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April 7, 2013

"Jumper" & Real Teleportation

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From "Star Trek" to the new sci-fi film "Jumper," we're all familiar with the idea of teleportation. But as this ScienCentral News video explains, scientists are actually doing real teleportation experiments in the lab.

The research used in the video to the right was presented at the American Physical Society (March 8, 2007), and published in Physical Review Letters (June 30, 2006) and Nature (June 17, 2004). Wineland's research is funded by NIST and the NSA.

Additional Q&A; with Quantum Teleportation researcher David Wineland:

ScienCentral News: When most people think of teleportation, science fiction like Star Trek comes to mind. Is that what you're doing?

David Wineland: The popular notion is how teleportation works in Star Trek, so in that case a human can be transported from one place to another. In quantum teleportation though we don't actually transport matter from one place to another, we transport information. So you might say it'd be like having your twin brother some other place and we could transform your feelings your whole being to your brother through this teleportation process.

SCN: So this is different from what the characters can do in "Jumper"?

DW: The main difference is primarily that in the movie Jumper the person disappears in one place and he's created in another place. The difference with quantum teleportation is that you have copies. It would be the same person or the twin and what you're doing is teleporting the state of being from one place to another. So in quantum teleportation there's no matter that's moved, it's the information that replaces that transfers the state of being from one location to another.

SCN: How is a quantum computer different from a ‘classical' computer we use today?

DW: A quantum computer also has bits like a normal classic computer. One of the key differences is that in a classical computer the bit can only be in one state at a given time it could be a zero or a one and carry that information. And in a quantum computer it has the strange property which has no classical analog so it's a little difficult to understand but the idea is it can be both zero and one at the same time. So that in a full scale quantum computer it can work on a huge number of problems at the same time since it can be in all the different states at once. The typical term is parallelism and in this case a quantum computer is able to run in parallel a large number of operations at the same time rather than a single computation in any given time.

SCN: What does that mean?

DW: To make a comparison between a quantum computer memory and a classical computer memory let's suppose you had a memory of 300 classical bits that could roughly store a line of text. If you had a quantum computer composed of rather 300 quantum bits it could store more information than a classical computer composed of all the matter in the universe.

SCN: That would be pretty amazing, right?

DW: It would be pretty amazing. Yes.

SCN: What are the challenges in making this technology a reality?

DW: The caveat in what we do is that, although we're able to demonstrate the features of quantum teleportation, we don't do it very well yet. There's some imprecision in what we do, so one of the main challenges as far as using teleporting on a quantum computer is to be able to do it with much more precision much higher accuracy. So one of the main challenges we have is to improve the accuracy of the teleportation we do. The second main challenge is to be able to do it on a very large number of quantum bits to do an interesting quantum computing algorithm.

SCN: How about Star Trek type teleportation, will that ever be possible?

DW: Well not in my lifetime, I think that's a pretty safe bet. In principal, the basic ideas that are employed with what we do with quantum teleportation could be done to accomplish essentially what's the teleportation in Star Trek and the movie Jumper, but again the primary difference is that in quantum teleportation we're not transforming matter, so you need all the matter that would compose a person in one place and all the matter that would realize the person in the other location as well. So in principal it could be done but I wouldn't invest in any quantum teleportation companies.

       email to a friend by James Eagan

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