Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Telepods of Doom

On BeContrary is a discussion about Telepods of Doom. The question goes like this:

It is the year 2112. Telepods have been in use for a decade to instantly transport matter from one part of the universe to another. You are waiting in line with your family at a telepod station to go to Tau Ceti. In front of you in the queue you meet the inventor of the telepods. He tells you that the telepods only appear to move matter, what they actualy do is create an exact duplicate at the destination and destroy the original in the process.

Do you get in the telepod?

As my math teacher would say: You're mixing up two frames of reference. In quantum physics, objects exist only once. There can be similar objects but these can never be exactly the same (they must differ in at least one attribute, for example in spin). Don't use that argument when the MPAA comes after you. ("That music isn't what was on CD! It must be different! Quantum theory says so!")

One way to make exact copies is to destroy the original and transfer all attributes onto another object (thus destroying the other object and creating a new "original"). In the real (macro) world, this can lead to all kinds of problems: If the destroy happens before the "apply attributes", you lose the object. If the destroy doesn't happen at all, you suddenly have two copies. If only a part of the attributes are copied, you have an imperfect copy.

In the quantum world, none of these effects can happen. It's either all or nothing because there is no state in between. Quantum particles can move through "solid" walls because they never spend any time inside the wall. In one moment, they are on one side, the next, they are on the other. The theory doesn't ask for continuous movement. It just says "when you look several times, there is a certain chance that you'll see the particle." There is no explanation how it gets from one place to the other and how it spends the time when you don't see it.

Since no one has found a flaw in the theory so far, it seems to be an accurate description of reality. That it contradicts our view of reality means that our view of reality is imperfect, not that quantum theory is wrong. Or as Douglas Adams put it:

"There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened."
-- Douglas Adams

1 comment:

Will said...

A fine argument! Why not post it on becontrary.com?