When you want to get from point A to point B SUPER fast, we might think it’s a good idea for us to come up with a way to just send ourselves through the computer like an email, sms, twitter, or facebook update or whatever. (Maybe FTP would be safer, or Dropbox for that matter...backups...but I digress).
However, as seen in The Fly, or various episodes of Star Trek, there are a few problems that may arise. I think we should think really hard about deconstructing ourselves into a digital format. The subject of the soul may be an interesting one to address, this isn't a provable or measurable component of the human existence (at least not yet). Although, it might be an interesting discussion (what if the soul gets lost, or replaced with someone elses...or a demon, or zombie, or alien-demon-zombie).
But I digress, here’s a few scientific reasons why it's a really bad idea to digitize ourselves.
Unwanted organisms living on our body
In the movie The Fly, the transporter got all confused because an insect (a fly) flew into the pod with naked Jeff Goldblum and didn’t know how to differentiate between him and the fly, so it just mashed their DNA together like some weird human/fly milk shake.
Only thing is...
“We may not realize it, but each one of us is a walking ecosystem.”
At any given time, we have a plethora of unwanted organisms living on our body. It’s gross, but it’s true. Viruses, bacteria, and little tiny single cell organisms are on you right now, walking around eating dead skin cells, mating, watching porn, having parties and probably watching bad sit-coms that you don’t approve of. Here’s a short list:
* Athlete’s foot fungus Trichophyton and Epidermophyton * Human papillomavirus (causes warts) * Head lice Pediculus humanus capitis * Demodex mites (live on your eye lashes) * Staphylococcus (one type causes body odor when you sweat)
It gets worse, check out this video.
Or don’t, it may give nightmares and you might try to remove your skin in an effort to remove the, what was it? Oh yeah, “90 trillion or so microbes” from our bodies. Great, that’s just great.
But lets assume that we can scrub down and make sure we get rid of all the unwanted, gross things living on the outside of our body. We’re good to beam up, right?
Unwanted things living INSIDE our body
Not only do we have shit living ON our body, crawling all over it, liking it, touching it, having sex all over it (ok, I need to go take a shower) but we’re also infested with stuff that we don’t want INSIDE of our body.
What happens when you don’t brush your teeth? Weird, gross fuzzy crap starts growing on them. Guess what that is! Yep, it’s alive. It’s called dental streptococcus. I can’t write it any better than they did, so I’ll just quote them:
“...you probably have a biofilm of bacteria 300 to 500 cells thick on the surface of your teeth. The dominant species in this dental plaque are Streptococcus sanguis and S. mutans. Even if you brush diligently, these bacteria will still be there: They arrive soon after your teeth do and stay until they fall out”
Catch that? The second you get teeth, you get streptococcus. You can’t get rid of it until you lose your teeth, or rip them out while trying to pretend to be a Tommy Knocker. (Right Jimmy Smits?)
Varicella-zoster o Either you got chicken pox at a chicken pox party when you were really little, or you got vaccinated. Either way, you have shingles, and it stays on your spinal cord...forever.
So, that’s probably fine. That can’t possibly be bad ever.
“Research suggests that widespread vaccination against chicken pox, now common in the United States, may lead to a significant increase in shingles among the elderly.”
Ok, ok. So all we gotta do is get rid of anything that isn’t our DNA, and we’d be totally be good right?
GOOD things living in or on our body
If we got rid of everything that wasn’t our human DNA, we’d be missing good things that we live with, and actually HELP us live.
Vaginal flora o these little ladies live in the vagina, fighting off other bad bacteria and preventing yeast infections. They also kill off your swimmers, these little fuckers are the reason why its hard to get your wife pregnant ‘cus your sperm can’t tell the difference between that big egg in there and the sperm assassins.
Firmicutes and BacteroidesQuoting here:“At least 500 species of bacteria, weighing about 3.3 pounds, live inside the human gut.”
These guys help us break down carbohydrates and make vitamins. And apparently just by BEING there, help prevent other unwanted bacteria from hanging around.
