“Beam me over three feet, Scotty!”

Knowing I would get a kick out of this, my wife sent me an article about some magicians (Quantum Physicists) who have successfully teleported “quantum data” from one atom to another, over a distance of 2.96336602 x 10-17 Parsecs, or about 3 feet.

How they’ve achieved this feat of “hocus pocus” may be a little muddy to the layperson, but I’ll try to break it down for you all. From the article:

The contraption is a Rube Goldberg-esque mix of vacuum chambers, fiber optics, lasers and semitransparent beam splitters in a laboratory at the Joint Quantum Institute in Maryland.

So that doesn’t sound too complicated. A trip to Maryland, a couple standard household items, maybe something from your Mr. Wizard’s World wizarding kit. So far, so good, right? Heck, I bet you just teleported yourself back to 1986, watching that ol’ Mr. Wizard making clouds in his kitchen sink. This quantum physics stuff is pretty easy!

The article goes on with the scientists describing their process, and some of the “reasons” behind why it works. You can skip all the reading and just look at these pictures, as they sum it all up nicely (who has time for reading when there’s quantum physics to be done!). On a side note, I wonder what would happen if you put Jeff Goldblum in one of those teleportation chambers? Maybe a follow-up question I’ll pose to the scientists.

So let’s get a little scientific here. How does this really work? I’m no quantum physicist, but I think I know the answer: Quantum physics is a bunch of hooey! See, the basis of quantum physics is that it explains things…but in no certain terms. Or maybe more appropriately, it explains things in uncertain terms. From the article:

Because it was not known which photon came from which atom, the photons became “entangled,” meaning that the behavior of the two particles became wrapped up in a single equation even though they were not in the same place.

As clear as a bell, and sound as an old engineer. Let’s start simple (and work towards nonsense):

A photon is a unit of light. So they have two atoms sitting in the room (a few feet apart). They shoot the atoms with a laser (probably produced by a cat) to entice them to release a photon. They direct each atom’s photon down a “tunnel” of fiber optics and “shine” the photons together. At this point they don’t know which photon came from which atom, but can take a measurement of them.

Now a key concept here to remember is that light (i.e. photon) and time are exclusive of one another. Where light travels, there is no time. Light moves from one place to another instantaneously. A “stream” of light at an instance in time is really a single photon appearing at all the locations in the stream, all at once.

So in this experiment, these photons are both at the atom and at the “shine spot” at the same time. The two atoms are also sharing the same “shine spot.” So at the exact moment of this experiment occurring, this photon/light is technically located at atom A, atom B, the “shine spot”, and everywhere in between all at the same time. You can’t say where it really is, and nothing scientific (not yet anyway) can tell you. It’s just everywhere. Because of this silly phenomenon…anything that “give value to” one of the atoms is invariably giving value to the other atom as well. It’s like a theoretical (or maybe physical?) wormhole. All of the sudden, your two separate atoms are actually the same atom! (…and all because you had to take a measurement, didn’t you.)

Really, the hooey part of quantum physics is “measurements” or anything that “gives value to” (important, thus the bold flavour). A measurement is assigning a value to something at a given point in time. Repeat, a given point in time. In quantum physics, there is no movement of time. Remember that photon…it is not at a precise location but technically everywhere along the path of light. Even in the pictures, they indicate an ion of ytterbium in “quantum superposition” has its SINGLE election in both a north and south orientation (creepy, huh?). The reason (I believe) is that if you remove time, as in quantum physics, your value is (and must be) ANY possible value! You know, Heisenburg’s Uncertainty Principle. Ah, I guess it kinda makes sense?!?

So are they really teleporting information from one atom to another? I suppose they are, but it only seems like a technicality. Really, they are just producing a scenario in which the two atoms are equally effected in a single equation, and by assigning one of the atoms a value based on two indepented measurements, they are “giving” (i.e. teleporting)a known value to the other atom. Viola!

One Response to “Beam me over three feet, Scotty!”

  1. Nicely put, Dr. T. “Your genius is showing”

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