Our Destiny

 
Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit
    Frank Borman, Apollo 8 astronaut

 
Humankind has demonstrated in a very brief span of time a remarkable technological advancement. In less than one hundred years, we saw the achievement of the first flight by a human being (Wright Brothers on December 17, 1903) to the landing on the Moon (July 20, 1969). Two of our space probes, Voyagers 1 and 2, have exited our Solar System to enter the realm of interstellar space. In spite of this great technological leap, there is a lot of work still to do to make regular space flight an economic and scientific reality. Science fiction has always been at the forefront of dreaming of new ways to travel to worlds beyond our own. Let us hope that one day the tales of science fiction will become the tales of adventurers of tomorrow.
 
The idea of space travel in science fiction has been around for years. In fact, some of the oldest attempts at science fiction were about space travel. Johannes Kepler, the German astronomer best known for discovering the laws of planetary motion, wrote Sonmnium in 1634, a tale about a flight to the Moon. Cyrano de Bergerac wrote of voyages to the Moon and the Sun in his L’Autre Monde published in 1687. Edgar Allen Poe also attempted science fiction when he used a balloon as a means of travelling to the Moon in his 1835 The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaal. In 1865 in his From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne speculated on the launch of a spacecraft to the Moon from a cannon. Incredibly, Verne located the launch site very near today’s Cape Canaveral. The climax of the novel is the actual launch. In the sequel, Round the Moon, written in 1870, the craft is deflected by a second Earth Moon (a piece of Verne imagination) which forces the spaceship to merely orbit the true satellite before splashdown in the Pacific.
 
It is an interesting side-note on the speculative power of Verne with respect to this “other moon.” One theory of our Moon is that it was formed when what were once two moons collided together to create our nightly sight. Another recent finding by NASA has shown that there is another “mini-moon” that orbits the Earth, Asteroid 2016 HO3.
 
Currently we use chemical burning rockets to get into space, but there are also other technologies that are being explored. Coil guns have been suggested. A coil gun is a mass driver that accelerates an object by pulling it through a series of interacting magnetic fields generated by electrical fields flowing through wire coils. Unfortunately, the system would produce too high a gravitational (g) force for the human body to endure unless some form of shielding is provided. It certainly, however, could be used to lift non-living payloads into orbit.
 
Another “gun” launch system is known as rail guns. Rail guns project an object on two rails that conduct electricity and create plasma that pushes the projectile forward. The problem with this system is that the heating of the rails would damage them beyond repair after only about two launches. However, materials technology in the future may not be so limiting.
Another idea for reaching space came from Russia rocket pioneer, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who was inspired after seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris. His vision was to build a tower so high that it reached into space; however, material technology would make such a structure impossible. Again, this may not always be the case.

An extrapolation of Tsiolkovsky’s inspiration could be realized in the technology of today through the use of satellites. Satellites first appeared in some early science fiction again by Jules Verne in his 1879 Begum’s Fortune. Science fiction author, Arthur C. Clarke wrote in 1945 an article for Wireless World, where he speculated on the use of satellites for communication.

Satellites being used as launch platforms is also a possibility that has yet to be realized. One could tether a satellite, for example, to another. In turn, one of the satellites could theoretically launch the other satellite into another orbit. Such a tethering system could be used to launch vehicles all the way to the Moon and beyond.

The space tethering system has also been proposed to make a space elevator. It consists of a tether anchored to the surface and extended into space beyond the geostationary orbit. Most of our communications satellites lie at the geostationary orbit at around 35,000 kilometers; at this height, they appear motionless to a ground-dweller and therefore require no adjustment of antennae to track the satellite. The tether stays upright based on the idea that as the tether extends further from the surface of the Earth, the force of gravity is lessened and the outward pull of centrifugal force of is greater would allow for the tether to be held up over a single point on the Earth. Such a cable would allow for the movement of objects along the cable directly into space without the necessity of any large rocket systems.

The space fountain is a variation of the space elevator idea. Unlike a space elevator it does not rely on a tether technology. It is a tremendously tall tower extending from the ground. Such a tall tower could not support its own weight using traditional building materials. Instead it would operate by sending fast-moving particles up the tower to keep the top of the tower aloft. The particles would then redirected back down much like the water droplets of a fountain. It is the force of the turnaround that keeps the tower aloft.
 
