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Jumper: Remembering ‘One Step from Earth’

When Hollywood met MIT last month in Cambridge, MA I suspect most of the students who jammed the on-campus lecture hall to discuss the new movie Jumper were thinking about Star Trek‘s famed transporters. After all, Jumper is a movie about a man who learns at a completely unexpected moment that he can teleport himself anywhere he wants to go. The Enterprise’s transporters could get you to your destination in a hurry, too, and presumably invoked some of the same mechanisms, the gist of which were explained in the discussion by MIT physicists Max Tegmark and Edward Farhi, with Hollywood contribution by director Doug Liman and Hayden Christensen, respectively director and star of the film.

One Step from Earth cover

What came to mind first for me, though, wasn’t Star Trek but the Harry Harrison collection One Step from Earth (Macmillan, 1970). Harrison’s stories wove together a future around the premise that beaming matter to destinations near and far would soon be invented. His book begins with the first interplanetary transmission (an adventurer sent to to Mars in 1993) and proceeds to encounters with alien life and interstellar war. Want to get somewhere quickly? It was easy in Harrison’s world, as he says in his introduction:

A matter transmitter is very easy to use. Justs dial your number, there, as simple as a telephone, and wait until the ready light comes on. Then step forward, you won’t feel a thing. Just walk through the MT screen as though it were a door…

The entertaining outtakes from Jumper that I’ve seen operate a bit differently than Harrison’s matter transmitters, though. For one thing, there is no screen to step through. We see Hayden Christensen and cohorts simply pop out of existence, then re-emerge, perhaps a few feet away (to dodge a blow) or at the top of the Sphinx, to take in the view. In the trailer, Christensen’s character talks about ‘my day so far’: coffee in Paris, a doze on Kilimanjaro, surfing the Maldives, a stop in Rio, and back for the NBA finals. A marvelous capability if you can find it, but actions have consequences and more than a few things soon begin to go wrong.

We know that quantum teleportation not only exists but has been demonstrated in laboratory conditions, with successful teleportation of a photon over a distance of several miles. Yet quantum teleportation carries its own price. To carry it out, you have to begin with two entangled particles, making a measurement that destroys the quantum state of one, but reconstructs that state (after transmitting information about the measurement) in the other. It would be as if, mused MIT’s Farhi, you destroyed Hayden Christensen and transmitted his egregiously complex quantum state information to a bag of elementary particles located somewhere else. Out would emerge the distinguished actor in a new place, but of course the original would have been lost along the way.

Jumper poster

The movie, then, isn’t making any assumptions about quantum teleportation, but in the intriguing MIT discussion, it became clear that if you wanted to go way out on a theoretical limb, it might be possible to invoke wormholes to explain the jumps it depicts. Until recently, the belief was that wormholes might exist according to the laws of physics but could not remain stable without the help of negative energy, and were thus impossible to harness for such functions. On the other hand, we’re now talking about dark energy, a mysterious contributor to the universe’s continuing expansion, and conceivably the stuff by which a wormhole’s mouth could be fixed in place.

Just how you would manipulate that wormhole to go wherever you chose is quite a question, but I like the chutzpah shown by director Doug Liman, who didn’t let this get in the way of telling a good yarn. He wanted, he told the MIT crowd, to know what it would look like if this kind of teleportation happened in front of their eyes, and the effects he uses to suggest the result are ingenious, including a teleportation from underwater into a library complete with onrush of water and associated debris. And since we have no ability to harness dark energy or, indeed, any knowledge of how it operates, having Hayden Christensen possessed by a miraculous power seems as good a plot device as any; no one would argue that the movie is depicting a known phenomenon.

