You can define the Star Trek franchise with just a few pieces of science-fiction technology. The photon torpedo is one, the phaser is another, as is the replicator. But perhaps the most iconic of Federation tech is the transporter: a transportation device (who would have guessed?) that teleports people and things from one place to another. The way that the movies and TV shows say transporters work, though, is more mind-blowing to me than teleportation itself.
In my latest Because Science, I’m taking a look at how much information it would take to transport a whole human to the surface of an M-class planet. According to the canon, Trek transporters work by first analyzing you down to the quantum level, dissembling your atoms, beaming them through space, and putting them back together in the right order on the other side. The analysis down to the quantum level is where the enormous data requirement comes from (canon says “kiloquads” of data).
So how much information does a person contain? There is a theoretical limit based on quantum mechanics, as well as an estimation for how big that collection of bits is. It’s unbelievable, almost literally. Our brains cannot comprehend numbers so huge. The amount of data a person being transported would dump in the Enterprise’s computers is enough to contain all of human history. Find out more in the video above.
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