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Last Updated: Monday, 14 June, 2004, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Q&A: Teleportation
Star Trek's Spock
No beaming up like Spock and co just yet
Australia National University scientists have been able to teleport the light from a laser from one part of a laboratory to another. BBC News Online Science Editor, Dr David Whitehouse, answers some basic questions about teleportation.

Moving beams of light around sounds like a clever trick, is it relevant to me?

The ultra-fast computers of the future will be based on beams of light that exploit the strange properties of the sub-atomic or quantum mechanical world. Using light and quantum mechanics offers the prospect of computers trillions of times more powerful than we have today. The first, tentative but encouraging, steps have been made towards primitive quantum computers.

Will we ever be able to move solid objects around?

Highly unlikely. It seems we can move photons of light around and photons do not weigh anything. Perhaps in a few years, we could teleport a single atom. Some researchers believe that we may be able to teleport a virus but they will not say when.

I've seen stuff like this on Star Trek? How would a Star Trek transporter work in real life?

The idea is that a human body is broken down into information and transmitted in some way to another place where that information is used to rebuild the human. Personally, I would take the train.

OK, crystal ball time - at the end of this century, how far could things have advanced?

It is always difficult to speculate about the future. But that will not stop me. We may be able to teleport a molecule, perhaps a few tens of atoms. That would be a great scientific achievement but not a useful matter transporter.

And will we ever transport a human?

To teleport a human would require knowledge of the type and exact position and movement of every atom of the person to be teleported. That is about a hundred thousand million million million million atoms. To send that information down today's fast data transfer systems would take a hundred million times longer than the present age of the Universe (which is about 15 thousand million years).

If it is ever possible, there is the question of whether destroying a human to teleport their information to another place to rebuild them again would constitute murder, and you might also want to discuss if the teleported human would actually be the original person or a copy.

The super-fast future of computing
14 Jun 04 |  Science/Nature
Scientists freeze beam of light
10 Dec 03 |  Science/Nature
Quantum computer draws closer
21 May 03 |  Science/Nature
Quantum leap for secret codes
05 Jun 03 |  Technology
Australian teleport breakthrough
17 Jun 02 |  Science/Nature


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