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One of the most iconic ideas popularized by Star Trek is the possibility of stepping onto a platform, saying “Energize!”, being enveloped in a bright, shimmering stream of CGI, and being instantly transported across great distance, down to a planet or another ship. And, for transportation in the other direction, to the USS Enterprise, there are few pieces of popular culture more iconic than Kirk’s, “Beam me up, Scotty!” The transporter—or teletransporter, to be specific—is so compelling for obvious reasons: imagine instantaneous travel, without security or long lines or delays at airports, without the hassle of traffic or bad drivers. Imagine the time saved if LA and New York were separated by six seconds instead of six hours, or if the morning commute were instantaneous instead of interminable.
Unfortunately, the teletransporter may have a small problem, something which could make it—to indulge in infinite understatement—unsafe to use. To understand this flaw, consider for a moment how a someday-real teletransporter...
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