that describe the state of a particle. If you know all those, you know absolutely everything that can possibly be known about a particle. There is absolutely no way whatsoever for anybody to tell any difference between the teleported particles and the original particles.

So they had to start with two groups of atoms. So what? If I suddenly turn into a lump of carbon, and shortly thereafter a lump of carbon across the room turns into me, it would still seem pretty amazing.
posted by dsword at 8:37 AM on October 5, 2006


you cant clone quantum information. when you teleport the quantum state to B, the state of A becomes uncertain.
posted by paradroid at 8:37 AM on October 5, 2006


I, for one, look forward to our teleported cesium atom overlords, ruling justidiously with their identical quantum states.

In all seriousness, though, could you imagine the economic impact of a teleportation device? If they ever become ubiquitous there'd be no need for transportation or shipping industries (outside of the teleportation industry). No gobs of pollution from cars, no terribly large need for roads, etc.

It'd be pimp.
posted by ztdavis at 8:43 AM on October 5, 2006


Wasn't this the premise of the Crighton book "Timeline" - in which humans were teleported by destroying the quantum state in our universe and restoring the state in another? There was a section in which one character asked what this meant - were they the same person after teleportation, and the answer was akin to "no, you die here, and are re-created there from new atoms with your old quantum state superimposed." It was an interesting thought question, I felt.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:50 AM on October 5, 2006


Intro philosophy classes have been muddling through that one since the old Star Trek, caution live frogs. As a matter of fact, I can't stumble across anything on teleportation without wondering about that, myself. It was the first thing to spring to mind here, too. It definitely wreaks havoc on ideas of personality, and kind of messed up one of that set of tests posted here recently, because I wasn't exactly predicating my theory of identity on continuity, nor was I postulating a soul. Annoyingly, I can't put my finger on it (which sets off my bullshit detector, even with regard to myself), but the idea of being destroyed here and recreated with identical memories elsewhere... doesn't appeal.

I'll be with Scotty taking the shuttle.
posted by dreamsign at 9:19 AM on October 5, 2006


If you can cause C and D to happen, then you have foobled. No kidding, because I get to define what "foobled" means as whatever I want.
posted by tkolar at 7:37 AM PST on October 5 [+] [!]


Fooble me once, shame on you...
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:28 AM on October 5, 2006


you cant clone quantum information

... and if you cannot measure the quantum state without destroying it, that would seem to imply you can't split the transfer or spy on it, otherwise you could hack into teleport data pipe #3775F and start a collection of hapless duplicated travellers for hunting games, spare parts, or just building big flesh pyramids.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:41 AM on October 5, 2006


Quantum faxing. Interesting.

Soon to be Quantum email. Greeeat. I can hardly read the 9pt type in Entourage as it is.
posted by tkchrist at 9:52 AM on October 5, 2006


Could someone elaborate on why this isn't FTL information transfer? I thought that was the point.
posted by solotoro at 10:04 AM on October 5, 2006


dreamsig, caution live frogs: That question, prompted by watching too much ST:TNG plus an experience of going under anesthesia, absolutely wreaked havoc on my psyche when I was a teenager struggling with agnosticism/atheism.

I really didn't come to any personal resolution about the nature of consciousnes, identity, continuity, all of those things until I was in my twenties, and I sometimes feel that I've only swept it under the carpet. It's a profoundly uncomfortable question for a materialist to deal with.
posted by empath at 10:05 AM on October 5, 2006


I resolved it, btw, by deciding after reading Hofstadter that consciousness(and identity) primarily resides in the pattern and not the substance of the body, and thus can continually be transferred to new materials and locations without fundamentally altering self. I can't help but feel that's only half an answer, but it helps me sleep at night.
posted by empath at 10:07 AM on October 5, 2006


Wasn't this the premise of the Crighton book "Timeline" - in which humans were teleported by destroying the quantum state in our universe and restoring the state in another?

Pretty sure Scalzi used the same idea in Old Man's War as well.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:12 AM on October 5, 2006


Could someone elaborate on why this isn't FTL information transfer? I thought that was the point.

Roughly, the answer is that although the information is present at point A, it is not measured or observed (i.e. getting entangled with the measurement instruments) so it can show up at point B faster than you could send it at light speed.

So, it's like you can FTL teleport quantum information as long as you don't know what the information you're sending is. This is not 'information' as we generally think of it, the standard definitions are inextricably tied to 'communication', which you will see is clearly not available at FTL speeds.

Classical information is always relative to some macro quantum state, like your brain or a computer.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:19 AM on October 5, 2006


It's a profoundly uncomfortable question for a materialist to deal with.

