Season 11 - Teleportation

Episode 1 - Hold up. Is this thing even real?

From Harry Potter in The Goblet of Fire, to Star Trek’s Transporter, teleportation is common in popular culture, and has been for several generations. Whether in fantasy or science fiction, it’s often thought of as an impossible possibility i.e. everyone knows what it is, but no one imagines it will one day be real. A bit like traveling at the speed of light or the collapse of civilisation. Except that for the latter, that last one has become a lot more real.

Described as “transporting from one point to another without passing through intermediate points,” in some of the earliest texts by humans, it’s an idea as old as time, used by gods, spirits, genies, and jinns. But since it also seems to oppose all the laws of science, it's hard to imagine rushing to Australia in a single second.

To understand the complexities of teleportation, we have to understand its deeper meaning. If we exclude magic from the realm of possibilities (sorry, wizard friends, Midnight Trains hasn’t got the space, or knowledge to entertain that), and reduce ourselves to elementary particles and recompose elsewhere at the hoped-for destination. It’s kind of a creepy idea, isn’t it? And where does your consciousness go during these moments of teleportation? Do you exist or are you non-existent?

Despite the concept being ancient, the word teleportation only dates back to 1931, when it appeared in Charles Hoy Fort’s writing, an American who specialised in describing unexplained phenomena. However, it’s thought to be a reworked word from the anglicism 'teleport’ which appeared in mainly American news and press articles, published from the 1870s. On the other hand, in practice, neither the 19th or 20th century provided much in terms of teleportation. The Cold War, which is known to have generated crazy military research on both sides of the Iron Curtain, pushed the Americans and the Chinese to take an interest in the subject. Most had non-existent results or used it as propaganda and misinformation.

However, as reported by The Guardian, the US Air Force commissioned a researcher named Eric W. Davis to conduct a study on the subject in 2001. Some of Davis’ comments have been repeatedly considered dubious, yet he submitted his report in 2004, in which he proposed a theoretical list of the different possibilities of teleportation: futuristic technology, the alteration of space-time, parapsychological powers or even parallel universes. It would be wrong to insult anyone's beliefs, but these avenues are - at a minimum - a long way from being put into practice. Actually, to be honest, they’re completely improbable. Especially when talking about public transportation, not just selfish individual use. It's hard to imagine us ever visiting the local telekineticist to go for a weekend in Normandy, rather than showing up at the station… Or that we’d use a portal which alters the laws of physics to visit an old friend back home. It would be nice, that's for sure. But we’re very far from it.

However, contrary to what one might imagine, scientists around the world have never really given up on the idea of ​​breaking humans up into small particles and getting them to the other side of the planet. They’re doing it their own way, scientifically, and starting at a very small quantum level. So, keep your hopes up.

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