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The 'Star Trek' transporter is real … sort of

The 'Star Trek' transporter is real … sort of
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The transporter in "Star Trek" is one of the most recognizable sci-fi gadgets ever created, but it actually came about as a way for "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry to stay on budget. In the early days of the show, there wasn't enough money to show ships landing every episode, so he needed another way to get people to the ground.

As quickly as you can say, "Beam me up, Scotty!" (a phrase that never actually appears in any of the shows or movies, by the way), the transporter was born. Since then, teleportation has been a staple of science fiction and something lots of scientists are working to achieve in one form or another. And one of those ways just took a big step.

Before, I talk about that though, there's a bit more background information you need to know. There's actually some debate as to how the transporter in "Star Trek" works. As physicist Lawrence Krauss puts it in his book, "The Physics of Star Trek," it's a question of bits or bytes.

In the "bits" scenario, the transporter pulls your molecules apart and sends them to your destination where they're re-assembled back into you. In the "bytes" version, the transporter scans your information into a computer and destroys the original you, then it sends the bytes to your destination where a copy of you is made from other material.

The problem with the "bytes" version is that you're "killed" every time you transport. In fact, I've heard that Gene Roddenberry considered having the transporter print a death certificate for each person who used it.

In "Star Trek," the transporter actually works both ways depending on the episode and what the plot needs. However, it looks like science and practicality are leaning toward one version.

Next page: The latest attempt at making a transporter
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