Future Tense

How Star Trek’s Transporter Could Really Work

One of my favorite scenes from the original series was very wrong, but it also anticipated the future.


One of the best scenes from Star Trek involves a transporter malfunction in which Captain Kirk comes back as two copies of Captain Kirk: the good copy and the bad copy. It’s a classic moment, and to be clear, it’s completely impossible. But it begins to show how Star Trek was a forward-looking show even when it was also quite wrong. The short video essay above explains the physics of the transporter and how a version of it could come true, thanks to one of our crazes du jour: quantum teleportation.

This article is part of Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.