True dat.

I resolved it, btw, by deciding after reading Hofstadter that consciousness(and identity) primarily resides in the pattern and not the substance of the body, and thus can continually be transferred to new materials and locations without fundamentally altering self.

Then what happens when your doohickie malfunctions and doesn't destroy the old you at the transfer point? Are you saying that you would then exist in two places? Your consciousness, if purely a physical manifestation, is going to be in two locations, differing only from that point onward. It seems to stretch reason that both of them, rather than resembling you, are in fact you. But what the original has that the copy doesn't is beyond me.

I can't help but feel that's only half an answer, but it helps me sleep at night.

Sorry.
posted by dreamsign at 10:35 AM on October 5, 2006


thus can continually be transferred to new materials and locations

I guess that's it for me. Nothing is being "transferred". If I destroy your dining room chair and build another just like it, the old one isn't back. It's been replaced. The fact that it serves just as well as the old is a fine thing, and maybe sentimentality is the only remaining difference, but it is wrong to think it is somehow the old chair just because there's an identical one in its place. Likewise, how can the new "you" be anything other than a replacement, even if you and I can't observe a difference?
posted by dreamsign at 10:40 AM on October 5, 2006


dreamsign writes...
If I destroy your dining room chair and build another just like it...

Ah, but is the thing that makes you uniquely you a physical object, or a ongoing process? (are you a particle or a wave, so to speak?)

If what you are is what you do, then there's no problem with cloning you by reproducing your process with new matter.
posted by tkolar at 10:51 AM on October 5, 2006


virtually every single atom in your body will be different in seven years from now. a large percentage of them will be different in a week. you could liken this to being slowly teleported as our "patterns" are noisily passed from atom to atom. somehow consciousness is continuous inspite. still, you won't see me stepping on any transporter pads.

also: teleportation would be an example of FTL information exchange, except that the algorithm requires the measurement result (containing classical information, ie bits) from one side to be sent to the other. we know of no way to do this FTL.
posted by paradroid at 11:01 AM on October 5, 2006


BAMF!
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 11:06 AM on October 5, 2006


The problem with eating the quantum hamburger is that you can't know both its position and its velocity at the same time, which makes it very difficult to pick up.
posted by vraxoin at 11:20 AM on October 5, 2006


Just reach for the center of the hamburger's probability distribution. You'll get it after a few tries.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:22 AM on October 5, 2006


I want to teleport some cesium in to a swimming pool. And by 'teleport' I mean throw.
posted by quin at 11:26 AM on October 5, 2006


Then what happens when your doohickie malfunctions and doesn't destroy the old you at the transfer point? Are you saying that you would then exist in two places?

Yes, but I also think that any process invasive enough to get that level of information from your body would have to destroy it.
posted by empath at 11:27 AM on October 5, 2006


If I destroy your dining room chair and build another just like it, the old one isn't back. It's been replaced. The fact that it serves just as well as the old is a fine thing, and maybe sentimentality is the only remaining difference, but it is wrong to think it is somehow the old chair just because there's an identical one in its place. Likewise, how can the new "you" be anything other than a replacement, even if you and I can't observe a difference?

Dreamsign - if I was able to do a scan and determine the exact quantum data of every particle in the original chair, and then used that data to construct an exact duplicate of that chair - to the point that no measurement could be done to identify any difference between the two at the point of creation - what purpose is there in a distinction between the two?

Unless you attribute the equivalent of a "soul" to the chairs, some metaphysical attribute that one had because of its history that the other doesn't, there is no distinction. Surely that chair doesn't require a specific set of particles to be that exact chair, but consists of the properties and arrangements of those particles. If a completely different set of particles suddenly exist in the same configuration and with the same properties, surely they that set of particles becomes that chair.
posted by evilangela at 11:44 AM on October 5, 2006


None of this is sounding very good to me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:44 AM on October 5, 2006


"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying."

--Woody Allen
posted by hermitosis at 11:54 AM on October 5, 2006


Continuity is such an easy assumption, but things get sticky fast when we start to go there. Among people studying consciousness continuity is far from a given.
posted by pointilist at 11:57 AM on October 5, 2006


(this totally reminds me of that "How Star Trek changed the world" telly show where William Shatner explains how the guys who invented mobile phones wanted communicators etc.)


Also, the guys who invented laptops really just wanted the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:09 PM on October 5, 2006


I'll settle for jetpacks and sex robots, thank you.
posted by bardic at 1:11 PM on October 5, 2006


“I ate a quantum cat once, but I'm afraid it might have still been alive.” -posted by Astro Zombie
It was alive.
No, really, it wasn’t.
But, yeah, it was.
Or was it? No.
In fact though, yes.
(No)
Just kidding. Really it was.
But not really.

