Written by Dr Renee Beale and Morgan Beale
Rose considered her guests carefully while dunking three sugar cubes in her latest on-trend vantablack tea cup (doesn’t show the tea stains, don’t you know!). The conversation had turned to Audrey and Clarence’s new holiday home.
“Yes, well, the neighbours are a bit boorish, but the view of the Horsehead nebula from our back verandah is simply gorgeous,” Audrey mused in between absently nibbing the corner of a cucumber finger sandwich.
“It’s just so convenient with the wormhole right next door. We were here in 10 minutes,” added Audrey as Clarence, with a haunted distant look, began to mistakenly load sugar on his mini-quiche.
“Oh, don’t mind him, he is such a terrible wormhole traveller,” said Audrey dismissively, slapping at Clarence’s hand. “No dear, that’s the sugar bowl. Put it down.”
“But don’t you find 8 minutes tiresome transit time? In my NuYu teleporter, I can be anywhere in seconds,” interjected Edna. “Especially with the new qx9000 model,” she preened, “the control logic is based on quantum entanglement1, so we aren’t even limited by the speed of light, like the previous model. That’s why we held out for this one,” she added with a knowing nod.
“No wonder you’re always so punctual!” marvelled Rose. “But will your Sidney be joining us in a moment then? I’ll set an extra place.”
“Oh no, dear, Sidney’s become such a frightful bore lately,” complained Edna. “He won’t go anywhere! He seems to think that our new teleporter will kill him if he uses it!”
“Gosh! Whatever does he think that for?”
“-no dear, put it down-“
“He says, that since our bodies are first disintegrated where they are, before being reintegrated at our destination, that the teleporter actually murders you and creates a clone! And I said, ‘but it’s still you, you’re integrated from information instantly transferred between the two terminals’, and he says ‘but none of your atoms are preserved, and all that is actually transferred is your metadata, not you’, and I say ‘that may be, but it gets me to the Triffingtons in seconds instead of days and that’s all there is to it’.” Edna beamed at her host, who had the good grace to blush ever so slightly.
“Oh, is he a quantum memory enthusiast2, dear?” asked Beryl, leaning forwards and deftly amassing a handful of shortbread.
“He’s been completely unmanageable ever since he read that philosophy book3 last month.” Edna gave a sigh of exaggerated exasperation, and took a dainty sip of tea. “The price I pay for punctuality…” she trailed off, eyeing Beryl archly.
Beryl shuffled her feet and arranged the crumbs on her plate.
“Terribly sorry, Rose, to be a tad late today. We’re still getting the hang of the qEisenhower. It’s so new, you see.” Beryl smiled slyly. “It’s so advanced, but they’re still ironing out some of the kinks. That’s the price we pay for being on the cutting edge…” Beryl pretended not to notice Edna huffily rearranging her skirts.
Clarence laughed uproariously, perhaps at the conversation, or perhaps at the sight of the unfortunate George, who had just returned from the powder room.
“It’s no good, I’m afraid,” he said. “Maybe the return journey will sort it out.” He looked down at his hands, which appeared to have been swapped around; the left hand on the right arm, and vice versa. “It must have been because we were trying to skip stops.” He glanced up, to see the ladies looking at him quizzically. “Because the qEisenhower is based on a quantum tunnelling model, it’s only rated to a couple of kilometres per jump. The techs are working on improving it, and the newer Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen4 steering mechanisms are really promising… anyway, we were running a bit late, so we pushed it a bit further per jump to make up some time. Only…”
“Well take a seat, darling, and have some tea,” called Beryl, fluffing his chair.
“I suppose it could have been worse,” said Rose, as George awkwardly tried to grab at his cup of tea. “I imagine you must have been using the piecewise transmission model, rather than attempting to tunnel entire? At least it was only a couple of pieces that were, um, poorly integrated.”
“Yes, very true,” said George, finally getting hold of his tea and promptly dumping it over his shoulder. “Oh. Um, sorry about your carpet,” he added, as Beryl tried to hide her swiftly reddening face in her hands.
“Don’t think anything of it, please,” said Rose, who had installed self-cleaning carpet years ago. “I suppose teleporter accidents will happen, but at least they aren’t anything like as serious as they used to be.”
“Well, take Clara’s Harry for example,” said Edna, reaching for a scone, “Clara said he used the wrong setting on the older NuYu reintegration module, and was recompiled at millimetre precision! Now he’s all ridged, like an antique 21st century 3D printed novelty – well, I never!”
“Knowing Harry, he was trying to save some money,” scoffed Beryl, now recovered, and smothering a scone in jam. “He always was a terrible skinflint.”
“These horrible accident stories are one reason I like to travel by wormhole. It might take a little longer than the NuYu, but it’s much safer!” said Audrey. “Your self remains intact, too, so your Sidney might be able to accompany you, dear.”
“But Audrey, dear, doesn’t prolonged exposure to the interdimensional interstice cause one to go mad?” asked Edna.
Everyone looked pointedly at Clarence, who was carefully plumbing his ear with a teaspoon.
“Oh, don’t mind him,” said Audrey, rolling her eyes, and slapping him under the table. “The silly duffer forgot his pre-trip sedatives. He’ll be right as rain when we get him home and apply the patch – no, don’t put that in your tea dear –”
“Rose, I notice you are yet to purchase a teleporter?” cut in George, who had decided it best to save Clarence from further embarrassment.
Rose paused mid-sip. Was George calling her an anti-techer? Although these were her life-long friends, she allowed herself the briefest feeling of smugness as she surveyed the scene. George struggling with his cake fork through hands re-attached back-to-front, Clarence stirring his tea with his finger after having his teaspoon confiscated, and the empty space where Sidney’s smiling eyes would have filled. Audrey, Beryl and Edna had moved on to an animated side conversation, wishing that the future teleportation models would incorporate the latest anti-ageing gene editing technology. “I could stand to lose a few years….” “Just a little nip and tuck, I mean they don’t have to reproduce me quite that faithfully….”
“I’m happy pottering around here,” answered Rose, eyes wandering out the window. In her garden shed she was already developing her hyperspatial rearrangement device. Why bother teleporting herself when she could bring the distant worlds to her backyard?
“Besides, what else would we talk about at tea-time?”
1 Edna recommends the this infographic for One who would like to untangle what quantum entanglement is.
2 Although Sidney is more of an armchair philosopher than a physicist, should he wish to read more about some pretty exciting 2020 research relating to quantum memory he would head to https://www.livescience.com/quantum-memory-entangled-far.html
3 The book Sidney read which made him suspicious of teleporter technology was probably “Reasons and Persons,” (1986) by Derek Parfit, in which he presents the Teletransporter Thought Experiment.
4 George is a massive fan of the ground breaking work of Victorian scientist, Professor Margaret Reid from Swinburne University, who way back in 2014 while working on the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox devised a method to test for the original Einstein’s entanglement, helping to pave the way for the development of the quantum internet. Professor Reid explains in this entertaining article published in The Conversation.