If it were possible, and if it could be done at interstellar distances, imagine the consequences of teleportation. Harry Harrison must have been working with wormholes himself, because he puts no speed of light limitation on his matter transmitters, of the sort required by quantum teleportation. Here’s a snip from the eponymous title story “One Step From Earth,” as our hero on Mars watches his colleague come through the other side:

Otto’s hand appeared even before the voice ended. It took the radio waves nearly four minutes to reach Mars, but the matter transmission was almost instantaneous, since it went through Bhattacharya space where time, as it is normally constituted, does not exist. Otto’s arm dropped limply and Ben took him by the shoulders, a dead weight that he eased to the ground. Rolling him over Ben saw that his eyes were closed. But he seemed to be breathing regularly. He was probably unconscious. Transmission shock, they called it…

Transmission shock indeed, and who wouldn’t experience it when stepping from one planet directly onto another? Let me recommend One Step from Earth, still a fun read after all these years. As for Jumper, I haven’t seen it, but I’ve seen enough scenes from it thanks to Twentieth Century Fox’s press materials that I plan to take it in. Whatever kind of plot you superimpose onto this mind boggling idea (and the plot looks more than a little contrived), the notion of teleportation itself carries its own magic, and while we are a long way from making this kind of jump possible, I am not the one to say that down the road we won’t discover things just as exotic. Working out all the implications is not a task for the faint of heart, but Harry Harrison might still be able to pull it off.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • pinlighter February 16, 2008, 14:35

    “Jumper” reminds me more of Alfred Bester’s “Jaunting” (from The Stars My Destination)

  • Administrator February 16, 2008, 16:07

    Good point, especially since ‘jaunting’ couldn’t be done in outer space, but only on a planetary surface (which is where I believe Jumper confines it), except, of course, in the case of the protagonist. Great book.

  • tacitus February 16, 2008, 16:45

    Reviews of the movie are somewhat underwhelming to say the least…

    Regarding the means of teleportation, I agree that wormholes are more desirable than being killed and having a copy of you reconstructed at the other end. The fact that the copy is still “you” to everyone else is little consolation for being dead!

    And regarding wormholes, you also have to take our planet’s rotation and motion through space into consideration. If you don’t do that then “jumping” anywhere will either leave you stranded in deep space or arriving with a relative velocity that would be, er, incompatible with your staying in one piece as you collide with the ground or other objects around you.

    And that actually begs a real physics question. Do an object passing through a wormhole automatically inherit the proper motion of the other end of the wormhole? (I hope I phrased the question correctly).

  • Administrator February 16, 2008, 18:01

    The question seems phrased correctly to me, and I haven’t a clue as to the answer. Rather an important one at that, at least to the hapless traveler!

    You’re right, the reviews aren’t encouraging for Jumper. I always try to see the movie before I read any reviews, but in this case I read a few. Some in our audience who have seen it may want to weigh in.

  • boomslang February 17, 2008, 12:01

    It’s fairly well-established that Star Trek’s transporters use quantum teleportation rather than wormholes. The references go all the way back to James Blish’s 1970 novel “Spock Must Die!” (the first original Star Trek novel), and, given that Blish also oversaw/wrote the novelizations of all the original series episodes, the notions of “annular confinement beams”, “matter streams”, and “pattern buffers” which survive as passing technobabble in Trek to this day support this model.

    With all due respect to MIT, a better analog to wormhole-based travel would be the Stargate film and TV series, I should think. The Stargate characters often come right out and use the word — and its associated physics as presently understood — to describe how the Stargates operate, especially in terms of their limitations. And the resulting narrative adventures are often in the same mold as Harry Harrison’s tales…

  • Athena February 17, 2008, 12:34

    Kelly’s novelette “Think Like a Dinosaur” is the only story I know of that takes on squarely the question of what happens to the original of a transportee. Very well written, worthy of the Hugo it won. As for Jumper, I think I’ll give it a miss. When the trailers of a film look boring, it’s unmistakably a dud.

  • kurt9 February 17, 2008, 13:30

    Quantum teleportation is derived from QM and wormholes are derived from GR. I think it likely (I am going out on a limb here – I am not a physicist) deriving a Unified theory by deriving QM as a subset of GR, rather than the other way around (which seems to be in vogue), I think wormholes are more likely than quantum teleportation as means of transport, if any of this stuff becomes possible.

