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In my universe, there exist molecular level machines that can behave as a single entity. The humans use them for many purposes, including faster than light travel.

The concept is as it follows: The FTL computer creates a map of the ship containing every atom that composes the volume of the ship and everything inside it. Then, it uses something like quantum teleportation to move the atoms to another position rebuilding the ship a click away. A click means the area exactly in front of the ship meaning that the new ship will be built starting from the front of the old one. The FTL computer does this a million times a second giving a speed of one million times the length of the ship.

Tell me what you think in the comments.

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    $\begingroup$ The idea of creating a map of every atom on the ship already implies a model with several approximations (e.g. born oppenheimer, atoms in molecules ...) So no this doesn't really make sense. You can't teleport a model $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Mar 15 '18 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ I'm having a hard time figuring out what actual movement would be happening here...Is the ship reforming front-to-back at it's destination? Or does the ship stretch out between start and end as the Front of the ship is perpetually placed before the old front of the ship with the rest following? $\endgroup$ – Giga Mar 15 '18 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Actually the end of the ship is added to the front with the rest following $\endgroup$ – Mattias Constantin Mar 15 '18 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ In terms of classical mechanics, the state of a particle is defined by its position and momentum. In quantum mechanics there is a rather bleak law called the uncertainty principle which says that it is not possible to know precisely both the position and the momentum of a particle; which means that if the magical computer can determine the positions of the atoms precisely enough to place them in molecules then their momentums are very fuzzily determined. As far as we know it is physically impossible to make the model. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 15 '18 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ @MattiasConstantin, That's not the way Quantum Teleportation works (believe me, it broke my heart when I found out). QT only sends information about entangled particles between one another and its not moving faster than light anyway. The whole thing is more mathematical than real. But it sounds like in your fictional universe you have teleportation. So just teleport the ship. $\endgroup$ – Len Mar 15 '18 at 18:46
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As mentioned in the other answers, the idea of "quantum teleportation" isn't really applicable to your idea as presented. However, if you are willing to do a different handwave, then maybe a solution might (or might not) appear.

One of the elements of quantum physics is known as the "wave function collapse". Short form is things don't "happen" until an external observer observes the event and the wave function collapses into its final form. One example of this is the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment, where the cat is neither dead or alive until someone actually looks inside the box.

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Many people believe Schodinger didn't want to clean the litter box....

Since quantum physics is based on probabilities, you can think of things as happening because they are more or less probable than alternative courses of events. Going deeper, even improbable events can happen, but the probability of such things happening (like walking through a wall) is extremely low. The all powerful quantum computers in the scenario could be programmed to "look" for extremely low probability events happening, and "observe" them, making them come into being in actuality.

So the spacecraft is here, but you need to be there. If that is the case, the probability of the spacecraft (complete) being there is a very small but finite number. The computers being "looking" for that very small but finite event happening and "observe" it, bringing the ship into being at the destination.

While this sounds remarkable, it isn't forbidden by the laws of physics as we know them today. Observing a particular rabbit being in a particular hat at a particular time would be a trivial example of using it in a more mundane fashion, although what we would think of as "trivial" would probably require massive amounts of computer and sensor power and literally god-like ability to observe reality. The downside of this method of travel is it is "fuzzy". While there is a finite probability of the ship appearing at point "X" at time "Y", there are also probabilities of the ship appearing at slightly different places and at slightly different times. Moving farther away from the destination point, the ship itself and the crew might also be subtly or wildly different from the one at the starting point. This would be somewhat akin to a probability cloud surrounding the desired point in space and time, so events of similar probabilities could happen instead, and even events of greater or lesser probability might occur, with the events of greater probability happening more frequently. The ship appears, but Spock has a beard. A ship appears, but it is powered by a Dodge "slant 6" motor rather than the 440 "Hemi" it had at the starting point.

