Earl's Science Essay:

Human Fly   How to Transport Matter Better Than They Do on TV, and Stuff

Matter transport machines in fiction almost always involve converting matter to energy in one location, and then converting energy back into matter in another location.  In the purest sense, actual transport occurs in that the energy derived from the original matter is beamed to the remote location where it is converted back into the original matter.  But, really, energy is energy, and one kilojoule is as good as another.  So why beam the energy to the remote location?  Just disintegrate the matter in one location, and in another location, simply generate the energy on site to re-integrate the matter.  It's just as good.

However, technically, these methods aren't transporting matter.  They are replicating matter at a distance.  The only thing that makes this technique a method of transporting matter is that the original matter is destroyed, allowing the remotely located copy to take its place.  A copy machine like that is fine for sacks of potatoes, but most people I know wouldn't go through this.  And whether the energy derived from the matter is beamed to the remote location, or whether the energy at the remote location is generated on site, either way, the original matter is essentially run through a meat grinder and utterly destroyed just so it -- or, really, a copy of it -- can be recreated elsewhere.

I call these methods of matter transport the Meat Grinder Methods, and I don't like them.

So I've come up with a better way.

Subatomic particles, like electrons, transport themselves all the time.  This phenomenon is called Quantum Tunneling, and it's based on probabilities.  In fact, this is what enables stars to shine and semiconductors to do the amazing things they do.  So if an electron can do it, why not something bigger?

Well, actually, something bigger can transport through Quantum Tunneling.  Since Quantum Tunneling is based on probabilities, then the only thing preventing larger objects from tunneling from one place in the Universe to another is the very small probability that all the subatomic particles making up that object will to decide tunnel simultaneously to the same location, all at once.  In other words, since I'm made entirely of subatomic particles, all of which are subject to the rules of quantum mechanics, there is a non-zero probability that I will spontaneously disappear and reappear somewhere else in the Universe.  That probability, however, for all practical purposes, is zero.  It would be like every single subatomic particle in my body getting lucky and winning the lottery all at the same time.  It's possible, but it's just not very likely to happen.

So all we need to do is to figure out how to rig the quantum lottery.

The good news is that we are learning how to affect the outcomes of many quantum events.  Amazingly, simply arranging things so that, for instance, a photon can be observed to take one path or another after passing through a splitter, we are able to affect the path the photon decides to take, or whether it decides to exhibit wave-like or particle-like properties.  Other experiments have shown that we can similarly manipulate the outcome of tunneling events for many particles, particularly electrons.  The ultimate goal, then, is to be able to command subatomic particles to tunnel at will.  If we could do this, and if we could do this on a large enough scale, then we could command enough subatomic particles to transport objects, people, space ships, or even entire planets.  All it takes is rigging the quantum lottery so that all the particles in the object we want to transport get lucky and win the lottery on a quantum level all at the same time.

So instead of killing yourself in a meat grinder only to have a copy of yourself assume your identity somewhere else, you would simply disappear and then reappear at a remote location.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Sure, we don't yet know how to harvest or redistribute "Quantum Luck", but I'd say we're a lot further along in understanding how to manipulate quantum probabilities than we are in understanding how to describe a human being in an XML data stream so that a computer at a nuclear reactor site can be used to reconstruct a person out of pure energy.  So my Macro Quantum Tunneling technology is still a few years away, I'd say.  But it shows much more promise than the other way, and the best part is that there is no meat grinder involved.

Oh, but there could be another problem.  It may be the case that "Quantum Luck" is conserved.  That would mean that if we go around rigging the quantum lottery system to transport stadium-sized space ships across the galaxy, then the probabilities of other quantum events occurring may go down correspondingly.  Our Universe will have to age about another 10 to the power of 50 years before it becomes just as likely as not for something as large as the Starship Enterprise (for example) to have spontaneously tunneled from one location to another, just one time.  If we take 10^50 year's worth of "quantum luck" and use it up all at once for one single trip across the galaxy, will we be robbing the Universe of its ability to issue winning quantum lottery tickets to the rest of the subatomic particles in the cosmos?  If so, then we may eventually reduce the probabilities of other quantum tunneling events occurring to the extent that transistors quit working, or even to the extent that the sun stops shining and collapses into a brown dwarf.  That would be bad.  That would be very bad, indeed.


Still, though, it's not as bad as stepping into a meat grinder.



Earl at EarlsTV period net is where to find me.
Copyright (c) by BSW, 2007.  All Rights Reserved.
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