Teleportation: the pros and cons.
I've always been interested in the idea of teleportation.
The idea of sending people and objects around with the ease of sending a fax or an email is somehow soooo appealing.
Having spent some time thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that there are pretty much only two different methods for going about teleporting things around. Or at least in theory: destructive and non-destructive.
Think of Star Trek Transporters. The away team stands on the transporter pads, get turned into energy and 'beamed' to the target. Once there (usually instantly) they are re-assembled.
Others have had the same idea: the Guald in Stargate, Psychlo's in Batlefield Earth, bored scientists in Doom (the movie) and Dr Who's Tardis (okay, that's more time-portation than teleportation) just to name a few.
This is where your device either rips up the "space fabric" or opens a wormhole in order to get you around. Think Jody Foster in Contact. The subject being transported is kept whole and a medium is made available to convey the subject from origin to destination, be it a physical conveyance, or a hole, wormhole, warp space, alternate dimension or whatnot.
Personally, I'm a whole lot happier with the second method rather than the first.
The first is really scary, and for various reasons. Most will depend on the way that the author / scriptwriter wants to limit the technology. But think of it this way: if you are converting your subject from one state to another, then you need to be able to keep track of which bits go where so that you can re-assemble them at the destination.
Now, you can explain it away by saying that the information (and the mass) is sent to the destination. But if you think about it for two seconds, you'll notice that it's entirely possible to teleport a subject to the destination and then keep sending them there. So long as you still have mass in your ship, you can make n number of subjects appear at the destination by sending the information / mass pattern over and over again. Insta-army! Immortal staff! Mega-colonies of settlers. Okay, that wouldn't work since they'd all have the same DNA and would become inbred hicks within a single generation, but the army idea works great.
Or if you go with the more popular idea of just sending the information and not the mass, then things get even better. You don't have to send bits of your ship (or fuel), you can convert whatever happens to be at the destination into your insta-army instead. You could solve two problems by converting the enemy army into your army! In seconds! You could keep it up so long as you had power left.
Another great use of teleporters: WMD.
Have a pesky planet that is threatening to invade yours? Simply show up with a teleport-capable ship, pick up part of the local stellar mass and teleport it onto the senate building that's making all that tough talk.
You don't need much. Only a few pounds of solid, fusing helium/hydrogen at 55,000 degrees Kelvin (the surface is only a paltry 6,000 degrees Kelvin, so scoop up a bit from just below) should be enough to level the senate building. And the local populace. And most of the continent that they happen to be sitting on. Goodbye problem. And since the star stuff never has to enter your ship, you can do it all from the safety of orbit.
Heck, you could sell tickets.
Want the same effect without blemishing the planet because the tree huggers would complain too much? Use the same teleporters to move the populace one mile straight up. Either the lack of air or the sudden stop will take care of the problem.
Feeling mischievous? Rather than kill them, teleport their insides one foot to the left.
Okay, that'll still be quite fatal, but it is funny. For you, not for them.
Are there any other, non-killing uses for teleporters?
Of course! There are plenty of medicinal uses. Sick? Teleport the subject but leave the virus / cancer cells / flesh eating virus behind. Been in a terrible hover car accident and ended up in a wheelchair with the IQ of a gopher? Teleportation to the rescue! All you need to do is teleport out the defective copy (and by "teleport" I mean "send to oblivion or recycle for spare mass") and teleport in a backup (think: system recovery on Windows).
Sure, they'll be missing a few weeks (or years) worth of memories, but they'll be all better, won't they? You just need to have a large memory buffer for the people who you want to have backup copies of. Or a less large buffer for the rich people who can afford to have a backup copy "just in case".
There is a much better and more thorough discussion on why teleporters are an inherently bad idea in the book The Science of Star Trek:
If you want to zap 10 to the 28 power of atoms, you have quite a challenge on your hands. Say, for example, that you simply want to turn all this material into pure energy. How much energy would result? Well, Einstein's formula E = mc2 tells us. If one suddenly transformed 50 kilograms (a light adult) of material into energy, one would release the energy equivalent of somewhere in excess of a thousand 1-megaton hydrogen bombs. It is hard to imagine how to do this in an environmentally friendly fashion.
At the end of the day, just what a transporter can and can't do is simply decided by the author(s). If the plot calls for it, it can. If it has an ability that would ruin the plot, that ability is conveniently blocked or turned off (or worse, ignored).
I wonder if an internet petition for better script writers would work...
Last updated: August 2007