THE FASTEST IMAGINABLE
Over the past millennia, there has been a rapid change in commonly employed modes of transportation. Movement from one place to another has become relatively quicker and easier and the human race is heavily dependent on such systems. This dependence, in turn, has resulted in many advances in transport technology to further evolve different ways of getting from point A to B. But what is the fastest possible speed of travel? Einstein was a firm believer that the speed of light was a barrier that could not be broken.
But in 1935, he proved himself wrong; with the help of Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, Albert Einstein theorized a method of faster-than-light (FTL), instantaneous travel known as teleportation, which Einstein referred to as a “spooky action”.
Teleportation is the near instantaneous transportation of matter, energy or information from one point in space to another. Most correlate this with sci-fi media, for example in Star Trek. Star Trek most famously represents a teleportation device which allows Captain Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members to descend upon unknown planets in the blink of an eye. But is this really possible in real life?
In 1972, a group of U.S. scientists were the first to actually make this happen at a quantum scale. The managed to teleport a photon, the quantum unit of light, over a large distance in FTL speeds over short distances. Today’s scientists are actively working on achieving this feat over greater distances and with greater efficiency. The current record for teleporting a photon sits at 89 miles set by a group of international scientists working in the Canary Islands.
HOW DOES THIS WORK?
Quantum entanglement is widely defined as the interrelation of the properties of two quantum substances in such a way that if one were to change one of the quantum objects in any way, this change would appear on the other object instantaneously, irrespective of the distance between them. This means that the entangled pairs are somehow connected. The reason as to why this occurs is still a mystery.
So how can we use this information to transfer data or matter? Let’s say Person A has an Object A which is entangled with Person B’s Object B. If Person A wants to teleport Object C (e.g. a photon) to Person B, Person A must provide all the measurements of Object C to Person B for replication. However, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that not all aspects of a quantum object can be known at the same time.
As can be seen from Figure 2, what Person A can do is make Object C interact with Object A, making them correlated, and measure half the properties of Object C and send it to Person B. Half the data isn’t enough for Person B to replicate Object C, but, now, due to the entanglement between Object A and B, Object B is a replica of Object C. Hence, by using half the data from Person A, and using the other half of the data which can be collected from Object B (behaving like Object C), Person B can combine the two sources of information and use the necessary raw materials to create a replica of Object C without making the entanglement of Object A and B unusable in the future. Unfortunately, Person A has to send this information through a more conventional method, making the method to limit at light speed. Fortunately, scientists have found a different method involving entangled particles to be suspended in superposition, allowing 100% of the Object C to be transported at a speed greater than the speed of light (some say 10 000 times greater).
Over the past century, the impossible has been achieved in the field of transportation. FTL travel might just become a reality in the near future and revolutionise communication and travel altogether. But don’t hold your breath!
Image of Nonotak Studios’ Daydream installation, courtesy of creators