If you want to know more about good things living in our or on our body, read up at Webmd.com
Ok, ok. So, all we gotta do is have some crazy awesome super computer map out all the crazy stuff we don’t want, AND keep track of the dna from stuff we DO want in our bodies. Even though it’s literally trillions of separate, individual living organisms, it’s still possible....right?
Let’s just assume for a second that we have a computer smart enough to keep track of our body. The physical stuff, the matter, the dna that makes up the stuff that we can touch. As we’ve discussed, this hypothetical computer will have to keep track of not only our dna and every atom, but also every other thing that lives on or inside of us. Let’s just pretend that a computer can do that for a second. Now, this is a lot of shit. I mean A LOT.
As noted here in this Wired.com article.
“Let's make a simple estimate of how much information is encoded in a human body. Start with our standard estimate of 1028 atoms. For each atom, we first must encode its location, which requires three coordinates (the x, y, and z positions). Next, we would have to record the internal state of each atom, which would include things like which energy levels are occupied by its electrons, whether it is bound to a nearby atom to make up a molecule, whether the molecule is vibrating or rotating, and so forth. Let's be conservative and assume that we can encode all the relevant information in a kilobyte of data. (This is roughly the amount of information on a double-spaced typewritten page.) That means we would need roughly 1028 kilobytes to store a human pattern in the pattern buffer. I remind you that this is a 1 followed by 28 zeros. “
See? There’s a lot of information to record. Not just what we’re made of, but also where those atoms and molecules are in relation to each other, and possibly WHEN they are. But that’s all quantum physics...let’s pretend scientists will be able to figure all that out.
10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilobytes of info to record just our body.
1024 kilobytes = 1 megabyte
1024 megabytes = 1 gigabyte
1024 gigabytes = 1 terabyte
931,322 Terabytes to record your physical body.
(1024 terabytes = 1 petabytes. so, about 909 petabytes)
But that’s JUST the physical body. We still have to record all our memories.(Unless you don’t care about your memories, in which case you wouldn’t have long term memories...and forget completely who you are or what the hell you were doing in a the transporter pad once you got there. It would make for a very confused away team.)
J. Hawes explains in a Scientific American article.“...Yet neurons combine so that each one helps with many memories at a time, exponentially increasing the brain’s memory storage capacity to something closer to around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes). For comparison, if your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage.”
So, if we take the estimated 2.5 petabytes to record our memory and add that to the estimated 909 petabytes to record our physical body, we get 911.5 Petabytes to record one person and make them a digital person.
How much is 911 Petabytes? Well, a lot. IBM just recently built an array of hard drives that only amount to 120 Petabytes.
It will be a long while before we have an affordable and reliable solution to store 900 petabytes. But as technology grows, hard drives get bigger, faster and better. That’s all just memory storage. Once you convert a human into information, you still have to SEND it somewhere.
Now that we have YOU zipping through space...can you get it over there intact?
Depending on the type of signal, or frequency these theoretical scientists use to “beam down” a person, there will be some inherited issues with signal interference. Ship to ship teleportation may not be all that difficult considering space is somewhat...empty. (though there is background radiation, one would hope “they” could compensate for that). The biggest problem would be teleportation from a space ship in orbit to the surface of a nearby planet. There are many issues here. Geo-orbit.org describes the issues with signal interference with satiles we use today in Earth’s orbit. (though not the worst official website out there...it’s pretty bad).
The site lists the Earth’s Thermal Noise, Free Space Loss, Rainfade, and Terrestrial Interference. Although, most of these may be specific to receiving signals via a dish from a satellite in orbit, the one that will most definitely apply here is Rainfade.
“Rain fade is all about signal absorption and scattering of incoming signal. By far the greatest single event reduction in power of signal is caused by rain...The higher the latitude, the lower the angle, and, therefore, the more atmosphere through which a signal must travel and the greater the probability of it having to travel through rain. Rain fade does not cause noise to enter your system but it does prevent signal from being as strong as you may require.”
In our case, however, the ship would most likely be directly over the desired location where the person would end up. Which would mean less atmospheric and weather interference. Just don’t beam down through a storm I guess.
What about the sun?