Speculative fiction has looked at the idea of a space elevator. British fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk first printed in 1807, is about a gigantic beanstalk that grows overnight reaching the kingdom of giants in the sky. It is probably the first tale of a space elevator, in this case in the form of a imaginary giant beanstalk. Since that time many science fiction authors have also utilized the idea of a space elevator or fountain in their stories. Arthur C. Clarke, in his latter Odyssey series uses the idea of a space elevator. Clarke also went into a great deal of detail when he describes the construction of a space elevator in his story, The Fountains of Paradise. Kim Stanley Robinson describes the use of space elevators in his novel 2312 about the colonization of the solar system. Jack McDevitt’s Deepsix novel is about the excavation of an alien planet called Deepsix; the remains of a space elevator are among the artifacts. Robert Sawyer’s novel about intelligent dinosaurs, Foreigner, has a section of the exploration of a ruined alien spacecraft which triggers the construction of a space tower. David Gerrold wrote, in his Jumping off the Planet, about an orbital space elevator that runs on magnetic induction to lift humanity from Earth. In Arthur C. Clarke’s and Frederick Pohl’s novel The Last Theorem, a potpourri of technologies is described including a space elevator. Frank Schatzing wrote the novel Limit which is about a monopoly that not only operates a space hotel but also the world’s only space elevator. David Williams in The Mirrored Heavens, a space elevator is designed to give the world greater access to space. Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel, is about a ship that literally lifts itself into space. Charles Sheffield in his novel, The Web Between the Worlds, writes about an engineer who designs a space elevator. A space fountain was used in the Frederick Pohl and Thomas T. Thomas Mars Plus, sequel to Pohl’s classic, Man Plus, to lift a spacecraft into orbit.
 
A large structure such as a space elevator might be a likely target for terrorist activity. This has not been lost amongst writers either. Tom Terry’s City of Heaven describes just that, a terrorist attack on a space elevator. Steven Barnes’ and Larry Niven’s novel, The Descent of Anansi, is about two companies that have bid for the construction of a cable with only one winner. The loser then works with a terrorist group in order to cripple the winner. In Ben Bova’s Mercury, there is a subplot in which a minor character is exiled from Earth because of sabotage of a space elevator. In Alastair Reynold’s Chasm City, a number of technological problems are experienced by the story’s inhabitants including the sabotage of a space elevator.
 
Another possible launch mechanism is the use of antigravity, definitely in the realm of science fiction currently. Antigravity could be used not just for the launch of vehicles into space but as a method of space travel. Percy Greg used it in his novel to describe a trip to Mars in Across the Zodiac in 1880. In John Jacob Astor’s 1894 A Journey to Other Worlds, antigravity known as apergy is used as a means of space travel. H. G. Wells used the concept of antigravity in his 1901 novel, The First Men on the Moon. The ship in the novel employs the use of Cavorite, a fictional metal that shields an object against gravity. In his series on the Okie Cities, James Blish used a spindizzy drive which launched and moved actual Earth cities across the vastness of space. Blish did add an extra to his stories, a protective shield to protect the city from space’s harsh environment. In Jack Williamson’s Seetee series, the ship uses an antigravity star drive as well.
 
Now that we have our ship in space with one of the many technologies that are imagined, how do we keep a ship going? After all, chemical rockets are not effective since the weight of the fuel would make extended space missions impractical. One idea that has been proposed is ion propulsion. Rockets, whether chemical or ion propulsion, move on the basis of Newton’s Third Law of Motion which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The exhaust is the action and the forward thrust is the reaction that causes the rocket to move forward. 
 
The main difference between a chemical and ion rocket is that chemical rockets rely on constant thrust created by the thermal burn of fuels. In the case of an ion drive, the throwaway mass is through the acceleration of ions, augmented by electrical fields. These ions can reach velocities of up to 100,000 meters per second, far faster than is attainable by a simple chemical burn. There have been a number of missions that have already used ion propulsion. Several satellites in orbit about the Earth used ion thrusters to gain orbit. Several space missions, too, have used ion propulsion, the first being Deep Space 1, first launched in 1998 by NASA to fly by asteroid 9969 Braille. Its mission was even expanded to include an encounter with Comet 19P/Borrelly. Subsequently Japan launched Hayabusa in 2003 to asteroid 25143 Itokawa. The European Space Agency also, in 2003, launched SMART-1, to the Moon where it was successfully crash-landed. NASA then launched the ion-propelled Dawn in 2007 to explore the asteroids Vesta and Ceres. There are a number of upcoming ion-propulsion missions subsequently planned by a number of the world’s space agencies.
 
