Why Teleportation Could Be Far Slower Than Walking

Article written: 31 Jul , 2013
Updated: 30 Dec , 2015
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It always looked so easy in the Star Trek episodes. “Two to beam up,” Captain James T. Kirk would say from the planet’s surface. A few seconds later, the officers would materialize on the Enterprise — often missing a few red-shirts that went down with them.

A new analysis says the teleportation process wouldn’t take a few seconds. It could, in fact, stretch longer than the history of the universe! “It would probably be quicker to walk,” a press release said laconically.

Students from the University of Leicester examined the time and power required to move a human being’s data through a teleporter. They assumed the data would be DNA pairs within each cell, calculated as about 1010 bits per cell! Including the person’s brain, the number of bits is staggering: 2.6 x 1042.

(Thanks to Nautilus for reminding us of this video.)

The time it takes to send up the person depends on the bandwidth. Assuming a rate of 29.5 to 30 GHz, the students determined sending up a person would take 350,000 times longer than the universe’s age of 14 billion years. You can view the calculations in detail in the University of Leicester’s Journal of Physics Special Topics, an annual publication featuring papers from final year masters of physics students.

Teleportation also featured in a new article in Nautilus, where writer Jennifer Ouellette concluded the amount of information in a human being would be scrambled while teleporting:

Here’s the reality check: the average human body contains roughly 1028 atoms, or more than a trillion trillion. It takes a great deal of effort to keep two particles entangled. It is extremely difficult to get more than a few atoms to vibrate together, perfectly synchronized, because of interference. In the real world, objects interact constantly with the environment, and decoherence occurs instantaneously. If I tried to teleport information about every single atom in my body via quantum entanglement, decoherence would scramble things in an instant.

For more, be sure to check out her entire article.

What are your thoughts on teleportation? Is it impossible, or is there something these analyses are missing?

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20 Responses

  1. MiCk says

    On top of that, bandwith should be equal to the data set size since I guess a body “reassembled” with delay between parts of it would not be so functional anymore….

  2. Patrick Scheible says

    The DNA is the same from one cell in the body to another, with a few exceptions. It shouldn’t be necessary to transmit EVERY DNA pair of EVERY cell.

  3. ziplock9000 says

    “Assuming a rate of 29.5 to 30 GHz” – WHY?????

  4. POBOs says

    Step 1: A pair of entangled ions are created: B and C
    Step 2: The state to be teleported is created in ion A
    Step 3: One ion from the pair – in this case B – is entangled with A and both are measured
    Step 4: The result of the measurement is sent to ion C and the tranformation implemented
    Step 5: The state of C is now the same as that prepared for A

  5. Justin Eckrote says

    We have barely begun to grasp quantum mechanics in general so while this may end up being true, I believe it is premature to say much.

  6. Where do they get 29.5 to 30 GHz? Why not more? Is there a limitation?

  7. The Latinist says

    It’s far worse than that. It’s not just one’s DNA that matters (after all, a person at birth and in old age has substantially the same DNA). Teleportation would require details of the position of and connections between every molecule in the body — including those in our microbiota. DNA is really the least of it.

  8. Zoutsteen from Holland says

    Lucky us, with quantum states someone can be everywhere at the same time. All we need to do is figure out what causes someone to be stuck in a single (place) state … and than change the variable. I guess that would require a bit less Bandwith, and probably can be done by manipulating a complete volume at once in one single swoop.

  9. RavenNation says

    I’m not optimistic. But, since I live in Nebraska & my girlfriend lives in Colorado, I’m rooting for it to work. Soon!

  10. Herkfixer says

    2 things that do appear to be missing from this. Moore’s Law and Distance. Bandwidth would most likely not be limited to GHz in Star Trek times because transporters didn’t transport “bits”. They transformed the data to pure energy and trasmitted that via the transporter system powered by the warp core. These “beams” could travel faster than the speed of light (relatively) as there was even a subspace transporter at one point.

