Is beaming down in Star Trek a death sentence?
In the 2009 movie Star Trek, Captain Kirk and Sulu plummeted down toward the planet Vulcan without a parachute. “Beam us up, beam us up!” Kirk shouted in desperation. Then at the last second, after a tense scene of Chekov running top speed to the transporter room, their lives were saved moments before they hit the doomed planet’s rocky surface.
But can beaming out save someone’s life? Some would argue that having one’s “molecules scrambled," as Dr. McCoy would put it, is actually the surest way to die. Sure, after you’ve been taken apart by the transporter, you’re put back together somewhere else, good as new. But is it still you on the other side, or is it a copy? If the latter, does that mean the transporter is a suicide box?
These issues have received a lot of attention lately given Trek’s 50th Anniversary last year and the series' impending return to TV. Not to mention, in the real world scientists have found recent success in quantum teleporting a particle’s information farther than before (which isn’t the same thing, but still). So while it seems like Trek's transporter conundrum has never had a satisfying resolution, we thought we’d take a renewed crack at it.