Nuclear pulse propulsion has also been suggested. It relies on simply setting off a series of nuclear fission explosions (similar to the bombs that were dropped on Japan in World War II) at regular intervals with the force of the explosions moving the craft forward. As each bomb is detonated, the debris would hit a huge pusher plate located at the rear of the craft thus providing the thrust.
 
Pulsed nuclear fusion, still in the realm of science fiction, is based on the thermonuclear explosion of deuterium/helium-3 in a special chamber using a laser or particle beam. Fusion is far more efficient in the production of energy than fission and is the basis of the energy production of our Sun. All stars, in fact, are just giant fusion thermonuclear reactors.
 
Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent book, Aurora, describes a generation starship on a voyage into interstellar space; it has a form of fusion propulsion. James Corey’s highly entertaining Expanse series, which includes its debut, Leviathan Wakes, has ships that also utilize fusion propulsion.
 
Nuclear propulsion has been explored by NASA through its Project Orion. However, the international Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 effectively terminated that project as it required the now banned controlled explosion of nuclear bombs to provide propulsion. Since that time, however, other agencies, such as the British Interplanetary Society, have studied the technical problems associated with nuclear propulsion through their Project Daedalus, so all is not lost.
 
Sails have been proposed for space travel, but how could they work, since sails depend on wind to be functional and space is the closest approximation that we have in Nature to a true vacuum? The fact is that space is not a true vacuum and there is a “wind” out there, in the form of particles, far more concentrated in a star system like our own and thinner in the vastness of interstellar space. High speed particles and photons are constantly being expelled by stars including our Sun which provide the driving force of the “wind.” Unlike the winds of Earth, the winds of space move at a constant high velocity. No such thing as wind gusts or lulls. In addition, with almost no friction in space, the velocities that can be achieved, are enormous. Another option for a sail would be to create “wind” by having a directed laser or other electromagnetic beam focused on the sail, thus providing forward thrust.
 
The principle behind a solar sail is to construct a thin film of a highly reflective sheet of light material such as Mylar or Kevlar. To be effective, the sail would have to be many square meters in size. As difficult as that may seem, the free fall conditions of outer space make the structural requirements of such an engineering feat less stringent as extensive support structures would not be required. Sail technology in space is still in its infancy but strides are being made. In 1993, a Russian spacecraft that serviced the MIR space station unfurled a twenty-meter disk-shaped sail using an onboard motor. NASA also planned a mission to rendezvous with Halley’s Comet using a sail system; unfortunately, the mission was scrapped. However, NASA is currently looking at developing a giant solar sail that could make interstellar travel a reality as soon as 2025.
 
Visionary physicist Freeman Dyson suggested a modification of the solar sail. Instead of a solid sail to catch the photons of light, the sail is a fine mesh. A mesh has the advantage that the craft can dip into an atmosphere without experiencing any drag. It also allows the sail to radiate heat faster which further allows it to tolerate higher light intensities and therefore greater accelerations.
 
Sails have found their way into science fiction as well. Robert Forward in his novel, Flight of the Dragonfly, utilizes a laser-powered lightsail to drive his ship to Barnard’s Star. Pierre Boulle, describes a sail-powered ship that carries his astronauts to Planet of the Apes. Barrington Bayley wrote Starwinds where ships “sail” through the solar system. Perhaps the most poetic use of a solar sail is found in Arthur C. Clarke’s short story, The Wind from the Sun, which is about a sail race in space, much like today’s America’s Cup on the oceans of Earth. Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes, in Encounter with Tiber, describe the alien Tibers coming to Earth using sail technology nine-thousand years ago. Allen Steele, in Arkwright, propels his multi-generation starship via beams emitted from satellites.
 
Currently a number of our spacecraft utilize the gravitational field of planets to traverse to other planets in the solar system, in effect catapulting themselves across space. By entering a planet’s gravity field, a spacecraft escaping the orbit is actually accelerated as it is flung out in a slingshot effect. Some science fiction authors have also used the idea of catapults. Arthur C. Clarke uses the idea of a catapult involving a gravitational boost from an orbit around our Sun, in his novel, Rendezvous with Rama. Robert Forward in his Camelot 30k uses gravitational catapults to power a ship to the outer regions of the solar system, the Kuiper Belt.
 
