Conversion of Energy into Matter

Posted by
Whitestar on Mar 07, 2004 at 19:24

I recently read an article on the net about the conversion of energy into matter. Michael Pidwirny, the guy who wrote it claimed that it might one day be a useful means of teleportation like in Star Trek. Here is a direct quote from him:

"In 1998 researchers at Stanford University's Linear Accelerator Center successfully converted energy into matter. This feat was accomplished by using lasers and incredibly strong electromagnetic fields to change ordinary light into matter. The results of this experiment may allow for the development of variety of technological gadgets. One such development could be matter/energy transporters or food replicators that are commonly seen in some of our favorite science fiction programs."

And here is the website:

Okay, here's my two cents worth. If the mass of a person is converted into energy in an uncontrolled way (eg, collision with a very large amount of antimatter, destroying every proton, neutron and electron in your body) then the information that is encoded on the gamma rays (usually) released will be lost.

In a controlled conversion, you could in principle convert the entire body to energy one particle at a time, and then read off the whole state and transmit it. But there are two problems with this:

1) A tremendous amount of data needs to be sent. In "The Physics of Star Trek" author Lawerence Krauss calculates the approximate amount, about 10,000 light-years to the center of the galaxy!

2) The amount of time this takes.

However, current thought in neuroscience is that the "personailty/consciousness" is not at all QM, and thus there is no need to break someone down to a subatomic level and read their Quantum State. Instead, it is simply enough to know there chemical structure - and copy it at that resolution. This means there are no "no cloning" problems, much less data to handle, and no need to destroy the original (given sufficient technology to do the scanning). This would allow you to create "clones" - you could send copies of yourself "over the radio", while you stay safe at home. (Greg Egan's Diaspora talks about this at an AI level - the AI programs clone themselves and send themselves all over the place)

Now if you turn each person into energy, you get a cloud of gamma rays expanding outwards. There is nothing that would make them spontaneously reform the person - even if you reflected them backwards, they would not neccessarily create the original particles. It is much more likely that teleportation would involve sending the information that can be gleaned from the gamma rays, and then having the information used by a base station to construct the person, more mechanically.

In my view, when your body is destroy, you die. End of story. What comes out of the teleporter is an exact copy, with all your memories etc, and no knowledge that it isn't you, but it isn't. No one would ever notice the problem, so it only affects you when it happens. Unless, if you believe in souls, there are "conservation of souls" problems to deal with - does the same soul follow the body around?

While in an information state, there is no consciousness, no heart to beat - the person is not a person shaped lump of energy, rather they are radio waves carrying info about his state.

What does everybody else thinks?


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