Have you ever been stuck in traffic and thought “man, I wish I could just teleport there!”? Or perhaps on a cold, miserable day you’ve wished you could automatically teleport yourself to a beach in the Caribbean. Well, it turns out that teleportation might not be such a far-fetched idea, after all. A few years ago, Chinese researchers were successfully able to teleport a photon (a light particle) from Earth to a satellite orbiting the planet. Could this be the first step toward actual human teleportation?
Scientists Successfully Complete A Photon Teleportation Experiment
In 2017, a team of researchers in China sent a photon from down on Earth 300 miles above us to an orbiting satellite. They did so using a process called quantum entanglement. Scientists have actually been experimenting with photon teleportation for quite some time, this, however, was the longest distance that they have ever achieved. (1)
Over the course of a month, the team teleported millions of photons from their ground station in Tibet to the satellite. More than 900 of those photos were successful. This success has opened up more interest in the future of teleportation. (2)
“This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum Internet,” the research team said.
Read: Mind-blowing Experiments Say That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It
The Same Or An Imposter?
First off, it needs to be made clear that the successful photons didn’t disappear from the ground station and then reappear in the satellite. Rather, they arrived via entanglement, which essentially allows two objects to form at the same moment and point in space. So the photon was now in both locations. The argument is, is that the same photon? If we were to eventually achieve this in humans, would the person who appears on the other side be the same person? Or are they merely a clone?
The problem is, in order to teleport something, you essentially have to destroy the first one and then rebuild it on the other side. Naturally, this becomes complicated when we are talking about actual, living beings. Technically, this would mean that the original person “dies” and then is reconstructed wherever they are teleported to. But even if that person on the other side has the memories, the personality, etc of the original person, is it still the same person, or is it an imposter? (3)
Possible, But Should We Do It?
This group of Chinese scientists aren’t the only ones who have successfully completed teleportation. Back in 2014, a group of scientists from the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience in the Netherlands achieved a 100% success rate of quantum teleportation, albeit at a much shorter distance (within the lab). Teleportation is essentially the passage of information. CNET.com describes it as “achieving a certain set of parameters that then allow properties of one quantum system to get tangled up with another so that observations are reflected simultaneously, thereby “teleporting” the information from one place to another.”. (4)
Still, these ethical issues remain the same: Just because it is possible, is it morally and ethically correct to do-so on actual living beings, not just photons and molecules? Naturally, there are many other complications. Humans and other animals are complex beings, so teleporting them and all of their cells to come out exactly and without any problems on the other side is quite a big challenge.
Also, it could be quite a big risk. Needless to say, we are still many, many years away from human teleportation. For now, you’ll just have to do your best to stay calm in a traffic jam and maybe consider a beach vacation every once in a while, if you can.
Keep Reading: Scientific experiment creates ‘two dimensional’ time
- “Scientists Just Teleported an Object Into Space for the First Time.” Times Melissa Chan. July 12, 2017.
- “Ground-to-satellite quantum teleportation.” Arxiv. Ji-Gang Ren, et al. July 4, 2017.
- “Beam me up? The paradoxes and potential of human teleportation.” Big Thinks. Paul Ratner January 10, 2021.
- “Scientists achieve reliable quantum teleportation for first time.” CNET. Nick Statt. May 29, 2014.