    I’m sure this is why it wasn’t invented until the 22nd century. It is calculated that it would also take 10×18 J in 2 seconds to do this for 1 person. The average energy output of a Galaxy class starship is 1.56 x 1015 TeraWatts which would be plenty of energy, (http://www.ditl.org/pagarticle.php?ArticleID=26&ListID=Articles)

    So I would think if they could invent an engine that could output that much energy, they could easily push enough information at a fast enough rate to make this feasible. At least with a few more centuries of R&D.

    • I3VI5 says

      “Transformed the data in pure energy”?! What do you mean by “pure energy” Spock? Aren’t electromagnetic waves a form of energy?

      Keep dreaming about teleportation. It will never happen, forget it.
      For at least three reasons:
      – How do you know it’s “you” who’s coming out on the other side? The machine is basically killing you once and recreating you on the other end. Let say the machine copied all the atoms in your body (10 to the 28th by the way!), who’s to say that even the relative position of the electrons, protons and neutrons has something to do with “who we are”? So they’ll never gonna be able to copy the “whole you”.
      – How do you know the machine is making only one copy of you? What if it’s storing the data? Maybe not on purpose but because it was hacked or the NSA deems it necessary for national security reasons (lol)?
      – Let’s assume that the energy required for one person is around 10×18 jouls; that’s 100 Twh!!! That’s more electricity than the US consumes in four days!!! And just for one person! Don’t you think there are much more efficient ways to transport someone from the surface of the planet?! lol Even the space shuttle is waaaayyyy more efficient.

      Science fiction is about dreaming the impossible, not dreaming “the absurd”. Teleportation was introduced to the star trek world and on any other similar world as a cost cutting measure (no need to waste money on filming the enterprise landing everytime they decide to go to the ground) and also so that they have a last minute tool to save the hero.

  11. 1wrld1 says

    This doesn’t make sense. How is a baby “teleported” on earth in merely 9 months? 🙂

  12. Din Sel says

    How will the persons “soul” be transported? How are this thoughts, memories & state of mind copied and implanted on the other side.

    Teleportation if done as “cloning at a distance” will be less complicated than dismembering every single atom in a human body, then accelerating it to near speed of light to the desired location, then assembling it again.
    No need to destroy A, just so you can build B (which is A but re-assembled) on the other side. It is would be simpler to just create a clone of A, using other materials at a distance.

    Whatever way the telephoning is done, it will always need the unbelievably complex and sophisticated machines at the receiving end of teleportation as well at its source of origin.
    Teleporting a Human into “thin air” is beyond any scientific reason.

    I agree with the article above in a sense that human teleportation is less of a “science fiction” and more of a “complete fiction”.

    • The Latinist says

      Do you have any evidence that a soul exists? Otherwise, I think that’s not really a concern.

  13. Derek Mathias says

    Step 1: Develop mature molecular manufacturing.
    Step 2: Insert a self-replicating nanobot into a person and have it replicate into every cell (this should take a few hours).
    Step 3: Have the nanobots digitally record all the information for each cell and transmit it to a computer (this may or may not require the disassembly of the person, but probably better to do it anyway to avoid duplicates).
    Step 4: There is no step 4.
    Step 5: Use a tight-beam laser to beam the digital information to a distant receiving station (which could be on another planet, even one in another solar system).
    Step 6: Use the data to reassemble the person at the receiving station (basically reversing the disassembly process). The original person will be dead but the duplicate won’t know the difference, so enjoy your interplanetary trip.

  14. I3VI5 says

    Well when you “assume” something, you kinda have to put a value on the “assumption”, otherwise you can’t do any calculations.

    • ziplock9000 says

      That’s a given. I’m asking why those figures which are massively pessimistic and assume a single data channel. Its as if they picked figures and methodology to make a headline grabbing conclusion.

  15. krenshala says

    I remember reading that Gene Rodenberry was asked once “So, how does the transporter system work?” His answer was simply “Quite well.”

    Also, I agree with Gregory Strike’s question about why the limitation of 29.5 to 30 GHz as the transfer rate (also, thats a frequency, not a data transmission rate). Multi-channel transmissions are quite common now, which allows increased throughput. If we had the technology to do teleportation of a person (quantum or otherwise) why would we be limited to a single data stream to get the data from A to B?

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