    All of the stuff I read on physics suggests that it would be more fruitful to consider QM as a subset of GR, not the other way around. Extended Heim theory is one example of this in that it considers QM as a quantized version of GR. Loop quantum gravity is another (Lee Smolin’s theory).

    There are several good papers and presentations about wormholes (and methods of making “negative” energy in the lab) over at Earthtech’s website (www.earthtech.org). Yes, the Earthtech guys are in the “new” energy field and pormote some unorthodox theories. However, these guys appear to be level-headed and are serious experimenters.

    I think we can all agree that much physics work must be developed before we have any chance of going to the stars.

    I almost never watch Hollywood SF as I usually despise it. One of my favorites, however, is Blade runner. The Matrix and Terminator movies are not bad. Everything else sucks.

  • kurt9 February 17, 2008, 13:40

    A thoughtful and entertaining SF novel that considers these physics themes is Greg Bear’s “Moving Mars”. In it, a young Martian scientist (Martians are humans living on Mars, not real Martians) considers the universe as an “information matrix” and that all of the various particles and forces are defined by parameters, called descriptors. These descriptors can be changed by using a technology derived from Bose-Einstein condensate. This scientists eventually uses this technology to “transport” Mars to another solar system in order to avoid a catastrophic war with Earth.

    My guess is that Greg Bear came up with this idea after hearing about David Bohm’s pilot wave theories.

  • dad2059 February 17, 2008, 16:05

    Athena: I agree, Think Like a Dinosaur most surely captured the reality of the situation if such a mechanism came to pass. I believe there was another, earlier series that took the subject head on, which used Islamic Sufi-ism to explain what happened to a being’s “soul” after a journey through a quantum entanglement matter-transmitter (a misnomer to be sure), but I can’t recall the author.

  • Chris Willrich February 18, 2008, 10:29

    dad2059, Ray Brown did a series of teleportation stories in Analog — the one I remember is “Looking for the Celestial Master,” in the September 1982 issue. That might be what you’re thinking of — it’s been a while but I remember that the question of whether a teleported person is “moved” or “destroyed and duplicated” was central to the story.

  • Adam February 19, 2008, 5:23

    Hi All

    According to quantum chromodynamics we are all “copies” of previous versions of the hadrons that make up our bodies – some 100 billion trillion times per second every proton and neutron is destroyed and recreated from the underlying colour field.

    Particles don’t remain constant in anything. A couple of years ago though “New Scientist” reported on the use of C14 dating to work out how quickly parts of the human body are replaced at a molecular level – surprisingly the only bits that remain constant are crystallins in the eyes, neurones in the cortex and very little else – everything else is replaced continually. Some bits take years, some mere days. The thought that neurones in the cerebral cortex do persist though might indicate “neural identity” in that what’s permanent about the “soul” is those long lived cells. A terrible corollory of that is that neuro-degenerative diseases like ALzheimer’s destroy those cells directly.

    Is identity lost bit by bit then?

  • ljk February 20, 2008, 0:16

    Teleportation and Wormholes: The Science of ‘Jumper’

    By Charles Q. Choi

    Special to LiveScience

    posted: 14 February 2008 09:33 am ET

    The movie “Jumper,” opening today, has a hero with
    the extraordinary power to teleport anywhere on Earth
    by imagining the place he wants to go.

    As fantastic as teleportation seems, it can actually happen
    in the real world.

    “The fact is that physicists have teleported things over miles,”
    said Edward Farhi, the director of MIT’s Center for Theoretical
    Physics. “It doesn’t violate the laws of physics.”

    There’s a huge — or rather, very tiny — caveat, however.

    Full article here:

    http://www.livescience.com/technology/080214-jumper-movie.html

  • ljk February 21, 2008, 10:20

    Will We Ever ‘Jump’?

