There's No Cloning in Quantum Mechanics, So the Star Trek Transporter Really Is a Suicide Box

Illustration for article titled Theres No Cloning in Quantum Mechanics, So the iStar Trek/i Transporter Really Is a Suicide Box

Remember last week’s video about the trouble with Star Trek’s transporter (a.k.a. a “suicide box”) by CGP Grey, delving into whether the teleported version of yourself would really be, well, you? Henry Reich of Minute Physics has posted a video response with his own resolution to the logical paradox.

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You know what that means.... NERD FIGHT!

Okay, not really. They agree on many of the particulars. But the original video didn’t cover one important element to the problem of teleportation: the no-cloning theorem of quantum mechanics. As Reich explains:

[I]t is impossible to create an identical copy of a quantum state without destroying the original – in fact, you HAVE to destroy the original arrangement in order to extract all the necessary information from it to construct the new, teleported, state. In fact, the relevant theorem in quantum mechanics is called the “no cloning” theorem. Now, we don’t yet know exactly how brains work to create consciousness, but if the quantum states of some electrons somewhere in the brain are critical to perfectly determining — and thus copying — “you”, then a teleporter would necessarily have to obey the rules of quantum teleportation when sending the information about the arrangement of particles that are “you” to the new location, and whatever was left behind would definitively *not* be you.

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Yep. The transporter is pretty much a suicide box (in the sense that the original “you” is completely destroyed). It’s not the original Star Trek writers’ fault, though: as Reich points out, those buzzkill physicists didn’t work out that whole quantum cloning ban until the 1990s.

[Laughing Squid]

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DISCUSSION

In terms of a nerd fight this should be pretty interesting.

But in a hypothetical world where transporter technology were real, and worked as describe? Would it matter (hah, I’m funny) that a transporter destroys and recreates you?

If you are recreated as an an exact copy down to the atomic level and retain all of your memories and personality traits, etc... would you really care that the you that was teleported from that desolate planet full of dead Red Shirts was destroyed in the process?

From a religious perspective I imagine there would be a lot of shouting... but the Star Trek universe seems very secular; in such a world I imagine the quandary of whether you are still ‘you’ is about as interesting as watching paint dry.