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« Building A Better Mousetrap | Main | Setting Him Up For The Fall »

Well, At Least It Didn't Cost Too Much To Find Out

The Air Force has decided, after a $25,000 study, that Star-Trek-like transporters aren't currently feasible.

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 10, 2005 10:12 AM
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Hmm. Had an interesting talk with a gentleman on a flight from DC to Miami late last year. He's former Army, with connections to the Intel community. He said that the Army is doing experiments in this area, and has teleported small objects. Didn't say how small, or how far. But that it had been successful.

He seemed to be credible, given we only spoke for about half-an-hour.

Just sayin'.

Posted by NukemHill at February 10, 2005 10:34 AM

I ran into a fly-by-night auto dealer in Ridgecrest several years ago who claimed to know folks at China Lake who had transported a golf ball, and a small dog. The latter ended up a bloody mess, supposedly.


Posted by Rand Simberg at February 10, 2005 10:41 AM

Skepticism completely warranted.

I'm tempted to pull out my trusty "well, my army guy is more likely to be trust-worthy than your auto dealer," but I know that doesn't really fly. Like I said, he "seemed" credible, but I hardly have any hard facts to back that up with.

Guess we'll have to wait and see. Not like I'm going to spend my nights scouring the web for clues and innuendo with which to prove myself right! Nonetheless, it is fun to speculate.

Posted by NukemHill at February 10, 2005 10:49 AM

I suspect the impetus for the study was the business about (if I remember the jargon correctly) "pased pairs" -- particles that, once linked by some of that science-technology stuff that resembles magic, can be made to behave identically even though far apart, so that exciting one appears to cause the other to be identically excited.

Having absolutely no background in any of this, I'm merely skeptical if this behavior is scalable above the quantum level.

Posted by McGehee at February 10, 2005 11:10 AM

Er, um... phased pairs.

Posted by McGehee at February 10, 2005 11:17 AM

I'm not a physicist, but I've wondered before if those "passed pairs" could somehow be used to set up real-time communications over great distances.

Interface each one in a communications device, one on earth, one in orbit around Mars, and you wouldn't have any lagtime controlling robotic equipment.

Posted by Jeff Arnall at February 10, 2005 11:23 AM

> I suspect the impetus for the study was the business about (if I remember
> the jargon correctly) "pased pairs" -- particles that, once linked by some of that science-technology stuff that
> resembles magic, can be made to behave identically even though far apart,
> so that exciting one appears to cause the other to be identically excited.

Um, partly. If you read the study, it concludes that teleportation by quantum entanglement is a long way off (as the NBC News article notes).

There's more, that didn't make it into the NBC article. The paper is much more optimistic about what it calls "P-teleportation" (psychokinesis). In fact, it contains the remarkable statement that "extensive controlled and repeatable laboratory data exists to suggest that P-teleportation is quite real and that it is controllable."

This "data" comes from such noted researchers as Uri Geller, who is able to bend spoons and make crystals vanish. The author recommends the Air Force spend $900,000-1,000,000 annually for an experimental program based on "the Chinese and Uri Geller-type experiments."

Posted by Edward Wright at February 10, 2005 01:49 PM

Given the Perversity Principle, if they're saying that it's a long way off it's probably right around the corner. You know! The principle where they say it's right around the corner but it never gets here.

On the other hand,quantum entanglement has been demonstrated recently, I believe.

Posted by John F at February 10, 2005 02:34 PM

Quantum entanglement isn't teleportation. Ah well, what a good way to scam a bit of money off of the Air Force. Psychic teleportation? Give me a break!

Posted by VR at February 10, 2005 03:17 PM


Unfortunately, "entanglement" doesn't give you FTL comms. IIRC, the problem is that the spin or whichever property of the particles is being observed is random. You can't sort the particles by observing the property without disentangling them, so you can't create any sort of signal. (I'm not a physicist either, so I may have botched the explanation, but I do remember that physicists have looked into the possibility of communication by entanglement and found that it doesn't work.)

Posted by Chris H at February 10, 2005 04:14 PM

What they don't tell you in the article was that the only sizable object that they were able to successfully "transport" was a funding check into their bank account. :)

Posted by W. Ian Blanton at February 10, 2005 04:51 PM

I'm sorry - as much as I liked "Star Trek" when I was younger (and even liked "Enterprise"), my first reaction to this story was HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

They're kidding, right?

Posted by Barbara Skolaut at February 10, 2005 04:59 PM

They're kidding, right?

Not the folks trying to get funding. What isn't clear is if they are just misguided or are deliberately trying to scam the Defense Department. Either way, they "only" got $25K out of it.

Posted by VR at February 10, 2005 05:29 PM

Back in the 1970s or so, there was a big flap in the intelligence community about "the G-solution" -- antigravity. Apparently, much effort was expended trying to learn if the Soviets had invented it.

Someone in the Pentagon puts out a request for proposal every year, for a Star Trek phaser. So far, no response.

Posted by Bob Hawkins at February 10, 2005 05:43 PM

It only takes one crazy to be right to have a profound impact, but I'm skeptical even though IBM has spent some of their own money doing research. What caught my attention above was the phrase 'at the quantum level.' There is no quantum level. Although they often talk about effects at the subatomic level, quantum theory is suppose to apply at all scales. It's chief claim to fame being that it is counter intuitive. So what will the world look like fifty years from now?

Posted by ken anthony at February 10, 2005 06:57 PM

The quantum level is a reasonably well defined term. Basically, there's a scale where you can ignore "quantum effects". Eg, you can ignore quantum effects when considering Earth's motion around the Sun or the structure of a bridge. We don't need to understand quantum effects for routine activities in our world.

Posted by Karl Hallowell at February 11, 2005 09:28 AM

Whilst I certainly won't contend that this was any part of the motivation, I can envision an Air Force light colonel giving a disgusted sign and muttering, "The physics-illiterate won't be convinced that teleportation is bunk until we spend a shipload of money on a study showing that it is. We won't convince all of them, of course, but maybe we'll convince enough that we can get some serious work done".

Posted by John "Akatsukami" Braue at February 11, 2005 09:53 AM

the DoD has always had a sweet-tooth for junk science. Think of it as one of those low-probability, high-payoff scenarios. its very unlikely that any kind of teleportation is possible. However, if it did turn out to be possible, it changes eveything (like makes the whole transportation infrastructure obsolete) and raises some very nasty possibilities (like being able to teleport an atom bomb into the Pentagon or capital building).

A related concept is a "traversable wormhole", which is also equally unlikely.

Posted by Kurt at February 11, 2005 11:52 AM

My understanding is that the instantaneous transportation of states between entangled photons does not amount to an instantaneous transfer of information (light speed still being the limit in flat space-time). Entangled photons can neverthelss be used for non-classical communications schemes that are more efficient than the classical ones.

Posted by Kevin Parkin at February 13, 2005 11:25 AM

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