    Scientists Call New Teleportation Movie Far-Fetched, but
    Not Impossible

    By ASHLEY PHILILPS

    Feb, 14, 2008

    David Rice is a man with a secret, one that he exploits
    to go from catching a killer wave in Fiji to bedding a
    gorgeous blonde in London, just by thinking about it.
    In the new film “Jumper,” which opens Thursday, Rice,
    played by Hayden Christiansen, has a genetic mutation
    that allows him to “teleport” from place to farflung place
    instantly, just by thinking about it.

    While teleportation has figured prominently in science
    fiction, from cries of “Beam me up, Scotty” on “Star Trek”
    to “apparitions” in the “Harry Potter” books, physicists say
    that teleportation is possible now, at least on a small scale,
    and the applications for the future are far from fictitious.

    But pop culture’s depictions of “beaming” people from
    one place to another have significantly mangled the
    perception of what’s actually possible under the laws of
    physics. According to physicists, teleportation in its most
    basic sense is not about sending matter, but about sending
    information.

    “Teleportation is a protocol for sending quantum states
    from one place to another,” said Jeff Kimble, a quantum
    physics professor at the California Institute of Technology.

    “What is a quantum state? A quantum state is a mathematical
    description of all the characteristics that one could learn from measurements.”

    Basically, according to Kimble, when particles are
    “teleported” the actual particle is not teleported, but the
    information about the particle is teleported. In the process
    of transfer, the particle gets destroyed and then “rebuilt”
    with the information sent to the other side, Kimble said.

    (Are you still with me?)

    “We’re not sending the material system itself. What we’re
    sending is the quantum state,” he said. “We don’t send the
    airplane. We send the specifications of the airplane. It’s
    the same thing as a fax. & We don’t send the paper or ink.
    We send the information.”

    Scientists have already begun teleporting particles on a
    very basic level.

    Full article here:

    http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=4284392

  • tom February 27, 2008, 12:50

    Let me get this straight; you want to spread the human genes across our galaxy?
    Why would you want to infect other worlds?

  • tom February 27, 2008, 12:53

    If you don’t like that one, how about; we load up the spaceships with lawyers and politicians.
    Talk about an infection!

  • William Sinclair February 28, 2008, 14:21

    Come on guys –

    We haven’t teleported ANY particles any distance. We are limited by Einstein’s special relativity, which prevents matter from being transmitted faster than light speed. Did someone mention a WORM hole? I don’t think so.

    There is even some doubt about the photons, as in the CPE experiment. When we observe one of the “entangled” photons, the entanglement is DESTROYED. The information can’t be sent to the other photon faster than light speed, either. SO, please don’t take a legit science experiment and make Sci-fi out of it – –

    Nice try, but no cigar – – –

  • ljk June 25, 2008, 14:33

    Is the Universe Actually Made of Math?

    Cosmologist Max Tegmark says mathematical formulas create reality. 06.16.2008

    http://discovermagazine.com/2008/jul/16-is-the-universe-actually-made-of-math

  • James M. Essig June 28, 2008, 16:34

    Hi Folks;

    A really strange idea occurred to me for the first me late yesterday evening. The idea essentially involves the concept of entangling large macroscopic quantities of rocket fuel for interstellar space craft to large supplies of mattergy back here on Earth.

    In particular, one version involves some how transferring or the transmutation of entangled information wherein say, a relatively small mass of rocket fuel would be entangled with a relatively small mass of mattergy back here on Earth whereupon the entangled information for the small mass back here on Earth would be transformed and transferred to an entanglement with a large quantity of mattergy back on Earth. The idea here is that perhaps through some sort of hidden quantum variables, the entanglement between the small mattergy fuel supply of the space craft could be transferred to entanglement with the large Earth-based mattergy supply from the small Earth based supply whereupon, the small mattergy supply on the ship would suddenly be increased to a rest mass equal to that of the large Earth-based supply of mattergy.

    It also occurred to me that perhaps two small supplies of mattergy could be linked, one back on Earth and one on the interstellar manned spacecraft wherein the Earth based supply would have its quantum information entangled, transformed and transferred to a much larger massed supply of antimatter whereupon the quantum mechanical information of the large supply of antimatter would instantly or nearly so be imprinted on the small supply of fuel aboard the interstellar space craft in such a way that the rest mass and parity of the large antimatter supply on Earth would be duplicated aboard the space craft.

