Teleportation is an idea that captures our imagination with its fantastic possibilities. The concept of moving an object from one place to another without having to travel between them has been a common thread in science fiction as a way to bridge the depths of interstellar space, time, and other dimensions. Today, major scientific institutions are running trials on the teleportation of matter and energy. The almost unbelievable potentials of this research are exciting the minds of even practical physicists.
The term teleportation was coined by the writer/researcher Charles Fort in 1931, to describe anomalous appearances and disappearances that have a long history in folklore. In the past, scientists did not take this idea seriously because it seemed to violate classical physics. Even with the acceptance of quantum physics, teleportation still seemed to violate the uncertainty principle which claims that the measuring of an object could never capture all of it’s information, since it is disrupted in the process. If an object could never be fully known then no copy could ever be teleported to another location. Yet in 1993, a team of researchers at IBM lead by Charles Bennett showed how using a paradoxical feature of quantum physics known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) effect, quantum teleportation was possible but only if the original object being teleported was destroyed. Their paper opened the door to more robust and practical teleportation research.
Since then, as the validity of quantum physics have become more accepted, physicists have been progressing with teleportation research working with fundamental particles. In 1998, physicists at Caltech successfully teleported a photon. In 2002, a team at the Neils Bohr institute teleported information stored in a laser beam into a cloud of atoms half a meter away. In 2012, researchers in China made a teleportation record, transporting a photon 97 kilometers. In February of 2014, European physicists were also able to teleport quantum information through ordinary optical fiber.
The most recent success on this front was reported by Professor Ronald Hanson and a team of researchers at Delft University in the Netherlands, showing for the first time that it is possible to teleport information encoded into subatomic particles between two points three meters apart with 100% reliability. The Delft team made this breakthrough into reliability by trapping entangled electrons in diamonds at very low temperatures and shooting them with lasers. The diamonds act as very tiny prisons for the electrons, holding them in place long enough to reliably communicate a shift of the state of the linked electrons.
Most scientists believe this kind of teleportation could never become anything resembling the fictional form of teleportation and the transmission of physical matter because it’s limited to sending qubits. Qubits are units of quantum information, like the polarization or spin of a single photon, and are the analog to the classical bit in computing. There are some, however, who believe there are virtually no limits to what may be possible. Professor Ronald Hanson, one of the researchers from the Netherlands, has said that nothing in our current understanding of the laws of physics fundamentally forbids the teleportation of large objects, including humans. “What we are teleporting is the state of a particle,” Prof. Hanson has said. “If you believe we are nothing more than a collection of atoms strung together in a particular way, then in principle it should be possible to teleport ourselves from one place to another.” He goes on to say, “In practice it’s extremely unlikely, but to say it can never work is very dangerous.”
What’s making this research possible is the phenomenon of quantum entanglement. Entanglement is a physical phenomenon whereby the quantum state of some pairs or groups of particles cannot be described independently—they are entangled, sharing one quantum state. The measurement of the properties of entangled particles, such as position, momentum, spin, and polarization, are all correlated. For example, if one particle of an entangled pair of particles has a clockwise spin on a certain axis, the spin of the other particle in the pair will be counterclockwise. A change in one of these particles results in an instantaneous change in its pair, regardless of the distance between them.
To achieve teleportation, using entanglement, two qubits, B and C are brought together and entangled. Then they are separated; object B is taken to a sending station and object C is taken to a receiving station. At the sending station, object B is scanned with object A, which is the object we’re wanting to teleport. This results in object B being in one of four possible states, which are encoded as classical bits in an electrical signal. At this point qubits A and B are disrupted by scanning and essentially destroyed. The two classical bits can then be sent through some classical means of communication such as a laser or a coaxial cable to the receiving station. At the receiving end, since a manipulation was already performed on object B at the sending station, object C has already been affected and is in one of four possible states. Whichever of the four states is encoded in the two classical bits, and that information, is applied to object C, resulting in an exact replica of object A.
Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen described in 1935 the now famous “EPR paradox,” claiming that this entangled behavior should be impossible, since it violated the local realist view of causality. Einstein is famously quoted as describing this as “spooky action at a distance” with which he was very uncomfortable since it suggested a faster-than-light connection. As I discussed in the last issue of AR, there are currently different theories about how the universe is constructed which can allow for this kind of behavior. Since Einstein’s time, these counterintuitive predictions of quantum physics, and specifically entanglement, have been verified in experiments showing correlations between particles interacting faster than the speed of light.
The accuracy of the Delft experiment has major implications for quantum computing, since the researchers demonstrated highly accurate and instantaneous transfer of information. Many people are already envisioning a quantum version of the Internet that would be much more secure than our current Internet, since information could be teleported directly from one place to another without the possibility of being intercepted. The Delft researchers are planning another experiment where the sending and receiving stations would be 1,300 meters apart.
So, will this form of quantum teleportation ever lead to the transfer of physical matter, people for example? Using entanglement, and better methods of transfer, more and more information is being transferred accurately using quantum teleportation. Each time a qubit is successfully transferred, the entangled pairs are destroyed. So, a supply of these entangled pairs has to be generated and one half of the pair transferred to another location. Previously, the pure quantum states of these entangled pairs have been extremely fragile. The Delft research using diamonds is exciting, since their protocol seems have created much more stable pairs.
In theory, we will find a way to transport a huge amount of entangled pairs through some sub-light means, which would then allow us to teleport actual physical objects. To do this, we are talking huge amounts of data. Some have theorized that for a person to be transported, a machine would have to pinpoint and analyze all of the 10(28) atoms in a human body, more than a trillion-trillion atoms. Though our current computing technology couldn’t handle this, it’s theorized that quantum computers could.
There are also ethical issues. Teleportation of people would essentially be a form of genetic cloning by digitization. Each particle teleported destroys the original, so the travelers would have to die at one end in order to be transferred. The original brain would not exist, although an exact replica would, in theory, be recreated at the new location. It is not known what effects all of this would have on human consciousness, memories, or our essential being.
Carlos Mochon, a researcher in quantum computation, has described three schools of thought physicists have about the possibility of human teleportation. One group believes there is a soul or consciousness that is part of being human that, so far, cannot be described by science. Until the consciousness problem is solved, science can’t ethically or practically approach the problem of teleporting humans or other living organisms.
Another group of physicists feel there is a disconnect between the quantum world and classical physical objects, like rocks or people. In this view, it is believed that classical objects cannot be described by the laws of quantum mechanics and, thus, couldn’t be transmitted through quantum means; although, as mentioned above, researchers are teleporting larger and larger objects. Thus far, some quantum phenomena do seem to hold at the macro level. Time will tell if there is an operational barrier between the classical and the quantum world.
A third group believes that essentially, all objects are quantum mechanical—including the human brain and consciousness. Therefore, in principle, everything can conceivably be teleported. Mochon argues that the observer/measurement problem of quantum physics isn’t really an issue, since what is happening is that we, a classical object, are already entangled with the quantum objects we are observing.
Most researchers claim that teleportation will not even be possible until there is a complete theory of physics that can account for all of these variables. The practice in science is that the theory must come first and then be proven by research. This is the case, for example, with the EPR paradox in 1935, now being demonstrated successfully in laboratories around the world. Yet, there are also the unexplainable and anomalous phenomena that Charles Fort originally described when he coined the term ‘teleportation.’ These anomalous events indicate that much more is already occurring outside of the understandings of modern science.
In the realm of human experience, there are reports of the teleportation of matter, and even people. The Indian holy man Sai Baba ‘materialized’ objects for his devotees reportedly every single day of his adult life, sometimes many times a day. These objects ranged from holy ash, sacred to the Hindus, to gold jewelry, and even fresh fruit. It has been proposed that these materializations were a form of teleportation, since he ‘pulled’ the objects from some other location in time and space, or even from another dimension. He is also reported to have appeared spontaneously in different locations, even to assist in a surgery several hundred miles away from where he was living and was simultaneously observed.
