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Beam me up? Not in the life of this universe

Student boffins find walking to the moon would be faster than teleportation

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If you ever doubted that the world needs vastly, incredibly, unbelievably more bandwidth, how about this: if you wanted to scan every detail of a human and teleport them via, say, a radio signal, it'll take a very, very, VERY long time.

How long? Try a "universe-is-not-old-enough-by-a-long-shot" kind of long time.

That's according to work from students at the University of Leicester, writing in that institution's peer-reviewed house journal Physics Special Topics. The fourth-year students, Declan Roberts, James Nelms, Suzanne Tower, and David Starkey considered two data: how much information would you need to transmit to teleport a whole human, and how long would it take using a reasonable estimate of bandwidth?

Presuming that the technology existed to actually transport an accurate “scan” of a human, right down to the DNA and the brain, the students came up with a total message size of 4.55 x 1042 bits. That's rather a lot: 4,550,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Terabits.

Which then brought them to the data transfer rate that could reasonably be deployed: since the Star Trek-style teleport is between an orbiter and people on the surface of a planet, the students picked a 0.5 GHz channel in the 30 GHz band for their thought experiment, and a stream rate of nearly 3 x 1019 symbols per second – or, if you prefer familiar terms, 30,000,000 Tbps.

Yes, that's a very high transfer rate. As the students note in the paper, they've assumed that a technology sufficiently advanced to build a Star Trek teleporter can work at close to the Nyquist limits of their sampling and communications technology.

Those two numbers put together – the amount of information in a person and the transfer rate – yield a transfer time of 4.85 x 1015 years. This, unfortunately, is somewhat greater than the age of the universe, at a mere 14 x 109 years.

And while Physics Special Topics is a student showcase, there's a serious point after all: to get students ready to deal with publications before it becomes their life-or-death obsession. ®

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