    The caveat to all of the above is the actual existence of hidden quantum variables related to the actual substance of mass, the possibility of suddenly converting matter into antimatter, and the apparent violation of the thermodynamic law of the conservation of mattergy that would be required. All three of these concepts are currently taboo among theoretical and definitely among applied physicists.

    I will have more to say on this topic this evening.

    Thanks;

    Jim

  • george scaglione June 29, 2008, 12:43

    jim neat stuff thanks although i think it will be awhile before such is practical. :) your friend george

  • James M. Essig June 30, 2008, 17:29

    Hi George;

    It occurred to me to augment the above concepts with the idea of using such a transformed quantum entanglement linkage to convert a highly organized “monochromatic” beam of neutrinos or other weakly interacting hot dark matter particle species with the information defining a human person’s body and/or transport. The idea is that the quantum information about such would be imprinted on a neutrino or other hot dark matter beam whereupon at the appropriate time, the beam of neutrinos or what ever would be converted into the persons body and/or the transport. The use of such a neutrino beam I could imagine might allow extremely high fidelity and safe transmission of the quantum entangled information.

    Thanks;

    Your Friend Jim

  • James M. Essig July 17, 2008, 0:37

    Hi George and Other Folks;

    It occurred to me to comment on a rather strange idea involving a conjecture with regard to universes, cosmoses, or what ever one desires to call them wherein their is literally no space or no space-time at all.

    The idea involves the notion of a set of elements or objects within such a realm that may range in number from a finite but huge ensemble to a Cardinality of Infinity so is so great or rich that such an infinity could not be symbolically described even on a nanoscale charactered writing tablet as large as our universe if not our entire multi-verse, even by the most advanced ETI beings, even by the entire intellectual output of all ETI beings combined. Basically, I am conjecturing about such a huge number of such elements that even the most advanced ETI civilizations could not fathom the number.

    These absolutely non-spatial, non-geometrically extended, and perhaps even non-temporal entities would interact with each other directly or indirectly, completely, or non-completely with absolutely no extended dimensionality, field, energy, nor anything else that has spatial or geometric extension. These objects would be present to each other but not in the spatial, geometrically, topologically, or extended sense. The presence could be complete and immediate or intermediary, or partial and immediate or intermediary.

    Such entities might effect each other in a casual way based on temporal sequential, anti-sequential, and/or simultaneous effects or there may be partially or absolutely non-temporal serial, anti-serial, or partially or collectively existential or ontological immediate effects by which the elements interact.

    Another option would be that the entities would interact in a completely or partially non-casual manner. I will have more to say on this concept later today after I catch some rest.

    The closet concept to this that I can think of is the Judeao-Christian concept of pure spirits referred to as angels although I mention angels simply as an analogous example to convey some highly abstract concepts and in no way as an attempt to convert anybody

    Thanks;

    Your Friend Jim

  • James M. Essig July 17, 2008, 13:52

    Hi Folks;

    Regarding the concept of the entities or objects described in my above posting interacting in a completely or partially non-casual manner, one version of such non-casual interaction may simply be the real interrelations between the objects by which the relative characteristics of the objects are defined. For instance, if an object somehow evolved or improved within on its own, while the other object or objects did not, the relative relation among the combined set of objects would change as would the relation between the object that evolved and the other objects. Even if the change in the evolving object was not caused by any other object such as by a spatial-temporal effect, force or energy field, or casual interacting, in a sense all of the objects would change because their relative inter-relationship would change. This seems true because part of what defines an object is its relative characteristics wherein relative only has meaning with reference to other objects.

