Wednesday, June 30, 2010

star trek.. please step on the transporter

Let me start out by saying I'm not a star trek fan. Never got into the original series, never cared about the next generation. That's not to say I can't appreciate some of the technology that this sci-fi (or syfi for the cool kids) brought to our world. Portable computer, cellphones, and more importantly, get us thinking about teleportation. Now I'm sure someone thought of the idea of popping from one location to another almost instantaneously long before star trek. Perhaps there have been fictional books talking about this very thing, but there's something about visuals that get gears turning inside scientific minds. Once you see someone's concept of what they think a fictional item should look like or work, it tends to get the ball rolling.

Anyway, there have been very archaic teleportation success stories so far. I think about 3-4 years ago they teleported the first data string 10 miles. No, not send data over fiber optic, but really teleport it (one microsecond the data is on one side, the next it's over here). Again, teleporting is not physically moving an object, but rather having equal building blocks on each side, making a copy where you want to go, and then deleting the old one.

Now let's first start with an inanimate object. Let's keep it simple, let's say we want to teleport a 1" cube made of sugar from my front door to the next town. In order to accomplish this task, a computer would need to do a molecular scan of the orignal. Not only would it need very precise coordinates of each molecule of sugar, but the status of each molecule (in other words, what location are all the neutrons of each molecule at, and what direction/speed are they traveling at that exact moment). Once you have that data (capturing all of it simultaneously), and you could transport that data to another location, and tell that machine to recreate this structure with this data, then in theory it's absolutely possible to teleport a real physical object. But of course, you ask yourself, how do you go about assembling even a simplistic object on a molecular level? I'm not really sure, perhaps nanobots the size of molecules that would do a cell level bond and build it like a lego set?

Now let's skip to humans. That gets WAY more complicated. Your talking about multiple types of molecules (skin, bone, hair, blood cells/vessels, organs, neurons firing at the speed of light), not to mention a living breathing hunk of flesh.. with a soul! Even if by some miracle, you have a computer powerful enough to figure out how to assemble a full human being with a manufacturing plant stocked with pre-made molecules, all those necessary to build a human, imagine actually trying to orchestrate such a build! Even if you are able to build another human, or perhaps you simply have stockpiles of clone bodies waiting for your soul to be transferred to, how do you transfer a soul? Is your soul transferrable? Are we really just pure energy inside, and is that something that can be tranported? Many (especially those that have died, or experimented with OBE) all claim that there's this silver cord which binds you to your body, and keeps evil spirits out. If you really are so attached to your present body, how does your soul get trnasferrred?

Well anyway, let's skip all that technical jargon mumbo jumbo for a moment. Let's assume there's some secret sauce that finally allows humans to be teleported. In fact let's assume you need no building blocks, but all your molecules are actually transported through high-speed tubes traveling at thousands of miles per hour. You step on a transporter, it breaks you down like a Tron movie, chunk by chunk, sends you along, and re-assembles you on the other end, so fast you don't even notice the process at all. So if this super fast computer is capable of dis-assembling and re-assembling your body, what's to say it can't change it as it rebuilds you? Suppose you tell the computer "When you rebuild me, make me a female", or "Make me 6 inches shorter, just run the scaling program". It could theoretically possible to do sex changes on the fly. But of course you have to wonder, if you make yourself smaller, where do those molecules go? And if they get collected as leftover scrap flesh, is it a point of no return? Does the transporter keep spare molecules to go the other way around? What if the computer makes a mistake?

let's explore one scenario

Please step onto the transporter captain, we'll beam you back up to the main deck

I never liked that jerk, how bout you guys? What do you say we have some fun with him :-)

What are you guys mumbling abou...... beeeooooowww!

WHAT DID YOU GUYS DO TO ME?!! YOU NOT ONLY MADE ME A GIRL, BUT YOU DEMOTED ME TO CREW MEMBER!

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