The options do not end there. The ramjet was first proposed by American physicist Robert Bussard in 1960. It is truly innovative in that it solves the problem of fuel. Not only is there no need to carry fuel it has the added benefit of removing particles from the path of the spacecraft. Instead it scoops the hydrogen out of space using a magnetic deflector. Once the hydrogen is inside the craft a set of lasers would ionize atoms starting a nuclear fusion process that powers the craft. Larry Niven in his Known Space series utilizes ramjets extensively in the propulsion systems of spacecraft. Niven also used it in his partnership alien invasion novel, with Jerry Pournelle, Footfall. Vernor Vinge used the ramjet in his “first contact” vision, Deepness in the Sky.
 
A matter/antimatter rocket is still entirely within the realm of science fiction. It is also known as a photon rocket. Antimatter does exist in Nature and is essentially the polar opposite of matter; the main difference between the two is that the charges on the particles is the opposite. In matter, for example, the electrons have a negative charge and in antimatter, they carry a positive charge. If matter and antimatter come into contact with one another there is a full realization of Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2. There is a total annihilation of the matter and antimatter into high intensity gamma rays which, in turn, are emitted out of the back of the ship providing forward thrust. The one limitation is that antimatter is rare, extremely rare. Another limitation is that antimatter is also difficult to contain; one suggestion is that it can be contained in a near vacuum in an electromagnetic field.
 
In Robert Conquest’s A World of Difference, a character in a utopian society tries to build a photon starship to travel to the star Procyon about eleven and a half light years from Earth. Charles Pelligrino began his career as a physicist but was kicked out of his New Zealand university because of his far-fetched ideas. He applied his imagination by becoming a science fiction writer. His first effort, Flying to Valhalla, describes an antimatter spacecraft.
 
We see that there are indeed technologies that are more efficient alternatives to chemical rockets, but the distances between the stars still remain forbidding even if we were able to almost reach the speed of light. Is there a way to overcome this? Light travels at 300,000 kilometers per second. This is an awesome speed but it is minuscule when compared to the vastness of the universe. In fact, the distances to our nearest stellar neighbours is measured in light years, a light year being the distance travelled by light in one year.
 
In order to get to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri star system, with current technology it would take 100,000 years and it is only 4.2 light years from the Earth. Some physicists have hypothesized the existence of particles called tachyons that move at speeds greater than the speed of light but this is not really a feasible option.

In spite of the theoretical possibility of tachyons and to date, there is no compelling evidence of their existence, physics maintains that there is a speed limit in our universe. Albert Einstein, with his Special Theory of Relativity, provided the universe with its speed limit, that of the speed of light. A few things happen when we move at or close to the speed of light. Einstein showed that mass will increase for a moving object and once the speed of light is attained, the mass is infinite. In addition, time slows down for a moving object. Once an object approaches the speed of light, time slows down. The theory has been successfully tested through experimentation. Several science fiction authors have used this time dilation to good effect. Tau Zero by Poul Anderson is a classic that describes a constantly accelerating spacecraft and the impact on the crew. Another is the Forever War, written by Vietnam veteran turned author, Joe Haldeman. Here his hero undergoes the effects of time dilation during a thousand-year interstellar war; the hero only ages ten years.
 
Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity may have defeated many potential science fiction stories. However, Einstein opened new fertile ground as well. With his General Theory of Relativity, he showed that space is a fabric interwoven with time that can be curved in the presence of matter. His equations called field equations, allow scientists to actually determine the curvature of space. Many physicists have sought solutions to the field equations and some of their solutions only go to prove that reality is often more bizarre than any fiction.
 
The idea of wormholes came first when Ludwig Flamm, an Austrian physicist, published a possible solution to Einstein’s field equations back in 1916. Flamm’s work showed that it is possible that there is another solution to the equation that appeared to create a white hole. In 1935, Einstein and Nathan Rosen looked into it further and came up with a theory of intra-and interuniverse tunnels in space. Their work became the basis of an Einstein-Rosen bridge which American physicist John Wheeler would later call a wormhole.
 
