Teleportation: The leap from fact to fiction in a new movie

Actor Christensen, of Star Wars fame, and director Liman discuss teleportation with MIT professors

Quantum teleportation, Farhi explained to the audience, entails destroying something in its original place and recreating it somewhere else. To do this with an electron, for instance, scientists would need to have another electron, basically a mate, in place where they want the first electron to appear. That second electron would receive the essence of the first electron.

"Quantum teleportation has occurred in the laboratory," he added. "They've moved single particles over two miles, but there is no instantaneous transportation. You could just pick it up and move it much more easily, but that would be less exotic ... and cheaper."

Right now, Fahri said scientists are still experimenting with teleporting single protons or electrons. The next step would be to teleport a more complex object, like an atom. When that might happen, the theorist just isn't sure.

"I don't think distance will be the problem," he noted. "The issue will be the size of the object."

And Fahri also said he would have no interest in being able to teleport like the character in Jumper, even if it was possible.

"No. No. Once you destroy the quantum state of the object, the thing is gone," he explained. "If you mess up the teleportation, then you're a goner."

Fahri's colleague Tegmark said there is a major benefit, though, to sci-fi movies like Jumper.

"People watch movies and get all fired up to be scientists," he said. "Sometimes I watch sci-fi and it raises interesting questions. When you walk up to a door and it automatically opens, it's because someone watched Star Trek... Sci-fi can get kids interested in learning about science."

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