At an MIT event the director and star of the film Jumper team up with physicists to discuss the science and fiction of teleportation.
Most people understand that MIT is not your average place. But at a special media panel held there last night some of the differences really stood out.
After all, there aren't that many other places where two renowned physicists would receive as much applause, cheers and enthusiasm as successful Hollywood director Doug Liman (who has directed major hits such as Swingers and The Bourne Identity) and major movie star Hayden Christensen (aka Anakin Skywalker aka Darth freaking Vader!).
But what was the purpose of this strange panel? Well, Liman and Christensen were there to talk about the upcoming science fiction film Jumper (based on the 1992 novel by Steven Gould) and for the first time show extended clips of the film to a live audience. But why the physicists?
Well, the plot of Jumper centers around a young man who discovers that he has a genetic trait that makes it possible for him to teleport himself to anyplace he can see, knows well or that he sees in a photograph.
So to help ground the idea of teleportation in some hard science, the panel included Dr. Edward Farhi and Dr. Max Tegmark, both MIT professors and esteemed physicists.
During the panel Farhi and Tegmark covered a lot of ground in potential areas where teleportation could be theoretically possible, ranging everywhere from worm holes to interstellar travel to time travel.
However, one of the more interesting parts of the discussion covered experiments where teleportation has actually occurred, namely experiments where scientists have been able to take a single nanoparticle and transport it over distance.
The details of this were fascinating (covering things such as quantum entanglement and the phenomenon that Einstein called spooky action at a distance). However, as a technology journalist I was also surprised by the practical implications of this discussion and technology, as much of this technology is also the basis of quantum computing.
Quantum computing is pretty much the ultimate emerging technology, since once it finally emerges it will radically change computing as we know it, providing exponentially greater computing power than possible today and making it possible to solve technological problems that are impossible to solve using current technology.
That was the practical side of the discussion. What about the fictional ability of Christensen's character to teleport himself anywhere in the world?
Well, while the physicists were nice to the film makers and had some fun with working on possible teleportation scenarios for Christensen, they pretty much shot down the idea of any large teleportation (especially of humans) happening anytime soon.
One telling point came in answer to an audience member question on what we would see first, teleportation of humans as seen in the film Jumper or light sabers and Death Stars like in Star Wars. Without hesitating the physicists said we would see light sabers and Death Stars before we saw teleportation (though to be honest the geek part of me half expected Christensen to stand up and say to the physicists "I find your lack of faith disturbing.")
Of course, most people don't go to action packed science fiction movies to debate the actual science portrayed in the movie. And based on the clips shown at the event (and on Liman's track record as a film maker), Jumper looks like it will fill the key Hollywood science requirements of action and excitement.
To see trailers and information on the movie Jumper go to www.jumperthemovie.com/.