How many times have you wished for teleportation abilities?

Maybe when you’re stuck in traffic and late for work, or hiding in the bathroom in the middle of a bad first date? As it turns out, teleportation isn’t all just sci-fi dreaming, but the reality of the technology isn’t quite what you’re imagining. 

More Science Than Magic

At its core, teleportation is simply the immediate transfer of information from one spot to another. The reality is that humans, and any other complex living or inanimate object, are too difficult to beam to a different place within the blink of an eye, because there’s simply too much information to try to communicate at once. 

Much smaller members of the quantum universe, though, are a different story. Elements of quantum physics, like photons and electrons, are all identical to one another. This makes it possible replicate them in another space at the same time. It should be noted that quantum teleportation doesn’t eliminate the existence of the first photon, electron, or neuron, it simply immediately transfers its data to another location. 

Basically, all of this is to say that although real-life teleportation won’t beam you from one place to another in a flash, it could make data transfers more secure than they have been in decades. 

Failing to see how quantum teleportation translates to heightened security? You’re in good company, it’s difficult for most people who aren’t physicists to wrap their heads around this idea. Think of quantum particles as a pair of dancers. Once they become involved in something called quantum entanglement, the connection cannot be broken even if there’s a great deal of space between them. 

Like two dancers, one particle will always react to another. Therefore, someone at the receiving end of a series of particles could decipher a message based on their relationship to entangled particles from the sender. In this way, highly encrypted messages could be sent from one place to another. 

Why Can’t It Work for Humans?

The only reason that quantum teleportation is possible is that the particles are so small and simple that they don’t require any sort of unpacking or breaking down. People, on the other hand, contain a massive number of atoms that would all have to be broken down and reconfigured in a new place. The breaking down on its own would almost certainly prove lethal for any living being. 

Still, the idea that teleportation can occur at all was born out of myth and legend. Without Shakespeare’s The Tempest, or the original story of Aladdin, scientists may never have conceptualized the possibility of teleportation.

The idea has been further cemented by countless film and television depictions of teleportation, from Star Trek to The Wizard of Oz. Basically, teleportation of living beings is theoretically possible (there are particles everywhere in the universe that could be configured into a new creature), but it’s highly unlikely. 

In any case, quantum teleportation allows for new questions and new possibilities. Even if the only application that these developments ever lead to is a new method for more secure data transfer, even that will be a feat of modern science.