    Another concept of non-casual interaction involves the notion of the final cause which is an Aristotelian concept of cause that accordingly explains the cause of something in terms of its conceived end, or the purpose why it is made. This end or purpose by which something or an object is made or comes into being might change as other beings are made or created or otherwise come into being or become inter-related with the former said object. Since objects are defined in part by their relative inter-relation, the creation or coming into being of the latter objects can define or alter in some way the conceived end or purpose of the former said object. With a change in the conceived end or purpose of the former said object, the meaning of an object changes and this meaning is what defines in part an object at the level of its inherent value or goodness.

    Note that the notion of the final cause would seem to imply some higher meaning or objective purpose for each element of creation and so the existence or purpose for each object would seem to be implicit. The reader of this posting might attribute such a higher purpose to each element of creation to a kind of cosmic consciousness, a cosmic force, a God or Deity, or to some impersonal objective reality of a good or of the notion of purpose.

    Then of course, there could be anywhere from one to an innumerable if not indefinably large Cardinalities of existential, or ontological principles of the same class as cause and effect but each as different from each other as they are different from cause and effect. The possibility of such gives me all the more awe about this great creation we call the cosmos in which we are just on the first stepping stone in eternity. That first stepping stone is the Earth’s moon and is another small step for man that we will take when we go back by 2020.

    Thanks;

    Jim

  • James M. Essig July 21, 2008, 14:00

    An interesting idea occurred to me last night that involves the notion of using quantum entanglement to see inside a black hole or somehow communicating with an object that has fallen into a black hole.

    The idea essentially entails the dropping into a black hole of a very small, stretch resistant probe that has a supply of matter and/or photons that are entangled with a receiver located a safe distance away from the black hole. As the small probe descended into the black hole, it would transmit information such as from sensors (which might optionally include a camera) to the receiver outside instantaneously. The probe could be dropped into either a rapidly rotating black hole or a slowly rotating black hole where the speed of rotation is negligible.

    For rapidly rotating black holes, tiny, very sturdy micro pods carrying human embryos, or human eggs and sperm cells, could be dropped into the black holes in the hope that the probes and their contents will survive any passage through the central ring like structure hypothesized to exist at the center of rapidly rotating black holes. If upon passing through the central ring of such black holes, such probes would end up traveling into the past, present, future, and/or cosmic spatial distances within our universe or perhaps into other universes, provided nanoscale self assembly mechanisms might grow into nursery like incubators for the embryos or fertilized eggs wherein the embryos would grow to the point of a mature infant wherein, afterward, the infant would be raised until adulthood by robots produced out of ambient materials in planetary environments. Note that once the probes arrived out of the black hole, they could have a planet finding search feature to guide them to the nearest habitable planets.

    This idea might entail a tremendous pro-life effort to spread humanity into distant regions within our universe, past, present, or future, and into other universes, some perhaps very remote from our universe.

    Thanks;

    Jim

  • george scaglione July 22, 2008, 15:00

    jim wow pretty cool futuristic thinking!however i feel that using that method to send humans all across time is kinda if you’ll forgive me and,no pun intended – waaaay out there! keep up the excellent work my friend your buddy george

  • ljk January 22, 2009, 23:29

    Atoms teleport information over long distanceNew approach extends range of atomic teleportation:

    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/37450

  • ljk August 20, 2009, 12:20

    Quantum Energy Teleportation with Electromagnetic Field: Discrete vs. Continuous Variables

    Authors: Masahiro Hotta

    (Submitted on 19 Aug 2009)

    Abstract: Local measurements of quantum fluctuation in the vacuum state of electromagnetic field require energy infusion to the field. The infused energy is diffused to spatial infinity with light velocity and the state of the field soon becomes a local vacuum with zero energy around the measurement area.

    Of cource we cannot retrieve energy from this measurement area if we do not know the measurement result of the fluctuation. However, if the measurement result is available for us, we are able to extract energy from the local vacuum of the field, applying the protocol of quantum energy teleportation recently proposed.

    By performing a local unitary operation around the measurement area dependent on the measurement result, the fluctuaion of zero-point oscillation is squeezed and negative energy density appears around the area, accompanied by extraction of positive energy from the field.

