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Scientist Teleport Matter More Than Three Feet (foxnews.com)
33 points by gibsonf1 on Jan 24, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments

Very nifty result, so it's a pity about the lead:

Scientists have come a bit closer to achieving the "Star Trek" feat of teleportation.

This is like me picking up a trowel and claiming that I've come a bit closer to the feat of moving the moon from one orbit to another.

Words cannot express the loathing I have for the term quantum teleportation. Those of us who have read the Star Trek Technical Manual [1] get the joke, sort of, but for everyone who doesn't already understand the physics the metaphor is broken, and now we appear to be stuck with it. It's a shameless piece of linkbait that also seems designed to confuse the issue: It confuses the communication of quantum states with the movement of objects, and it subtly encourages us to think of this phenomenon as a weird, magical, "spooky action at a distance". ("Action at a distance" is the very definition of "teleportation".) That's a concept that we need to get out of physics education. [2]

One of the fun bits of Feynman's QED lectures is his grumbling about names like quark, which were relatively new when he gave the lectures. He doesn't seem to have been a fan of the Gell-Mann school of name selection. (Or perhaps he just enjoyed teasing his colleagues?) But quark turns out not to be so bad: at least it's an otherwise meaningless word (flavor and color are only a little bit worse). But imagine if physicists had chosen to call quarks "cheerios". Every news article on particle physics would be accompanied by a photo of some breakfast cereal, and people would keep asking about the milk.


[1] This article really is about a "Heisenberg compensator". That much is true.

[2] The phrase "spooky action at a distance" is a holdover from Einstein, who coined it in order to ridicule the concept of quantum entanglement. Unfortunately, Einstein was wrong: entanglement is real. But he was also really eloquent, so his argument lives on despite being wrong.

You're right -- the teleportation aspect should almost be secondary. I think the reason the article got stuck with this headline is that it attracts eyeballs (hey, it got me interested).

The more "hacker" relevant section is the surprisingly accurate section on quantum computing. If such a computer could be built, it would mean a breakdown of pretty much all current crypto algorithms.

Fox News is the source? I want to say something about "higher standards" but I am too dumbfounded to find the words. Fox News. Seriously?

Well, since CNN decided science wasn't newsworthy enough to actually spend money on, what do you expect? There's no reference to the story that a quick search on CNN will reveal.

Besides, look more closely. It's not FoxNews, it's sourced from LiveScience. Which I suppose is my cue to cry "No linkjacking!" and cut&paste http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/090123-teleportation-... .

This whole whining thing about Fox News is just ad hominem embedded in a fashionable, trendy pose. It's still a fallacy. This is better science reporting than any I've seen on a mainstream site in a long time... precisely because it's sourced from an actual science site, which puts it rather far ahead of almost every other mainstream source other than perhaps the NYT.

(I'm not using mainstream as a pejorative here, just a descriptive term.)

How about something, oh, I don't know, peer reviewed?

Would it not have just been more useful to have looked up the source yourself?


If you're wondering why science writers don't normally link to the paper, often they have pre-embargo access and there's no live link at the time of posting. They should still give the DOI though.

Well, this is why you're seeing blogs get syndicated on sites like the NYTimes and WaPo. The blogs get distribution and the sites get to have coverage they otherwise wouldn't.

This is why the whole "the Times should curate all the news that's fit to display" isn't the same as saying "the Times should be a Digg clone". Jane Galt became Megan McArdle on the Atlantic. Marginal Revolution has great analysis. Grist does this for environmental news. They all have their biases - but that's OK.

Okay, I understand what they're talking about now. They're not talking about teleportation, which they've done many times at much more impressive distances, they're talking about the teleportation of information, which means you could have near-instantaneous communications between us on Earth and someone anywhere in the universe.

One end could be in downtown New York and the other end could be in the Andromeda Galaxy; so long as you transported the entangled particles.

This is a great link, really great, and yet I fear it's inadequate to the task of explaining the situation to a nonphysicist. [1] It makes use of both (a) bras and kets and (b) a Zen koan. At this point we have abundant experimental evidence that these things don't help most people.


[1] Not that there aren't plenty of physicists who need help, too.

Link from better source was posted earlier to HN:


Since this was covered by Fox News, we must assume that these were creation scientists transporting matter using the power of prayer.

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