Star Trek (2009) – 00:00
Star Trek The Motion Picture – 01:36
TNG S01E01E02: Encounter at Farpoint – 01:53
TNG S01E01E02: Emissary: DS9 – 02:08
VOY S03E26: Scorpion Part 1 – 03:46
ENT S01E02: Broken Bow – 04:36
DSC S01E07: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad – 05:32

 

One of the coolest and also the most recognizable gadgets/tech in science fiction is arguably ‘the transporter’ from Star Trek. The idea of a transporter (teleporter) in Star Trek was a thing of necessity in the 1960s with a limited TV budget. After all, in a TV show about space exploration, you would want your crew to be able to get off the starship occasionally and visit planets. But do they have to go through the tiresome and expensive procedure of getting into a shuttlecraft, flying to the planet surface, landing, getting out? And then reversing it all to go back up to the starship.

Simply put, a more ‘realistic’ lander would have been too time-consuming and would have surpassed the series minor budget and TV format. Gene Roddenberry had an inspired and elegant solution to the problem: ‘the transporter’. The device can send people and equipment from one location to another without longer travel time than it takes for the special effect to fade out. These effects consisted of falling aluminum shavings shot upside down in Star Trek The Original Series.

Star Trek The Original Series cast.

We truly owe Gene Roddenberry a great thanks for his idea, since it is one of the coolest tech things in sci-fi tv and movie history. The transporter has inspired writers to come up with some of the best, craziest and/or far-fetched stories in all of Star Trek. When this thing would malfunction, all sorts of stuff can happen, like bizarre transformations to flat out killing people (Star Trek The Motion Picture). Or when Tuvox and Neelix are beaming up with an odd plant and somehow all three get merged into one lifeform, in the Voyager episode “Tuvix”. Or when Picard, Guinan, Ro, and Keiko are on their way back to the Enterprise when an energy thing envelopes the shuttle, O’Brien manages to pull them out as children, in The Next Generation episode “Rascals”. Or when you try beaming up during an Ion Storm and swap places with your mirror counterparts and end up in a mirror universe, as in The Original Series episode ‘Mirror, Mirror”.

The crew of Enterprise as children, in TNG ‘Rascals’

According to some dialogue in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Daedalus”, the transporter was invented in the early 22nd century by Dr. Emory Erickson, who also became the first human to be successfully transported. By the 24th century, transporter travel was reliable and “the safest way to travel” according to dialogue in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Realm of Fear”. In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Homefront”, Starfleet Academy cadets receive transporter rations, and the Sisko family once used a transporter to move furniture into a new home. Despite its frequent use, some characters such as Leonard McCoy and Katherine Pulaski are reluctant to use the transporter.

Fiction to Fact?

Star Trek is most certainly the most famous portrayal of teleportation, but the concept is a common subject in science fiction literature, film, video games, and television. As also seen in David Cronenberg’s masterpiece ‘The Fly’ with Jeff Goldblum. And featured in Doctor Who, Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, the Stargate movie and tv shows, etc. etc.

Ever since 1993, energy and particle teleportation has become a hot topic in ‘real world’ quantum mechanics as well, when Bennett et al. proposed that a quantum state of a particle could be teleported to another distant particle.

Physicist Michio Kaku has famously predicted that a teleportation device similar to those in Star Trek would be invented within 100 years. But whether or not it may or may not be possible to teleport macroscopic objects such as humans, three kinds of teleportation in the microscopic world of quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics have been proposed: state teleportation, energy teleportation, and particle teleportation.

The first mentioned kind as explored by Bennet, the second kind by M. Hotta in 2008, exploring how it may be possible to teleport energy by exploiting quantum energy fluctuations of an entangled vacuum state of a quantum field.

In 2016, Y. Wei proposed that particles themselves could teleport from one place to another. Called particle teleportation, this concept shows us how superconductivity can be viewed as the teleportation of some electrons in the superconductor and superfluidity as the teleportation of some of the atoms in the cellular tube. Physicists are now trying to verify this concept experimentally.