devils_solitude: (francis)
[personal profile] devils_solitude
My dad had just returned from another one of his business trips a couple of days ago, which is wonderful news for me because trying to get to school on time (or at all) in the mornings during a downpour is an almost as easy as finding a cure for cancer. (Fine, not *that* difficult but you see what I’m getting at right?)

So while I was in the shower earlier, I started thinking about the concept of teleportation (blame it on too much The Big Bang Theory, heh). How convenient would life be if we can just appear at our destination without any worries about traffic, missing the bus or battling the elements? As perfect a fantasy that is for someone like me who can never seem to leave the house on time, how possible will it be to implement such a technology?

As what Sheldon had mentioned in TBBT, in order for one to be ‘teleported’ from a spot to another, the molecular matter of the person has to be completely destroyed and separated before it can be ‘sent’ (probably as a beam of some sort) to the receiving unit, where the molecular fragments are reassembled based on the computer’s information of the last recorded quantum molecular structure of the person. This essentially means that the ‘original’ person is destroyed, and a ‘clone’ or replica created at the receiver.

On a molecular level, the being will be identical to the person who was being teleported, but does it mean that they still share the same conscience and soul? Even if they do, what happens if there is a corruption of data during transmission? A slight alteration of our genetic material can result in rather horrifying changes if death doesn’t ensue. Or what happens if two persons’ genetic data ended up being mixed up or merged? We will then need to develop a method for either ‘reversing’ the process (assuming the persons affected aren’t dead yet) or perhaps isolate each ‘major’ segment of a human body and transmit the relevant data in separate ‘channels’ to reduce the impact of mixed data in the (hopefully) unlikely chance it occurs. Another possibility is to create a backup of the person’s data. So in case the first transmission is unsuccessful, a second try will be initiated. In that case, would the second re-created ‘you’ still be you? Or is it merely a clone possessing your memories, personality and character? (I’m not even going to start on the possibility of creating clones of oneself since the recreation of a person in this teleportation technology implies that we have already mastered cloning technology.) In short, even if we manage to iron out all the possible flaws and drastically reduce the terrifying consequences of failure of this technology, it is still rife with ethical issues.

Furthermore, all that I’ve mentioned above are based on the assumptions that number one, we are able to determine the exact location of every single molecule on a quantum level in our bodies at a given point in time (which means that Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle can either be ignored or has been disproved); number two, our level of technology has advanced to such a level that a single computer unit is able to capture and map the billions of molecules which make up an average adult before processing the data for transmission in the matter of seconds/minutes. With current day technology, the amount of super computers we need to process all that information will fill up the entire room (and even so, that’s just for storing the data), let alone a unit which is of a small enough size to fit in various locations.

So teleportation for me? No way. What about a less convenient, but much less controversial a solution (for me at least) – Miniature wormholes? Wormholes are what you can imagine to be ‘tunnels’ in spacetime, connecting one point to another, creating what we can coin a ‘shortcut’ for an otherwise much longer route. These tunnels would then allow the traversing of both space and time (although it is generally believed based on the theory of general relativity that you can only travel forward in time, and not to a time before the creation of that wormhole; yes, I’m subscribing to the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics), allowing us to get from one place to another in radically shorter amounts of time. Instead of using a teleportation device to beam us from a place to another, we can instead distort the fabric of spacetime and create a miniature space traversing wormhole. This will save us the troubles of embarking on lengthy debates about the implications of cloning and recreating humans for we can just hop into a vehicle and speed through this quantum tunnel to our destination.

While wormholes seem like a much more tempting idea, creating one (e.g. Morris-Thorne wormholes) would require both a black hole and exotic matter (e.g. object possessing negative energy density); the latter being used as a stabilising component for the ‘throat’ of the black hole in some proposed models of traversable wormholes. Before we can even think of zooming through the wormhole, creating the first component, the black hole, is a monumental task.

The black holes most people are familiar with are created when massive dying stars collapse in on their own gravity (due to them being unable to sustain nucleosynthesis to maintain their original stable temperatures; using the ideal gas equation of PV=nRT, a fall in T will result in a fall in PV). Not all stars become black holes after dying; depending on their remaining mass after the initial collapse, some continue to exhaust their nuclear energy with continuous cooling as much smaller versions of themselves, such as white dwarfs or neutron stars. The bigger stars on the other hand whose masses are still too large to compensate for the fall in temperature will hence continue to collapse, resulting in black holes.  However, these black holes would be too massive in size and mass to be created on our planet, lest it devours the Earth and everything in its celestial vicinity. If we look at the alternative of creating micro black holes, not only will it require a ridiculously large amount of energy provided by collision of particles to create sufficient density, it is hypothesised to evaporate almost instantaneously.

The potential issues mentioned above are merely the tip of the iceberg. While several experiments have resulted in various phenomenons which suggest the presence or the possible existence of exotic matter, we still need to be able to produce or harvest them on a large enough scale and manipulate them such that they can stabilise the black hole. Even if we are able to accomplish that, we will need to ensure that the black hole will remain stable enough for us to pass through it safely (I definitely do not want to risk crossing the event horizon if the exotic matter scaffold fails).  Other problems we need to worry about before we can make the trip through a wormhole would include the environment within, whether it is possible to accurately create wormholes leading from a specific location to another, how quickly can these wormholes (or rather black holes) evaporate when the exotic matter shell is removed et cetera.

So wormhole travel? Not such a good idea after all. Until our scientific understanding of the laws of physics and technology levels reach a sufficient state to make either teleportation or wormholes viable options of transportation, or if a deity bestows upon humanity the superhuman abilities to either phase through objects or Apparate, or if light speed travel on a regular basis is possible and affordable, looks like lazy students like myself just need to learn how to leave our houses on time and make do with conventional modes of travel.

Remind me why I didn't take Physics as a degree again? Also, for those (sad souls) who have not seen The Big Bang Theory, do give it a shot! It's brilliantly written and has a ton of both geeky and non-geeky humour to put you in stitches. (Although if the show revolved around Chemistry instead, I'd find it much less of a joy to watch.) Not to mention one of the leading actors, Jim Parsons, has the remarkable talent of making an otherwise detestable character rather endearing.

Oh dear, looks like this post ate up too much of my time for me to post another piece of writing today. Well, science in small doses is healthy for everyone anyway! Hopefully those who have read this will be slightly more interested in learning more about Physics in the future!

Disclaimer: The above post contains personal views and is based on the understanding of devils_solitude. Thus it may contain various inconsistencies in applications of complex scientific concepts. The concepts presented may also change with time for quantum physics is still in its infant stage and is characterised by constant new developments. These new theories may at times conflict with existing ones (which were originally thought to be set in stone) as well.

The explanations above are merely of devils_solitude's interpretation of the material taught by/gathered from her 'A' Levels Physics tutors, History Channel's The Universe, her various reference books on Astronomy and Wikipedia and thus should not be used as a credible scientific source.


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