close menu
Because ScienceBecause Science

Are You the Same Person After Getting in a STAR TREK Transporter?

A problem even Captain Picard might not be able to solve.

In my latest Because Science, I’m tackling a philosophical quandary without an answer: If you are taken apart and put back together in exactly the same way (or with new parts in exactly the same way), are you really the same person? Maybe, but maybe not.

We’ve been trying to solve the problem of identity for thousands of years, but Star Trek really crystallizes the problem with a piece of technology, the transporter, that creates the problem directly. Are you more than the sum of your parts? If transporter tech works the way the show says, we would be inclined to say you are not. But take parts away from you and eventually it with cease to be “you,” even though they are just parts. I touch on a few of these issues above!

Check out my last video on “lightsaber thunder“, subscribe to this playlist to stay current with the show, and follow me on Twitter to barrage me with nerdiness!

John Cleese Recapping THE WALKING DEAD Is Simply Delightful

John Cleese Recapping THE WALKING DEAD Is Simply Delightful

Wolverine's LOGAN Trailer Looks Unlike Any Superhero Movie We've Seen

Wolverine's LOGAN Trailer Looks Unlike Any Superhero Movie We've Seen


"Borrowed Time" Is What Pixar Animators Make on Their Days off



  1. Jeff says:

    Personally I like how the Prestige dealt with transporter duplication.

  2. David says:

    What I always consider with this problem wasn’t addressed at all. That is, for those of us who believe in the existence of a soul (such as myself), is it a soulless clone that appears on the other side, somehow existing as a shell of the original while going through all the motions, or does your soul somehow end up in the reconstructed body? I know our science can’t answer this, but it should’ve bared mentioning. 

  3. rob t says:

    I think you would be as the transporter is transporting your material. A real life version would probably have to use matter at the destination to create the person, which means it’s just a a glorified photo copier haha

    • will says:

      Hmm so with a transporter I could make carbon copies of bobba fett and breed my own army of storm troopers?

    • NzFox says:

      But that is just it, a copier copies something. The final version is different from the original (even if it destroys the original in the coping process).

      It comes down  the question are we more than the sum of our parts, even if the copy is identical in every way from the outside….is it still the original?

  4. Fireflyeyes says:

    What really bugs me is that in that really early episode of TNG, when Picard was taken by that alien, they saved him by reconstituting his last saved transporter pattern and reuniting it with his consciousness. Why don’t they just do that EVERY TIME someone dies? I mean, Picard only remembered what happened up until he transported the last time, so obviously the transporter saves a record of your consciousness (if not everyone would have no memories or sense of self when they transported). Ostensibly they needed his consciousness that went with the alien when it took off, but if they’d really used that Picard should have remembered every thing.

  5. Eric Wood says:

    Does the transporter restore even the age of my cells?  If not, then wouldn’t I be able to slow aging significantly by transporting once every 3 days?

    • Greg says:

      It does record age of cells, because age of cells is based on the remaining excess material on the dna strain that is lost each time the cell divides.

      Each division loses some of this excess and causes extremely gradual degradation of the new cells. This is what causes the appearance of age, ie wrinkles.

      There was also an episode (I forget which one) where a person who had never used a transporter contracted a disease that caused rapid aging. The away team also contracted this disease, but because the computer records the last matter stream that you were, they were able to remove the disease that linked onto the dna of the host by reloading the last matter stream during the transport process, but the woman who had never used the transporters prior to infection couldn’t be saved by this means.