In this IPS.gov PDF, they explain:
“The sun is the source of 'normal' terrestrial weather. It is also the primary (butnot the only) source of space weather. The "solar wind" from the Sun streamspast the Earth and is mostly deflected by the Earth's magnetic field.”
“Occasionally a huge release of magnetic energy, called a solar flare, occurs onthe Sun. Flares can produce large quantities of x-rays which affect the Earth'satmosphere. They can also accelerate atomic particles (mostly protons) to veryhigh speeds (a substantial fraction of the speed of light!). These high energyparticles are dangerous to man and can reach the stratosphere where jetliners fly.”
All planets have a sun. Period. Most objects in space worth beaming to will be something in orbit around a star. That star will emit solar flares, radiation, all that good stuff. Once inside the planet’s atmosphere (if it has any) the signal would be largely protected from the Sun’s signal interferences, but not before it. The ship would likely be in an orbit just outside of the planet’s atmosphere, so, for a short time, the signal would be completely vulnerable to whatever that star is doing at the time. I’m not happy about the possibility of an atomic particle zinging through my signal approaching the speed of light as I try to beam to a planet. If this doesn’t concern you, then you go right ahead.
Cosmic RaysOn the same site, but different PDF article, they explain a bit about Cosmic Rays.“Cosmic rays or Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR) are in fact particles, mainly protons, which come from well outside the solar system. This radiation represents the highest energy particles known, with energies up to 1020 eV, many orders of magnitude greater than the particles produced in the world's largest particle accelerators.”
Not only do we have to contend with solar winds, but also protons going through...well, kinda everything, including our bodies probably. We’re fine now, because we have physical bodies that probably evolved natural defenses against this kind of radiation. But what if we were turned into a digital signal and sent through space? Would these protons and solar winds have an effect on that signal? Would we arrive to where we were beamed to without an arm, or leg, or half our face? It would be less "Scottie, beam me up," and more "Scottie...where did you beam my dick?"
What about that elusive thing that makes us...us? No, I’m not talking about our soul. And I’m not even talking about memories, those could all be just chemicals stored in the right area of the brain (though I doubt it). I’m talking about how you’re actually able to think of stuff, remember stuff, problem solve, talk, communicate, the stuff we do when we’re awake. Consciousness. How do you record that?
Although some scientists think this is possible someday. I haven’t read anywhere that says HOW they’re going to do it.
Here’s the problem, you don’t get consciousness when you just have a brain. Ask a dead guy how much he thinks, he’ll tell you not much.
In order to be conscious, you need energy. This article touches on that a bit:
“High levels of brain energy are required to maintain consciousness, a finding which suggests a new way to understand the properties of this still mysterious state of being, Yale University researchers report.”
And you know its true, ‘cus YALE.
So we know consciousness isn’t just the brain itself, and is dependent on energy, or electricity to continue to be firing away in the brain. Let’s assume that that’s all it is, and assume that we know what consciousness actually is, even though no one really does.
How do you record it and then send it? If our bodies are deconstructed and recorded in energy and prepared for transfer, then our consciousness would also have be recorded and sustained as well. We would have to still be thinking...while not having a body. Or, at least be in some kind of low brain functioning state, like a medically induced coma. But as any doctor will tell you, when the brain stops, so does the person. So consciousness will still have to be...somewhere...in order for it to be brought back. Good luck.
In a Popular Science article, they come clean about what they know about consciousness:
"When you study mind and brain, you see that, although in many circumstances this practical model we have developed -- mind and brain are the same thing -- is fine, when you go to an extreme environment like during a cardiac arrest…they don't seem to apply anymore," says Parnia. "It may suggest that there's something that hasn't been discovered scientifically." Some even say consciousness is not something that happens locally, that it doesn’t happen from our own bodies or heads at all.
If that’s true, then we can stop right there and assume that transporting someone from point A to point B wouldn’t work ‘cus the collective consciousness wouldn’t exist at point B, unless it’s already over there, then I guess...we’re fine.
But Dr. Sam Parnia finishes his thoughts about consciousness thusly:
"We have no evidence, we have no studies that tell us at what point does the human consciousness and mind cease functioning during clinical death. Is it at the moment the heart stops beating? Is it the first few seconds? The first few minutes? Is it the first few hours? We have no idea."
