10 Futurist Predictions in the World of Transportation


If we had the ability to disappear in one place and reappear somewhere else, this entire list would be for naught. Sure, there would be practical limitations (by comparison, a jetpack would probably seem cost effective) but just imagine what could be done.

Now, reel your imagination back in just a bit, and think about fantasy and science fiction. Even Harry Potter and his friends usually chose more traditional methods of travel, because teleporting took a little bit of effort. A wizard needed a specially equipped fireplace and magic powder to teleport via machine. Objects could be bewitched to serve as a temporary teleportation device, but it required a lot of advance planning for just one trip. And only licensed adults were allowed to simply disappear and reappear in a different place (which they called apparition). Did you ever wonder why, despite flying cars and flying brooms and flying dragons and apparition, the kids still spent a full day on a train to get to school?

So, oddly, the fantasy world does illustrate some of the practical problems. In the real world, though, science gets involved, and science has even more restrictive real-world limits. A team of Chinese physicists made the news in spring of 2012 for a huge advancement in teleportation technology. And the accomplishment? Transporting a photon (a particle of light) 60 miles (96.6 kilometers). The previous record for photon teleportation, set in 2010, was 10 miles (16.1 kilometers).

The photon teleporter works by harnessing the energy of a laser beam to get from point A to point B. But, here's the key: The photon is duplicated at point A, and it's a mirror image of the photon, not the actual original photon, received at point B. It was discovered in 1993 by a team of IBM researchers that it was only possible to transmit a duplicate of an object if the original object was destroyed, which obviously makes it unethical to research on anything alive. To replicate this ability on a human subject, the brave soul would be analyzed by the teleporter at the point of departure. They'd be scanned, and every single molecule of the person would be sent at the speed of light to another machine at the point of arrival. If anything went wrong, anything at all, there'd be severe consequences for the traveler. After all, they'd be stuck with their new, reassembled form -- the original would be gone for good.

In short, these scientists are talking about using this device to quickly and securely transmit coded, classified data for government operations. We can duplicate photons that contain coded data, but we can't accomplish that feat with anything solid. We're nowhere near the technology necessary to teleport humans. We aren't even close to teleporting a Wonka bar.

In other words, start saving up for your jetpack... or just enjoy your six-speed sports car while you still can.

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