    In this paper, we compare two different protocols of the energy retrieval. In the first protocol, a 1/2 spin is coupled with the fluctuation of the field and measured in order to get one-bit information about the fluctuation. In the second protocol, a harmonic oscillator is coupled with the fluctuation and measured in order to get continuous-variable information about the fluctuation.

    In the spin protocol, the amount of the extracted energy is suppressed by an exponential damping factor when the energy infused by the measurement becomes large. This suppression factor becomes power damping in the harmonic oscillator protocol. Hence, it is concluded that more information about the quantum fluctuation is obtained by the measurement, more energy can be teleported.

    Comments: 24 pages, 4 figures

    Subjects: General Physics (physics.gen-ph)

    Cite as: arXiv:0908.2674v1 [physics.gen-ph]

    Submission history

    From: Masahiro Hotta [view email]

    [v1] Wed, 19 Aug 2009 04:03:02 GMT (259kb)

    http://arxiv.org/abs/0908.2674

  • ljk February 9, 2010, 22:37

    http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/24759/

    Wednesday, February 03, 2010

    Physicist Discovers How to Teleport Energy

    First, they teleported photons, then atoms and ions. Now one physicist has worked out how to do it with energy, a technique that has profound implications for the future of physics.

    In 1993, Charlie Bennett at IBM’s Watson Research Center in New York State and a few pals showed how to transmit quantum information from one point in space to another without traversing the intervening space.

    The technique relies on the strange quantum phenomenon called entanglement, in which two particles share the same existence. This deep connection means that a measurement on one particle immediately influences the other, even though they are light-years apart. Bennett and company worked out how to exploit this to send information. (The influence between the particles may be immediate, but the process does not violate relativity because some informatiom has to be sent classically at the speed of light.) They called the technique teleportation.

    That’s not really an overstatement of its potential. Since quantum particles are indistinguishable but for the information they carry, there is no need to transmit them themselves. A much simpler idea is to send the information they contain instead and ensure that there is a ready supply of particles at the other end to take on their identity. Since then, physicists have used these ideas to actually teleport photons, atoms, and ions. And it’s not too hard to imagine that molecules and perhaps even viruses could be teleported in the not-too-distant future.

    But Masahiro Hotta at Tohoku University in Japan has come up with a much more exotic idea. Why not use the same quantum principles to teleport energy?

    Today, building on a number of papers published in the last year, Hotta outlines his idea and its implications. The process of teleportation involves making a measurement on each one an entangled pair of particles. He points out that the measurement on the first particle injects quantum energy into the system. He then shows that by carefully choosing the measurement to do on the second particle, it is possible to extract the original energy.

    All this is possible because there are always quantum fluctuations in the energy of any particle. The teleportation process allows you to inject quantum energy at one point in the universe and then exploit quantum energy fluctuations to extract it from another point. Of course, the energy of the system as whole is unchanged.

    He gives the example of a string of entangled ions oscillating back and forth in an electric field trap, a bit like Newton’s balls. Measuring the state of the first ion injects energy into the system in the form of a phonon, a quantum of oscillation. Hotta says that performing the right kind of measurement on the last ion extracts this energy. Since this can be done at the speed of light (in principle), the phonon doesn’t travel across the intermediate ions so there is no heating of these ions. The energy has been transmitted without traveling across the intervening space. That’s teleportation.

    Just how we might exploit the ability to teleport energy isn’t clear yet. Post your suggestions in the comments section if you have any.

    But the really exciting stuff is the implications this has for the foundations of physics. Hotta says that his approach gives physicists a way of exploring the relationship between quantum information and quantum energy for the first time.

    There is a growing sense that the properties of the universe are best described not by the laws that govern matter but by the laws that govern information. This appears to be true for the quantum world, is certainly true for special relativity, and is currently being explored for general relativity. Having a way to handle energy on the same footing may help to draw these diverse strands together.

    Interesting stuff. There’s no telling where this kind of thinking might lead.

    Ref: http://arxiv.org/abs/1002.0200: Energy-Entanglement Relation for Quantum Energy Teleportation