This article deals with ways that early books, movies and television series have utilized teleportation of people while using mechanical assistance. As interesting as individualized teleportation by the power of the mind might be, I've decided that teleporting by wishing it to happen is just too magical. I will try to at least make this article as realistic as possible (yes, I'm being serious).
What Is Teleportation?
The theory has two potentials. You can:
1) Simply find a way to break down every atom in the body to a form that can be somehow carried across space and then reintegrated at a designated location or
2) You can make a copy of the information in the body, find a way to send it across space and then assemble that information back into a living person.
That was simple enough. The examples below will deal with both theories.
History of Teleportation Devices
During 1877, early science fiction writer Edward Page Mitchell wrote a short story called A Man Without a Body. A man had discovered how to disassemble animal and then human atoms. He then sent them along a telegraph wire and reassembled them. The trip was cut short when the telegraph battery died after only transmitting the inventor’s head. You might say he was ahead of his time.
Then there was the famous short story named The Fly by George Langelaan. It was published in the June 1957 issue of Playboy magazine. A brilliant scientist created machines, which he called disintegrator-reintegrators. These were booths in two separate basement rooms attached to wires. When the scientist attempted the first human trial (on himself), unbeknownst to him, a fly had slipped into the booth. The result was two beings, one more fly than human and the other more human than fly. From that point on, the mixed-up scientist (pardon my pun) desperately attempted to find the small insect in order to run them back through the chambers in order to get him back to normal.
The grotesque tale begat three films: The Fly (1958), Return of the Fly (1959), Curse of the Fly (1965), The Fly (1966 remake) and finally The Fly II (1989). All of these films were based on teleportation accidents and their attempted resolutions.
Teleportation history was made when in 1966, producers of a television series called Star Trek decided that money could be saved by not creating small spacecraft to get from their main ship in space to the surface of a planet. Teleportation was used as a way to “transport” people to the landing site and the rest was history. The characters also referred to this action as beaming up. This was all done through the transporter unit, which was based in the main spacecraft (Enterprise). I'd have to spend another page trying to note the movies, sequels and television spin-offs that sprung from Star Trek so let’s just say that teleportation became a household idea due to the original three-year series.
In 1995, Christopher Nolan published a book called The Prestige. During the early 1900’s, scientist Nikola Tesla (who was a real inventor during that era) created replicating machines for a magician. You know, disappear from one cabinet and reappear in another (or somewhere else on stage). In 2006, a mystery thriller film, also called The Prestige was produced. I will not give away the plot to this superb movie but it helped me to better understood what can happen when fame and greed are mixed with science. This now leads me to one of the possible consequences of teleportation.
The Guts of Human Teleportation
As computers grow to be more sophisticated, with the ability to hold and compute more information than the human brain, we will eventually reach a point where teleportation of matter is possible. In reality, it would take more energy to perform a simply people transport than now exists in the known universe. Putting that aside, there is really only one way to perform the feat of teleportation and that is to destroy the original. I will explain this in terms that I have learned from Star Trek (pardon the nerd in me).
You are on the USS Enterprise. Once you step on the transport (teleportation) pad, the computer scans everything that makes you a person. This information is stored in a buffer, which acts as a holding cell for what you are now (which is data). The data is then “beamed” down to the planet where it is received by another transporter buffer. Within this second buffer contains the building blocks of all matter. The second buffer reads your information and builds you from the data that it has been given. What you are now is a “new you” built from the materials in the second buffer. What has happened to the “original” you might ask?” You were totally disintegrated of course.
Some might consider this murder. Others say this is just plain evil. The picture below explains it best.
Why destroy the original person, you might ask? Think about it. Let’s say the Enterprise transporter copies everything that is Captain Kirk but the original is not destroyed. The data is beamed to the surface and integrated into a new Captain Kirk. What do you do with two Kirks? Which is the real one? Also, the more you teleport, the more copies you have. Consider that Captain Kirk has transported hundreds of time in the course of the original three-year Star Trek series. Fortunately, the show was not built with the duplication theme in mind (except on rare occasions). In the Trek world, we think of teleportation as pieces of us thrown down to the planet and put back together. Just rebuild the original. Simple.
Want to take the next step into complicated? The reintegration (or rebuilding) process is even riskier than the disintegration part. For the sake of argument, let's deal again with killing the original person.
The usual Star Trek transport theme is to beam people to the planet and make them appear at any location but this means the Enterprise computer is doing all the work (no receiving computer on the planet). The main computer copies the original person, destroys the original, sends the information to a spot on the planet and then builds the information into a person. During the return trip, this also means when you are standing on the planet and say, “Beam me up,” that the Enterprise computer locates you, copies your information, destroys you, beams the data into the ship’s buffer, which then builds the “new you” from matter onboard the ship.
Even if you go with the theory of breaking down all your “original” atoms, sending them somewhere else through a beam of light and then reassembling the “original” atoms back into the “original” person, are you truly still an original?
The answer to this is, “Who really knows?” As I stated in the beginning, human teleportation is all fun theory. That is until someone proves me wrong. Excuse me but I have to go to dinner. It's my time to teleport.
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