What is teleportation? Well, the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (yes, there is such a thing, and yes, I own one) defines teleportation as:
…as the ability to move people or objects from one place to another by MATTER TRANSMISSION; ie, using scientific equipment to transmit items in the form of information-carrying waves, which at the destination are reconstituted into matter.
(There’s also a definition for moving yourself around by the power of mind alone, but we’ll stick with the tech approach today.)
The Encyclopedia cites the transporter on Star Trek as a “particularly implausible version” of teleportation because there’s no transmitting equipment at the destination end. That is, there’s nothing to rescramble the information into solid objects. However, science doesn't always dictate storytelling (especially on TV). Gene Roddenberry (the creator of Star Trek) had the character used transporters to get around because he didn’t have the budget for Enterprise to land on every planet.
So, like faster-than-light starships and time machines, teleportation often serves as a narrative short cut to overcome the real limitations of time and space so you can tell a story.
In actuality, human teleportation may be implausible because (a) traveling at the speed of light (which this would require) breaks the laws of physics as we know them, (b) copying a living body might be extremely tricky (a few molecules out of place and you're a turnip, brain-wise), and (c) transmitting your mind / soul is a whole 'nuther metaphysical can of worms. These problems make good stories, though. (Maybe I'll do another blog post on all the ways science fiction writers have worked with / around these issues.)
But, is teleportation itself truly implausible? Could we jump objects from point A to B? (Ok, there's still that speed of light thing.) In the past twenty years or so, scientists have working on quantum teleportation. It's not really the same thing (by a long shot), though. This type of teleportation only moves information--sometimes over several miles. Here’s a better explanation, courtesy of the movie, Jumper:
Long story short: no human or object teleportation--for now. (However, it might mean big things for computing in the near future.)
Still, I want one. A teleporter, that is. What future technology (improbable or not) do you covet?