Physically, wormholes are essentially tunnels through spacetime. Sounds like a perfect way to get around an almost infinite universe. One difficulty however, is that wormholes are highly unstable and would probably collapse if any matter attempted to enter. That equates to being a huge roadblock to an apparently perfect universal transportation method.
 
The inspiration for searching for a solution to the problem of unstable wormholes came from science fiction. When Carl Sagan was writing his novel, Contact, he solicited the advice of physicist Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology on how to create faster than light speeds or otherwise traverse the enormous distances of space. As with many university professors, Thorne assigned the task of finding a solution to his students, Michael Morris and Uri Yertsever. They realized that if it were possible to keep a wormhole open, they had a means of moving across the cosmos. However, it required a negative energy density and large negative pressure. The hypothetical solution was exotic matter.
 
Exotic matter is matter that has exotic properties in that it is different than the standard model of matter which contains protons and neutrons. Instead, exotic matter could be dark matter or matter with negative mass which produces effects the opposite of what one might expect. For example, push on negative matter and it would come towards you rather than moving away. There is also some laboratory evidence of possible exotic matter in the form of particles that we have found in our nuclear accelerators that do not conform with our Standard Model of the universe (model of “almost everything”). With the possibility of finding exotic matter, there is hope to stabilizing wormholes should we ever find them.
 
Perhaps we can create wormholes. In 2012, Panagioti Kanti of the University of Ioannina in Greece and Burkhard Kleihaus of Oldenburg University in Germany showed mathematically that it is also possible to create traversable wormholes without using exotic matter by resorting to a form a string theory. String theory is a theoretical framework of our universe which envisions the point-like particles of particle physics being in reality one-dimensional strings instead.
 
There is also a quantum approach to wormhole creation using gravitational vacuum fluctuations. Gravitational vacuum fluctuations are the random fluctuations in the curvature of spacetime caused by adjacent regions of spacetime “stealing” energy from each other and giving it back. The gravitational vacuum fluctuations are everywhere and it has been determined that the smaller the space, the greater the fluctuation.
 
In 1955, John Wheeler of Princeton University looked at the smallest space in Nature, known as the Planck-Wheeler Length which is 1.62 X 10 -55 centimeters. At that level, the fluctuations are so enormous that space becomes foamlike, known as quantum foam. Quantum foam exists everywhere in matter in the universe, inside a star, inside a planet and inside you and me. Since this quantum foam exists everywhere, perhaps an advanced civilization may be able to take this foam and expand it to create a traversable wormhole.
 
The creation wormholes may not even be an issue for us either. In fact, David Hochberg and Thomas Kephart of Vanderbilt University have discovered that in the earliest moments of the Universe, gravity itself may have given rise to regions of negative energy in which natural self-stabilized wormholes may have formed. These wormholes could still be out there waiting for us to discover and manipulate them.
 
Wormholes may have been proven to exist on a subatomic level. In 1948, Dutch physicist, Henrik Casimir found the effect by taking two large uncharged metal plates and placing them parallel to one another in a vacuum. Since the plates are uncharged, there should be no force between them. Casimir, however, was able to demonstrate that the vacuum separating the two plates is teeming with activity with trillions of particles and antiparticles appearing and disappearing. The net result is an attractive force between the two plates. In 1958, physicist M. J. Sparnaay demonstrated the effect under laboratory conditions. At this level of nature, small wormholes are believed to be winking in and out of existence constantly. A sufficiently advanced civilization may be able to expand the tiny wormholes by adding energy to the system.
 
