In the science fiction-action-thriller Jumper, a genetic anomaly allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years between "Jumpers" and those who have sworn to kill them.
Actor Hayden Christensen, who starred as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episodes II and II, joined director Doug Liman for a panel discussion last week about their new movie -scheduled to be released on Feb. 14- at MIT. The event included MIT Physics Professors Max Tegmark and Edward Farhi, who addressed questions related to real world knowledge and research pertaining to the branch of physics that deals with teleportation and quantum mechanics.
"It's a little less exotic than what you see in the movie (see the trailer video)," said Edward Farhi, director of the Center for Theoretical Physics at MIT. "Teleportation has been done, moving a single proton over two miles. [But] teleporting a person? That is pretty far down the line. The quantum state of a living creature is pretty formidable. That is just not in the foreseeable future."
Unlike Star Trek's "Beam me up, Scottie" form of teleportation, the Hayden Christensen character simply wills himself to "jump" from one place to another.
Christensen's character discovers that he's not the only Jumper alive and that there's a secret organization of people sworn to kill all Jumpers because they believe the teleporters' ability makes them a danger to everyone else. A cool, white-hired Samuel L. Jackson plays the man in charge of tracking down and killing the Jumpers.
Liman, who joked about doubting his decision to appear at MIT, where
the technology in his movie could be ripped apart if not ridiculed,
said he tried to find a source of reality in the science behind
"When we started Jumper, I got hooked up with a professor at the
University of Toronto," said Liman, who traveled to 14 countries and 20
cities to make the movie. "He basically threw me out of his office. He
didn't have much of a sense of humor about what we were doing."
Farhi and Max Tegmark, an associate professor of physics at MIT, can separate science fact from fiction when it comes to wormholes, time travel, and teleportation.
Quantum teleportation, Farhi explained to the audience, entails destroying something in its original place and re-creating it somewhere else. To do this with an electron, for instance, scientists would need to have another electron, basically a mate, in place where they wanted the first electron to appear. That second electron would receive the essence of the first electron.
"Quantum teleportation has occurred in the laboratory," Farhi added. "They've moved single particles over two miles, but there is no instantaneous transportation. You could just pick it up and move it much more easily, but that would be less exotic … and cheaper."
Scientists are still experimenting with teleporting single protons or electrons, Fahri said, The next step would be to teleport a more complex object, like an atom. When that might happen, the theorist just isn't sure. "I don't think distance will be the problem," he said. "The issue will be the size of the object."
Fahri also said he would have no interest in being able to teleport like the character in Jumper, even if it were possible. "No. No. Once you destroy the quantum state of the object, the thing is gone," he explained. "If you mess up the teleportation, then you're a goner."
Tegmark noted that there is a major benefit to sci-fi movies like Jumper.
"People watch movies and get all fired up to be scientists," he said. "Sometimes I watch sci-fi and it raises interesting questions. When you walk up to a door and it automatically opens, it's because someone watched Star Trek. … Sci-fi can get kids interested in learning about science."
Posted by Casey Kazan. Jumper Trailer Video
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