Season 11 -  Teleportation

Episode 2 -  Can it really fit into our lives?

In 1535, the physician, philosopher, theologian and alchemist Paracelsus published a book called A Book on Nymphs, Sylphs, Pygmies, and Salamanders, and on the Other Spirits. Although an immense scholar of his time, he places the real and the imaginary things on the same level. “What an idiot this Paracelsus is for mixing such things”, us 21st century inhabitants might say. However, like Paracelsus, we don’t know what’s reality and what’s science fiction. Contrary to the vast majority of people’s beliefs though, teleportation does exist.

So, we'll stop you right there - it's not what you think. At the time of writing, it’s impossible to move to the other side of the planet in the blink of an eye. Even if we spent billions trying to avoid this, you’d have to cross the distance that separates our starting point and arrival point. At this stage, quantum teleportation is all there is. So let's not kid ourselves, we can’t explain what it is concretely. It’s still confusing, even with the definition from French scientific magazine Science et Vie: “quantum teleportation is at the heart of quantum communication technologies. It consists of transferring quantum information from one system to another distant system, thanks to quantum entanglement. This phenomenon refers to the fact that the quantum state of each particle in a group depends on the others. The particles form a linked system, regardless of the distance between them.” Makes total sense…right?!

But that’s quite enough science - let’s get back to the issue of public transport. The first research into quantum teleportation dates back to at least the 1990s. However, at this stage, it does not allow for concrete objects. Of course, specialists and techno-prophets will cry foul, saying that it will change the face of the world, that we don’t understand it and that one day, it will be in our smartphones without us even realising the work needed to get it there. It will play out like the miniaturisation of digital technologies, which today, seem totally banal. Except that for those passionate about transporting people, this is not the subject. Our quest is for means of transport that’s ecologically sustainable, socially relevant, technologically accessible and economically feasible. And in the case of teleportation, it seems - sorry to disappoint you - that there’s not much to pin hope on. Unless you urgently need to move quantum states at the speed of “7.1 qubits per second over several tens of kilometres, within a metropolitan network.

However, despite this slight disappointment, we won’t abandon this exploration. But also because the idea of travelling like this, in a nanosecond or two, wouldn’t just be practical, it would profoundly change the world. By removing all notions of distance, it would also remove the idea of taking your time, of allowing some time off of life to travel. Without a doubt, it would also shatter the concept of wanderlust. What's so special about going to the Seychelles when you can do it every morning between a jog and breakfast? There’s nothing that fun about exploring Chichen Itza if you can go for a stroll there every Sunday. And how can you disconnect when every corner of the world is on your doorstep?

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