The wormhole’s possibilities have not been lost on science fiction authors either. One interesting one is Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. In the story the characters move about the cosmos in a method not unlike the principle of a wormhole and hence the title; by “wrinkling up” spacetime.
In Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee series, humans use wormholes to travel in space. Stephen Baxter also worked with Arthur C. Clarke to create The Light of Other Days. Privacy in the world created in the novel is eliminated when wormholes are used to provide faster-than-light communication. In Iain Banks’ The Alegbraist wormholes are artificially created for moving about in space. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga depicts wormholes that are used for interstellar travel. Peter Hamilton’s The Commonwealth Saga depicts wormholes that connect worlds across the universe. In his House of Suns, Alastair Reynolds used wormholes to link galaxies. The Human Reach is a series by John Lumpkin in which artificial wormholes are created to traverse the cosmos. The Alderson Drive is a wormhole system that is found in Larry Niven’s and Jerry Pournelle’s Mote series to travel to different parts of space.
Perhaps the most often utilized method of avoiding the limitations of the speed limit of light is through a system called warp drive. Perhaps the most famous utilization is found in the Star Trek television shows and movies. However, is it a viable method of space travel? In 1994, Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre of the University of Wales showed that it is possible to warp space in front of a spacecraft and expand it behind a spacecraft in an exotic solution of the field equations of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.
Alcubierre’s theory is based on the fact that the universe is expanding. As the universe expands, space is created. Though objects are at rest with respect to the local environment, the distance between two objects can actually grow at a speed greater than that of light. Modern cosmology does allow for this possibility. Alcubierre’s drive utilizes a system similar to universal expansion, but does so on a localized scale. New space can be created behind a spacecraft while simultaneously being destroyed in front. The craft will therefore be pushed forward by the expansion of space behind and contraction of the front.
The system has some beautiful side-effects. Since the ship is at the centre of the moving volume of space, it is actually at rest with respect to local space. Therefore, the craft will not undergo the enormous g forces that would normally be expected with rapid acceleration that would otherwise kill the crew. There would also be none of the difficulties that Einstein predicted in his General Theory of Relativity; no time dilation or increase in mass because there is no true motion.
Sounds like a perfect solution. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. The energy that is required to warp space to this degree has been calculated to be greater than all of the energy available in the universe.
Some scientists have tried to come up with some solutions to this criticism, however. One is to use a strange form of warped space in the form of a bubble with a large internal volume and small surface area. This is not unlike the police box idea that was employed in the classic science fiction series, Dr. Who, large on the inside and small on the outside. One researcher at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, Chris Van Den Broek, found that a bubble could be made big enough to contain a spacecraft using just a gram of space-warping material made up of negative energy, but where do we find negative energy? No one has the answer currently.
The concept of negative energy was first hypothesized by British physicist Paul Dirac in 1928 in his Dirac equation. So, we at least know that negative energy is at least theoretically possible. All being said, we have still some work to do to make warp drive a reality.

A more recent idea of superluminal travel is called the MiHsC (Mike McCulloch (Plymouth physicist) Hubble scale Casimir Effect)/Quantised Inertia. It is based on the Casimir effect and predicts a minimum acceleration even at light speed. In other words, it essentially extrapolates that the speed of light can be exceeded. The Casimir Effect itself was first discovered by Dutch physicist, Hendrik Casimir in 1948. It can easily be demonstrated in a laboratory when two uncharged plates are put into a vacuum a few nanometers apart. Instead of having no force as would be expected since the plates are uncharged, the opposite will be found; a net force is created between the plates. The source of that energy is from zero-point energy which is essentially energy found in the vacuum of space. Zero point energy has been calculated by physicists to be even more energetic than the energy of nuclear fusion.


Another popular concept that was popularized by the television series Star Trek is the teleporter (called the transporter in Star Trek). It allows for the transmission of matter or information from one region of space to another. It would seem on the surface to be a possibility since all information can be duplicated into a digital format. So why not reduce a person to a digitized blueprint, which is carried away by a wave of energy and then reassembled elsewhere. What’s the problem? The problem is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle developed in 1927 by German physicist Werner Heisenberg. It is a cornerstone of quantum mechanics. The principle states that it is not possible to measure all of the properties of an atom or its subparticles, so full replication is impossible.

Teleportation is not off the radar of scientists though. There is something in quantum physics that we can use to our advantage. It is called the Bell Instantaneous Quantum Connectedness Model developed by Irish physicist John Bell in 1964. The model shows that when two particles interact and then move apart, the mathematical probability waves of the particles do not completely separate but become entangled. When something happens to one of the particles of the entangled pair, it affects the other as well no matter the distance separating them. Though not proven, it is conceivable that superluminal transmission of information or objects via this mechanism is possible. Experiments to illustrate Bell’s model have been demonstrated on the atomic level but more work has to be done on larger objects.

Teleportation as a fictional device actually goes back in history. Edward Page Mitchell wrote probably the first science fiction story depicting teleportation in his 1877 The Man without a Body.

One of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger stories, The Disintegration Machine, published in 1929,revolves around the idea of teleportation. George Langelaan, in his 1957 short story, The Fly, which later became successful movies, depicts a scientist who teleports himself over a short distance unaware that a housefly has entered to teleporter machine. The process unfortunately combines the researcher’s DNA with that of the fly.