In 2004, Dr. Eric Davis of Warp Drive Metrics conducted research on “Teleportation phenomena occurring naturally or under laboratory conditions” for the Air Force Research Laboratory. He claimed that, “anomalous teleportation has been scientifically investigated and separately documented by the Department of Defense.” Anomalous teleportation includes psychic teleportation of people and objects purportedly affected by people. Some of the most impressive research on psychic teleportation has been documented in China in the journal Ziran Zazhi (Nature Journal). One article from 1981 entitled, “Some experiments in the transfer of objects performed by unusual abilities of the human body,” reported that some “gifted children” were able to teleport small physical objects, like watches, flies, and micro-transmitters from one place to another. This study was done in blind and double-blind conditions with researchers from Chinese colleges and the Department of Defense and was repeated.
In some of the experiments where high-speed photography was used, test specimens were observed to physically merge into the walls of the sealed containers. In another, the objects simply disappeared from inside the container only to reappear at the second location. In each of these cases it appeared that the specimens didn’t undergo disintegration during teleportation. In another trial, where a radio micro-transmitter was used as a test specimen, the researchers observed large fluctuations in the intensity of the signals from the object as it was being teleported, the signal either completely disappearing or becoming very weak. This occurred during the moment of teleportation.
Dr. Davis has suggested that these experiments should lead us to expand our thinking about how teleportation might be possible, suggesting that humans are capable of shifting objects through a fourth dimension. Some mainstream physicists decried Davis’ report as crackpot science, impossible based on what is “known” in science. Yet, it has been shown in the past that when we explore what is unexplained or anomalous, we can discover information that forces us to shift our paradigm. Others have suggested that consciousness may have the ability to cross dimensions. Einstein hinted at something like this when he said, “Space is not anything given in nature or independent of human thought.”
Researchers like Rupert Sheldrake and Bruce Lipton have shown that the consciousness and intelligence of living systems may have a basis in information fields that are not physical. Furthermore, research on Near Death Experience and Reincarnation seems to indicate that consciousness may not be restricted to the physical body but may exist outside the body. If this is true, then a teleportation system that just transfers information, which we already have with qubits, may be sufficient to transport the essence of a human into what is essentially a different body. Teleportation could be combined with a highly sophisticated 3D printing technology that would essentially assemble whatever combination of physical matter is needed to hold these complex information fields.
The reconstruction of matter may not even have to be as precise as many people fear. Remember the movie The Fly where some stray bits of fly DNA got into an experiment, which ended up morphing Jeff Goldblum’s character into a fly? If it is the consciousness field that the body is stepping into, then small aberrations such as this may not even matter. Even in classical forms of transfer, when we are physically moved to a different location, we are gaining and losing bits of matter all of the time. This doesn’t seem to affect the overall operating of our bodies. Also, think of the way our own bodies are constantly renewing their cells over the course of our lives. With all of these changes, we still have the experience of continuity of being.
The new research in quantum teleportation clearly has tremendous implications for quantum computing and, again, revolutionizing the Internet. It also is taking science and our understanding of the physical world into new, uncharted territories. If you are an energy being, then it is conceivable that at some point your body could be scanned and essentially disassembled, as now happens with quantum teleportation, only to be reassembled out of new particles at a different location.
Some people have even proposed that once teleportation does become a reality, you may have much more choice about the body you teleport into. Perhaps you will be able to control the age, health, and even sex of your “new” body. This sounds eerily close to reincarnation, whereby a soul is born into another body. Physical renewal and transformation may not be accessible until the connection between the physical body and the consciousness that inhabits it is better understood; although, like the spontaneous healings that are happening all over the world, perhaps teleportations and transformations like this are already happening.
Patrick Marsolek is a writer, dancer, facilitator, clinical hypnotherapist and the director of Inner Workings Resources. He is the author of Transform Yourself: A Self-hypnosis Manual and A Joyful Intuition. See PatrickMarsolek.com for more information.