At first glance you might think this isn't that big of a deal. But... being able to know when someone is considered dead according to brain activity and consciousness is pretty fucking important...when there's no body. Really, in this little mental experiment, consciousness is the only thing that will tell us if we're sending a dead guy to the other end or someone who will be a bit more likely to, ya know, be alive. But because we're not even sure where the death line is for our consciousness and brain activity,... then it might be a kind of a shitty idea to just wing it and hope for the best. (Note, "Death Line" would be a sweet title for crappy sci fi book, or movie, or zombie chorus line)
Ok, ok. So, we get past the problem of having our DNA mixed with other DNA we don’t want, we keep the things we DO want, we protect our signal somehow, and magically maintain consciousness through it all. Now what?
Well, the whole idea is zap matter into energy. This idea comes from that guy who didn’t flunk math but everyone thinks he did, Einstein.
"mass–energy equivalence is the concept that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. In this concept, mass is a property of all energy, and energy is a property of all mass, and the two properties are connected by a constant. "
Great, so, we just convert mass into energy, it says right there you can do. Fucking Einstein says so!
Wait, how much mass are we talking about here?7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms
So, what would happen if we converted that much mass into energy then?
“If you want to zap 10 to the 28 power of atoms, you have quite a challenge on your hands. Say, for example, that you simply want to turn all this material into pure energy. How much energy would result? Well, Einstein's formula E = mc2 tells us. If one suddenly transformed 50 kilograms (a light adult) of material into energy, one would release the energy equivalent of somewhere in excess of a thousand 1-megaton hydrogen bombs. It is hard to imagine how to do this in an environmentally friendly fashion.”From the book: The Physics of Star Trek
Uh huh. Well, fuck. I think we got a problem here. “...in excess of a thousand 1-megaton hydrogen bombs”. Sounds like a lot. How much energy does the sun make?
“Every second the sun produces the same energy as about a trillion 1 megaton bombs!”
Well...at least we won’t be a sun.
Two thoughts. If we were able to convert our body mass into energy and it would equal the amount of energy release by a thousand megaton bombs, then what you really have a sweet fucking weapon. Given the history of the human race, I think the experiment would just stop right there and they'd start converting rocks into energy weapons and shooting it at continents they don't like. However, if they get tired of that and actually go back to the idea of transportation...then there's still that problem of all that energy being sent some where. It would have to be "beamed" safely as to not blow up the planet you're trying to beam down to. This would be difficult. It would probably be easier to create some kind of receiver to safely catch that amount of energy and reconstitute it into whatever you sent. I foresee a lot of problems with that too, but... lets move on to the biggest problem.
Apparently it’s possible to do the first part. Ya know, to convert matter into energy. But can we convert energy BACK into matter?
“Einstein's equation, Energy = Mass x the square of the velocity of light, tells you that it takes a huge amount of energy to create matter in this way. The big accelerator at Fermilab can be a significant drain on the electricity grid in and around the city of Chicago, and it has produced very little matter. “
OK...so how much energy are we talking about here? Like, how much would it take to make...oh I don’t know, a cheeseburger from energy?
“Of about 22,000 beams fired into the Stanford accelerator, just over 100 pairs of particles materialized. With the development of increasingly powerful lasers, McDonald estimates that in another five or ten years this may be an efficient way to make small amounts of antimatter. But the technique will never generate a cheeseburger. For example, even if all the sun’s power could be focused on one spot, there still wouldn’t be enough energy, says McDonald, to make even an ounce of matter.”
Ok, so, we just need more suns then. Let’s see here. There are 16 ounces in a pound, I way about 2...lets just say I weigh an even 200 pounds. (Hey, it could happen!) And let’s just say that the sun COULD make an ounce of matter. That means that we would need...lets see here...3200 suns to make me from energy. Ok...so, just for shits, how many megaton bombs is that?
“Every second the sun produces the same energy as about a trillion 1 megaton bombs!’ Oh yeah.
So, that would mean 3,200 Trillion megaton bombs. That number looks like this:
Megaton bombs to make me from energy. Hm. I don’t have that.
I think I'll just use a worm hole.
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