The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Teleportation: Finally, a Little Science Behind the Science Fiction

Will we look back on the MakerBot as the beginnings of teleportation?

3 min read

Teleportation has been an enduring dream of science fiction. We’re nowhere near the ”Beam me up, Scotty” stage, but there are already hints of teleportation today. It started, in fact, in the 1970s, when—first with facsimile and then with computer networking—we began to reproduce paper documents at a distance by scanning, transmission, and printing. For all practical purposes, the document has been teleported. Now, what about physical objects?

Transmission of the information necessary to reconstruct an object is not a problem; what we need are 3-D scanners and printers. I’m not sure there are any 3-D scanners, but there is a fascinating open-source effort going on now to develop a 3-D printer, called the MakerBot. The MakerBot works like a computer-controlled hot-glue gun, squirting melted plastic onto a platform moved by stepper motors. Under software control, it can reproduce plastic objects up to about the size of a small milk bottle.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Vertical
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
Yellow

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

Keep Reading ↓Show less