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24 April 2014
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Interviews | Andre Bormanis
Combat Forces

Talk about the things you created which make it work.

Picture The transporter is a technology that I would say – you hate to say never, but I would probably be willing to go out on a limb and say the transporter is a technology that will never be invented. At least in terms of how we’ve represented it on the show.

In the original series Kirk had a line about how the transporter disassembles you atom by atom, beams that matter in a stream of energy, somehow, to the target location and reassembles you. That's a neat trick if you can pull it off and I suspect that that as a mode of transportation will never prove to be practical, even if you could possibly make it work. And one of the problems with the transporter is that there is this annoying little law of physics called Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

Basically what that says is that you can never simultaneously know the position and the momentum of a subatomic particle as accurately as you would like to. The better you know the position, the less well the momentum and vice versa. Somebody’s going to take me apart atom by atom, I hope that they’re going to put me back together in exactly the same way and that not only means the positions of those atoms, but how they were moving when they were disassembled because, otherwise, you’re going to be scrambled pretty quickly. So how to get around Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle?

Mike Okuda – in a Next Generation episode coined the term Heisenberg Compensator. We had a little break down in the transporter and a technician said 'Well, I think it might be a problem with the Heisenberg Compensator'. And all the physicists in the audience loved that. We got a lot of very, very fun, positive mail from people saying 'Oh that’s so funny!'. So yeah, you guys do appreciate the fact that the uncertainty principle would be a real problem for the transporter. Occasionally people would ask Mike so how does the Heisenberg Compensator work? And he would say well 'Very well, thank you'. Because obviously we don’t know. We were just saying that if you’re going to build a transporter and if you’re going to claim that it does what we claim it does, somebody’s going to have to, somewhere down the road, invent a device that gets you around the problem of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. We have no idea how that might work. If we did, we’d be off collecting our Nobel Prize in Sweden, not working on a TV show, but at least we’ve acknowledged that certain kinds of technologies would have to be created in order to make something like the transporter possible.

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