Wait...you ate quantum pussy?

Actually, I’m curious what this’d do for long range communications. If it is, indeed, FTL.
Apart from contacting extraterrestrials, Earth communications would be revolutionized as well.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:13 PM on October 5, 2006


I'm not that far advanced in physics, but try to imagine you have a small cluster of atoms and maybe a photon in there. You haev all kinds of ways of arranging them and the atoms can have various states of excitement in their electrons.

What they do is take all of the information about this small cluster of atoms and a photon and move that information to another cluster of small atoms and a photon, resulting in an identical cluster.

If you had a three hydrogens, an oxygen, and a carbon-14 (no, I don't know what that makes) on one side, you'd still need three hydrogens, an oxygen, and a carbon-14 on the other side.

Although I didn't spot it in the article, my guess is they're using a Bose-Einstein condensate of supercooled cesium atoms. They behave as more of a unit than your conventional cloud of junk. That's not like, say, being able to do the same thing for a single protein.

This won't get you FTL information transmission.
posted by adipocere at 3:03 PM on October 5, 2006


Somebody please reassure me that these scientists have working bug-zappers in their lab!
posted by rob511 at 3:53 PM on October 5, 2006


Nationalkato: What I want to know is how will the porn industry embrace, then advance, this breakthrough?

Wins!
posted by zardoz at 5:36 PM on October 5, 2006


Okay, it's not teleportation.

But light speed quantum communications? That's pretty freaking exciting.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:40 PM on October 5, 2006


An interesting thing about a "murdering twinmaker" teleporter: much like a modern photocopier that is actually a scanner and a printer in one case, it is functionally a duplicator. The use of such a device for teleportation might follow its use for duplication. This device would consist of two modules: a scanning unit, perhaps destructive to the person/object scanned, and a creation unit, well-stocked with all the required atoms, or able to create them from energy or from other atoms or from quarks or from good intentions. The two modules are linked by some kind of data transfer mechanism: a cable, wifi, a zeta beam, etc.

Alternatively of course the teleporter/duplicator could work like an old-style photocopier, where some process applied the original object incidentally creates its duplicate, with no analysis involved ... like a fourth-dimensional light which, shined on the original, casts a three-dimensional shadow. Which, naturally, will run around doing evil deeds until the heroes put a stop to it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:11 PM on October 5, 2006


I wonder what the over/under is on this winning the Nobel Prize within 25 yrs? Until then we will have to use our vivid imaginations to beam ourselves out of that boring meeting or commute.
posted by whatstoxic at 10:16 PM on October 5, 2006


it is functionally a duplicator. The use of such a device for teleportation might follow its use for duplication. This device would consist of two modules: a scanning unit, perhaps destructive to the person/object scanned, and a creation unit, well-stocked with all the required atoms, or able to create them from energy or from other atoms or from quarks or from good intentions.

That always annoyed me about Star Trek. There should be little fear of death, so long as that pattern buffer is fresh. Just cook up another "Spock" through the teleporter.

if I was able to do a scan and determine the exact quantum data of every particle in the original chair, and then used that data to construct an exact duplicate of that chair - to the point that no measurement could be done to identify any difference between the two at the point of creation - what purpose is there in a distinction between the two?

This may be just one of those things where my lack of knowledge on quantum mechanics bites me in the ass. To get horribly simplistic, I'm almost thinking grammatically -- "I have that shirt" is not quite "I have a shirt just like that". Are we saying that, were two objects to be identical in every possible way, they wouldn't be merely identical, but the same object? That seems logical when one gets destroyed, but with two hanging around it almost seems like an absurd conclusion. (barring quantum weirdness, of course)

I hope we're not confusing this with an epistemological problem. I'm not concerned with not being able to know that I'm not a copy made 5 minutes ago (though now that you mention it...). Rather, whether I can know it or not, isn't a copy still a copy? And why should I care about a copy of me as much as I care about me? I'm not saying I woudn't be sympathetic to the guy, but really, how impersonal can you get about your genes, goals, memories.

I recommend the excellent book Kiln People by David Brin for a look at what a human-replicating machine might do to a society. (In that book, you never know if "you" will wake up the original or a copy on any given day... and amazingly, you don't really care since the odds are even either way, and if you get a chance for an infodump at day's end, you achieve a kind of continuity anyway)
posted by dreamsign at 1:17 AM on October 6, 2006


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