can teleportation get you a speeding ticket?

April 9, 2010

Imagine driving down the highways of the future in a car that could teleport. Or at least behave as if it teleports because as we discussed a while ago, there seems to be no evidence of true teleportation for objects bigger than atoms. So let’s say you decide to get around some traffic up ahead, push a big red button, and you along with your car break apart into countless atoms traveling at the speed of light, joined by quantum entanglement for a fraction of a second, then reassemble ahead of the traffic jam as if nothing happened. But wait, there’s a police car right in front of you as you and your car coalesce back into your original form. Should you prepare to pull over and think of a good way to get out of an imminent speeding ticket? Or are you well within the law?

The technicality in this matter is whether you were actually moving. According to the strict physical definition of teleportation, there’s no traveling happening when an object changes its position in space and time. So if you aren’t moving, you’re not traveling above the speed limit. And if you’re not an obstruction for other vehicles as a cloud of atoms and various subatomic particles tangled together, you’re not under the speed limit either. This means that your teleportation, however bizarre, should be within the law. If you actually teleported. Remember the important note above about the physical limits of honest to goodness teleportation. For any macro objects to travel in a way resembling teleportation requires that they be broken down into their individual components which can only move at the speed of light in a vacuum at their fastest. Even traveling through our atmosphere, they’ll move just a little bit slower. And this is where we might hit a little legal snag.

Instead of teleporting in the quantum mechanical sense of the word, you were traveling at roughly 671 million miles per hour and exceeding the speed limit by a factor of 10.3 million. Which would probably be the cost of your ticket, if your license isn’t revoked and your super-car impounded by a particularly harsh traffic court. Then again, to actually write you a ticket and enforce the punishment, an officer has to have proof that you really did exceed the posted speed limit. That means the police radar has to register you in mid-relativistic jump, a task that’s way outside the capabilities of standard issue law enforcement equipment. Then again, if you bought a teleporting car, one could argue that someone would’ve come up with the technology to track this sort of thing and there will be some sort of an official law to govern pseudo-teleportation on a local level…

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  • mytor

    quantumly entangled cars hmmm….could you get 2 speeding tickets at the same time in two different places? Be great entertainment to be in court listening to the arguments of both prosecution and defence if the driver contested the ticket.

  • Keith Harwood

    Many many years ago I was told of a physicist who was up before the court for having gone through a red light on King Willoiam St, the main N/S road in Adelaide. He argued that as he was moving towards the light Doppler shift made it look green. Unfortunatey the magistrate also knew a bit of physics, he accepted his story and fined him for travelling faster than 70% of the speed of light in a 35mph zone.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Doesn’t this sort of post require a Top Gear link?