Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bad Physics Reporting In Abundance!

I was just going to let this go, but I couldn't. I can't stand how bad this report is, and it came from TIME, not some rinky-dink college paper!

Here's part of the original report:

Harry Potter and Star Trek fans, rejoice! Teleportation is real. Using powerful lasers and optics to manipulate photons, or units of light, researchers in China set a record for teleporting a photon more than 10 miles, TIME reported in 2010. Now, a different team of physicists at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai say they have shattered that record, claiming to have sent a photon more than 60 miles.

Quantum teleportation, which has been around since 1997, is a little different than what you see in sci-fi movies. Considered “one of the holy grails of practical quantum communication,” as the scientists write in their abstract, teleportation is the ability to essentially move one object from one place to another without traversing the space in between. But, as Forbes explains, the actual object is not moving from point A to point B. Rather, the distant photon mirrors the information contained by the original photon, essentially becoming an identical twin.

What pissed me off is that they know what they're reporting isn't accurate, but they keep repeating that inaccurate information!

Let's examine this carefully. First, they mislead the reader into thinking that this is "teleportation" that we encounter in "Harry Porter" and "Star Trek":
Harry Potter and Star Trek fans, rejoice! Teleportation is real.
Then they make the first physics mistake:
Using powerful lasers and optics to manipulate photons, or units of light, researchers in China set a record for teleporting a photon more than 10 miles, TIME reported in 2010. Now, a different team of physicists at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai say they have shattered that record, claiming to have sent a photon more than 60 miles.
No. As we shall see, the photo is not the one that is being "teleported", but rather, it is a particular STATE of the photon, or what the article later called "information contained by the original photon". The photons move in a "normal" manner here. Nothing is being teleported as far as the photon entity itself is concerned.

OK, so they already misled people into thinking that this is the Star Trek teleportation. But then, they corrected themselves by saying this:
Quantum teleportation, which has been around since 1997, is a little different than what you see in sci-fi movies.
You think everything should be fine from now on. Oh, but then, they resort back to the stupid Star Trek teleportation:

Considered “one of the holy grails of practical quantum communication,” as the scientists write in their abstract, teleportation is the ability to essentially move one object from one place to another without traversing the space in between.
Oh, so now we are back to moving objects, rather than a state or information, from one place to another. But wait, they then correct themselves back, and this is where the "information" part appears:

But, as Forbes explains, the actual object is not moving from point A to point B. Rather, the distant photon mirrors the information contained by the original photon, essentially becoming an identical twin.
So, how many twists and turns, and self-contradictions can one have in just 2 paragraphs? They know what the correct idea of quantum teleportation is, but they keep weaving this in and out with the Star Trek teleportation. And then we wonder how the general public may understand the wrong thing when they read about science reports in popular media!

TIME, for this report, you get a D-minus!

Zz.

2 comments:

Cool Physics said...

Good one, ZapperZ!

Vivek R said...

ha ha ! Liked it, when you gave them a D - !!