Baking pixels...

Is teleportation possible?

Could a baseball transform into

something like a radio wave,

travel through buildings,

bounce around corners,

and change back into a baseball?

Oddly enough, thanks to quantum mechanics,

the answer might actually be yes.

Sort of.

Here's the trick.

The baseball itself couldn't

be sent by radio,

but all the information about it could.

In quantum physics, atoms and electrons

are interpreted as a collection

of distinct properties,

for example, position,

momentum,

and intrinsic spin.

The values of these properties

configure the particle,

giving it a quantum state identity.

If two electrons have

the same quantum state,

they're identical.

In a literal sense, our baseball

is defined by a collective quantum state

resulting from its many atoms.

If this quantum state information

could be read in Boston

and sent around the world,

atoms for the same chemical elements

could have this information

imprinted on them in Bangalore

and be carefully directed to assemble,

becoming the exact same baseball.

There's a wrinkle though.

Quantum states aren't so easy to measure.

The uncertainty principle

in quantum physics

implies the position and momentum

of a particle

can't be measured at the same time.

The simplest way to measure

the exact position of an electron

requires scattering a particle of light,

a photon, from it,

and collecting the light in a microscope.

But that scattering changes the momentum

of the electron in an unpredictable way.

We lose all previous information

about momentum.

In a sense,

quantum information is fragile.

Measuring the information changes it.

So how can we transmit something

we're not permitted to fully read

without destroying it?

The answer can be found in the strange

phenomena of quantum entanglement.

Entanglement is an old mystery

from the early days of quantum physics

and it's still not entirely understood.

Entangling the spin of two electrons

results in an influence

that transcends distance.

Measuring the spin of the first electron

determines what spin will

measure for the second,

whether the two particles are a mile

or a light year apart.

Somehow, information

about the first electron's quantum state,

called a qubit of data,

influences its partner without

transmission across the intervening space.

Einstein and his colleagues called

this strange communication

spooky action at a distance.

While it does seem that entanglement

between two particles

helps transfer a qubit instantaneously

across the space between them,

there's a catch.

This interaction must begin locally.

The two electrons must be entangled

in close proximity

before one of them is transported

to a new site.

By itself, quantum entanglement

isn't teleportation.

To complete the teleport,

we need a digital message to help

interpret the qubit at the receiving end.

Two bits of data created by measuring

the first particle.

These digital bits must be transmitted

by a classical channel

that's limited by the speed of light,

radio, microwaves, or perhaps fiber optics.

When we measure a particle

for this digital message,

we destroy its quantum information,

which means the baseball must disappear

from Boston

for it to teleport to Bangalore.

Thanks to the uncertainty principle,

teleportation transfers the information

about the baseball

between the two cities

and never duplicates it.

So in principle, we could teleport

objects, even people,

but at present, it seems unlikely

we can measure the quantum states

of the trillion trillion or more atoms

in large objects

and then recreate them elsewhere.

The complexity of this task

and the energy needed is astronomical.

For now, we can reliably teleport

single electrons and atoms,

which may lead to super-secured

data encryption

for future quantum computers.

The philosophical implications

of quantum teleportation are subtle.

A teleported object doesn't exactly

transport across space

like tangible matter,

nor does it exactly transmit across space,

like intangible information.

It seems to do a little of both.

Quantum physics gives us

a strange new vision

for all the matter in our universe

as collections of fragile information.

And quantum teleportation reveals

new ways to influence this fragility.

And remember, never say never.

In a little over a century,

mankind has advanced from an uncertain

new understanding

of the behavior of electrons

at the atomic scale

to reliably teleporting them

across a room.

What new technical mastery

of such phenomena

might we have in 1,000,

or even 10,000 years?

Only time and space will tell.

Could a baseball transform into

something like a radio wave,

travel through buildings,

bounce around corners,

and change back into a baseball?

Oddly enough, thanks to quantum mechanics,

the answer might actually be yes.

Sort of.

Here's the trick.

The baseball itself couldn't

be sent by radio,

but all the information about it could.

In quantum physics, atoms and electrons

are interpreted as a collection

of distinct properties,

for example, position,

momentum,

and intrinsic spin.

The values of these properties

configure the particle,

giving it a quantum state identity.

If two electrons have

the same quantum state,

they're identical.

In a literal sense, our baseball

is defined by a collective quantum state

resulting from its many atoms.

If this quantum state information

could be read in Boston

and sent around the world,

atoms for the same chemical elements

could have this information

imprinted on them in Bangalore

and be carefully directed to assemble,

becoming the exact same baseball.

There's a wrinkle though.

Quantum states aren't so easy to measure.

The uncertainty principle

in quantum physics

implies the position and momentum

of a particle

can't be measured at the same time.

The simplest way to measure

the exact position of an electron

requires scattering a particle of light,

a photon, from it,

and collecting the light in a microscope.

But that scattering changes the momentum

of the electron in an unpredictable way.

We lose all previous information

about momentum.

In a sense,

quantum information is fragile.

Measuring the information changes it.

So how can we transmit something

we're not permitted to fully read

without destroying it?

The answer can be found in the strange

phenomena of quantum entanglement.

Entanglement is an old mystery

from the early days of quantum physics

and it's still not entirely understood.

Entangling the spin of two electrons

results in an influence

that transcends distance.

Measuring the spin of the first electron

determines what spin will

measure for the second,

whether the two particles are a mile

or a light year apart.

Somehow, information

about the first electron's quantum state,

called a qubit of data,

influences its partner without

transmission across the intervening space.

Einstein and his colleagues called

this strange communication

spooky action at a distance.

While it does seem that entanglement

between two particles

helps transfer a qubit instantaneously

across the space between them,

there's a catch.

This interaction must begin locally.

The two electrons must be entangled

in close proximity

before one of them is transported

to a new site.

By itself, quantum entanglement

isn't teleportation.

To complete the teleport,

we need a digital message to help

interpret the qubit at the receiving end.

Two bits of data created by measuring

the first particle.

These digital bits must be transmitted

by a classical channel

that's limited by the speed of light,

radio, microwaves, or perhaps fiber optics.

When we measure a particle

for this digital message,

we destroy its quantum information,

which means the baseball must disappear

from Boston

for it to teleport to Bangalore.

Thanks to the uncertainty principle,

teleportation transfers the information

about the baseball

between the two cities

and never duplicates it.

So in principle, we could teleport

objects, even people,

but at present, it seems unlikely

we can measure the quantum states

of the trillion trillion or more atoms

in large objects

and then recreate them elsewhere.

The complexity of this task

and the energy needed is astronomical.

For now, we can reliably teleport

single electrons and atoms,

which may lead to super-secured

data encryption

for future quantum computers.

The philosophical implications

of quantum teleportation are subtle.

A teleported object doesn't exactly

transport across space

like tangible matter,

nor does it exactly transmit across space,

like intangible information.

It seems to do a little of both.

Quantum physics gives us

a strange new vision

for all the matter in our universe

as collections of fragile information.

And quantum teleportation reveals

new ways to influence this fragility.

And remember, never say never.

In a little over a century,

mankind has advanced from an uncertain

new understanding

of the behavior of electrons

at the atomic scale

to reliably teleporting them

across a room.

What new technical mastery

of such phenomena

might we have in 1,000,

or even 10,000 years?

Only time and space will tell.