A fun filled version of this idea was done by Douglas Adams in the Hitchhikers Guide series of books, movies, TV and radio adaptations, as the "Heart of Gold", powered by the "Infinite improbability Drive"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjbtZ4NgtdA

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  • $\begingroup$ I like your idea. I'll see what I can come up with using your idea but I don't wanna copy to much of the Infinite Probability drive. My original idea was somewhat based on it anyway but you saying this gave me an idea. $\endgroup$ – Mattias Constantin Mar 15 '18 at 20:44
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Sorry kiddo, but that's not what quantum teleportation does.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_teleportation

Although the name is inspired by the teleportation commonly used in fiction, quantum teleportation is limited to the transfer of information rather than matter itself.

This is well known among serious scifi readers, so I suggest you name your idea something else. Think of Alpha Centauri's matter transmission:

Transmitters based on this ology disassemble objects into the smallest component sub-particles, then transmits those particles and their underlying structural blueprint to a receiver. The receiver reassembles these objects according to the blueprint, recreating the original in every nuance and detail.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've already read that article but thanks. In the early stages of my story I thought maybe to have my universe be at is core a simulation and came up with this FTL that changes the coordinates of atoms to another known coordinate(the front of the ship) rebuilding the ship in the next click. $\endgroup$ – Mattias Constantin Mar 15 '18 at 20:14
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Quantumly teleporting yourself seems... unworkable. But if you write it with sufficiently techie technobabble, I think it'll work. After all, it's FTL. By definition, it wouldn't work anyway.

Just make sure that it steers the ship around obstacles ("near" is just as bad) instead of blindly heading in the direction of it's goal.

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I don’t think that there is a method to teleport atoms to a new location, at least not with our current understanding of physics. If you handwaved a process like the one you describe into your world, it seems strange that you’d limit such a teleporter to only directly in front of them. Why not just teleport to the location you are going to?

If you mean that your molecular machines physically pick up each individual atom to a new location those machines would still be bound by the speed of light.

Also not quite what you are asking for but I feel like if your nanomachines are deconstructing people they are essentially killing the crew and creating an exact copy of them. If I was living in this world I certainly wouldn’t want to travel like this.

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  • $\begingroup$ Quantum entanglement can do that. You should read up on it. Chinese scientist recently teleported photons to the Earth's orbit using entanglement. $\endgroup$ – Budhaditya Ghosh Mar 16 '18 at 3:15
  • $\begingroup$ Physics is not my strong suit by any means but my answer is based largely on some research I did into the topic a while back. I dug up this thread on the topic: physics.stackexchange.com/questions/282833/… $\endgroup$ – Alex T Mar 16 '18 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ The first answer in particular I think sums up the perspective I’m coming from. I don’t have time to do much research into what your talking about tonight but I still think that if you get past the limitation of teleporting anything bigger than a photon I think that the distance element is something that probably requires a lot less of a handwavium at least based on my impressions from old research(edit: posted too early by mistake🙃) $\endgroup$ – Alex T Mar 16 '18 at 9:19
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Uh, highly inefficient way to travel, don't you think? Won't it be better to use pre-entangled particles? And even assuming we use your technique, scanning a human body alone would take decades, let alone an entire spaceship! Do you comprehend the number of atoms in there? You would have to hold up the power supply of an entire planet for centuries at least to manage even one jump!

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  • $\begingroup$ The high energy cost was something I thought would pose a problem. But in my story the energy problem is not that much of a problem. They can literally turn matter into energy with almost 100% efficiency. But if you have a more effective way of going about this I would like to hear out your idea $\endgroup$ – Mattias Constantin Mar 15 '18 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ The other limiting factor here is time. It takes a while to scan so many atoms (read: eons). FTL travel using quantum entanglement is really hard unless you have some handwavium in place to bring scanning times down. $\endgroup$ – Budhaditya Ghosh Mar 15 '18 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ The computer that does this is actually composed of billions of tiny little robot like entities that can function independently or as one to perform tasks. The power of just one such entity is on pair with a quantum computer and can easily perform such mappings. The concept is not very well defined yet, I'm still working on details. These entities are the ones that can perform transmutation of matter to energy and every human possesses them in their blood due to past events. They build themselves and aid the humans in various ways. $\endgroup$ – Mattias Constantin Mar 15 '18 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ OP didn't tag this with science based or hard science so we can assume K2 level tech to solve some of these problems. $\endgroup$ – Len Mar 15 '18 at 18:49

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