An Interstellar Transport System

Mankind has been dreaming about an interstellar transport system for a long time (some were nightmares). There are a lot of ideas around which use exotic matter, worm holes, etc. A few years ago, a colleague proposed something much more simple. It works like this:

Take a body in our own solar system and drill a hole to the center. Earth is a bit too hot but the Moon would work. Mars would be better but that’s too far away for a first prototype. In the center, build a chamber which can be isolated completely from the outside. That would need a lot of technology but it should be possible to create a room where an object would not be influenced by any external forces or any information exchange (photons).

Next, you create a similar chamber in a second place. This can be anywhere in the universe. Distance doesn’t matter. Only that you have two places that you can “seal” from the rest of the universe.

Now the trick: You put an object in chamber 1 and measure whether it is still there. You do the same in chamber 2. There are ways to measure with slightly different probabilities for whether you’ll find an object or not. This is a quantum effect. In chamber 1, you’ll use an effect with a slightly higher probability that it will return “nothing here”, in chamber 2, you’ll use a method with a slight lean towards “object is here”.

In normal physics, this is ridiculous but not at a quantum level. At a quantum level, as soon as you completely isolate an object from the outside and make sure that no information whatsoever can be exchanged with the surrounding chamber, it doesn’t matter anymore in which chamber the object really is. You have created a really huge qubit, a system where nobody can say anymore at which place the object currently is.

In that very moment, as soon as no one can tell, the universe will stop caring and by using the clever measurement technique, you constantly nudge the object to “jump” to chamber 2. After a long but finite number of measurements, it will be gone from chamber 1. And if no other alien race came up with the same idea, it must now be in chamber 2 because that’s the only other place in the universe where it could be.

If you wonder why we had to drill to the center of a moon or planet: That’s the only place in our solar system where no gravitational forces pull at an object (gravity would also count as “information exchange”). You could try a Lagrangian point but there, you’d have a hard to time to shield the object from all the radiation in space — the mass of the moon would do that for you. Next, you’ll need to cool the chamber to absolute zero to prevent heat photon exchange and you’ll need a large blob of water to shield the chamber against neutrinos.

As far as I can tell, the only hole in the theory is microgravity: Will it be possible to shield the object from the tiny gravitational forces that still exist even at the core of a big object in free fall? If the answer to this is yes, then we might have an interstellar transporter which is even pretty efficient. Transport will take some time (until the way of measurement has driven the probability up or down enough) but the change of location itself will be instantaneous.

Quantum physics is cool 🙂

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