Other stories that have used teleporters include Arthur C. Clarke’s Travel by Wire, A. E. van Vogt’s The World of Null-A and Isaac Asimov’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day. Neal Asher, in his novel Gridlocked,depicts a utopian society with teleporters connecting civilization. In L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s Harold Shea, the characters use teleportation to project themselves to other universes and worlds. Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, uses teleportation frequently to move characters around. Dan Simmons’ in his novel Hyperion, there are teleporters called Farcasters which are used to transport people and objects. Stephen King, in his short story The Jaunt, describes some of the psychological problems associated with teleporting. Stephen Gould wrote Jumper about a child who can warp spacetime to appear anywhere on Earth. In Larry Niven’s Known Space novels and stories, citizens of Earth travel instantaneously from one point to another in glass displacement booths. Harry Harrison wrote a short story collection, One Step from Earth, all of which deal with teleportation. A classic of teleportation literature is Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination. The basis behind the teleportation of Bester’s novel is through a system of psionic displacement. Sheri Tepper in her series of The True Game, teleportation is a psychic ability possessed by Gamesmen. In James Patrick Kelly’s Hugo award-winning story, Think Like a Dinosaur, which later became an Outer Limits television episode, a woman is teleported to an alien planet. In the story, the original woman refuses to be disintegrated which would be essential in maintaining the balance of the universe. In Robert Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky, Earth’s excess population is sent to colonize other planets through a Ramsbotham jump, a form of teleportation.

Space may forever be out of reach for human explorers; however, we must strive and move forward, and we should take inspiration from science fiction writing. The only great disservice to us and our descendants is to stop trying. 

Further Reading:

Alcubierre, M. 1994. The Warp Drive: Hyper-fast Travel within General Relativity. Classical and Quantum Gravity. 11(5):L73-L77.
Aravind, P. 2007. The physics of the space elevator.American Journal of Physics. 75(2):125-130.
Barcelo, C. and Visser, M. 2000. Brane surgery: energy conditions, traversable wormholes, and voids. Nuclear Physics B. 584(1-2):415-435.
Barrett, M. et al. 2004. Deterministic quantum teleportation of atomic qubits. Nature. 429:737-739.
Bender, Andrew. 2006. Slipstring Drive: String Theory, Gravity and Faster than Light Travel. Universe
Bennett, C. et al. 1993. Teleporting an Unknown Quantum State via Dual Classical and Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Channels. Physical Review Letters. 70:1895-1899.
Blandford, R. et al. 1977. Superluminal expansion in extragalactic radio sources. Nature. 267:211-216.
Bouwmeester, J. et al. 1997. Experimental Quantum Teleportation. Nature. 390:575-579.
Bradley, C et al. 2003. The Space Elevator: A Revolutionary Earth-to-Space Transportation System. Spageo.
Broeck, C. van den. 1999. A ‘warp drive’ with more reasonable energy requirements. Classical and Quantum Gravity. 16:3973-3979.
Carroll, J. 1986. Tether applications in space transportation. Acta Astronautica. 13(4):165-174.
Casimir. H. 1948. On the attraction between two perfectly conducting plates. Proceedings of the Kininklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen. 50:793. 
Chodos, A. et al. 1985. The Neutrino as a Tachyon. Physics Letters B. 150(60):431-435.
Cohen, S. and Misra, A. 2009. The effect of climber transit on the space elevator dynamics. Acta Astronautica. 64(5-6):538-553.
Cosmo, M. and Lorenzini, E. (eds.). 2010. Tethers in Space Handbook. Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
Einstein, Albert. 2010. Relativity: The Special and the General Theory. Martino.
Einstein, Albert and Rosen, Nathan. 1935. The Particle Problem in the General Theory of Relativity. Physical Review. 48:73-77.
Feinberg, G. 1967. Possibility of Faster-Than-Light Particles. Physical Review. 159:1089-1105.
Ford, L. and Roman, T. 2000. Negative Energy, Wormholes and Warp Drive. Scientific American. 282:46-53.
Forward, Robert. 1984. Roundtrip Interstellar Travel Using Laser-Pushed Lightsails. Journal of Spacecraft. 21(2):187-195.
Forward, Robert. 1990. Negative matter propulsion. Journal of Propulsion and Power. 6(1):28-37.
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