How Star Trek’s transporter physics could work in real life.

One of Star Trek’s Best Scenes Was Very Wrong, but It Still Anticipated the Future

One of Star Trek’s Best Scenes Was Very Wrong, but It Still Anticipated the Future

The citizen’s guide to the future.
Sept. 20 2017 1:28 PM
FROM SLATE, NEW AMERICA, AND ASU

How Star Trek’s Transporter Could Really Work

One of my favorite scenes from the original series was very wrong, but it also anticipated the future.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock and Paramount Television.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock and Paramount Television.

170825_FUTURE_secondary_nav_recirclogo_Futureofthefuture_Glitch_animation-loop

One of the best scenes from Star Trek involves a transporter malfunction in which Captain Kirk comes back as two copies of Captain Kirk: the good copy and the bad copy. It’s a classic moment, and to be clear, it’s completely impossible. But it begins to show how Star Trek was a forward-looking show even when it was also quite wrong. The short video essay above explains the physics of the transporter and how a version of it could come true, thanks to one of our crazes du jour: quantum teleportation.

This article is part of Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.

One more thing

You depend on Slate for sharp, distinctive coverage of the latest developments in politics and culture. Now we need to ask for your support.

Our work is more urgent than ever and is reaching more readers—but online advertising revenues don’t fully cover our costs, and we don’t have print subscribers to help keep us afloat. So we need your help.

If you think Slate’s work matters, become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.

Join Slate Plus