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Teleportation and Cloned Cats

by Mark Peres

January 4,2005

Science has never been my gig. Chemistry and Physics in high school were not my shining hours, but SciFi is a different matter. SciFi is beautiful stories for geeky children. I score in loving an imaginative yarn, and certainly in being in touch with my inner geek. I’ve watched every Star Trek: TNG episode, read Aldous Huxley and spent an hour or two considering Blade Runner. Two items of news recently caught my attention while thinking about Charlotte, reinforcing the promise that all is possible when dreams and science combine.

This past year, the journal Nature reported that scientists performed teleportation on atoms for the first time. Teleportation involves dematerializing an object at one point, and sending the details of that object’s precise atomic configuration to another location, where it is reconstructed. Scientists, using entanglement to address Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, transferred the quantum states – an atom’s energy, motion and magnetic field – of calcium ions and beryllium from one place to another. They did so in a controlled, repeatable way – at the push of a button. Cheers went up because it foretells the “quantum wiring” of computers – the teleportation of qubits (digital bits of data on the wings of atoms). Our supercomputers of today that move data through hard-wired chips would pale in comparison to quantum computers of tomorrow moving qubits through teleportation.

One note of caution, though. The fidelity value of the teleportation experiment was roughly 0.75. Fidelity is the measure of how well the quantum state of the second ion after teleportation resembles the original quantum state.

What does this have to do with Charlotte? Hang on, dear Readers.

Our second item of news was reported this past Christmas Eve. The first cloned-to-
order pet sold in the U.S. was delivered to a Texas woman saddened by the loss of a cat she had owned for 17 years. Little Nicky, a nine-week old kitten, cost its owner $50,000 and was created from DNA from her beloved cat, named – you guessed it – Nicky, who died in 2003.

“He is identical. His personality is the same,” the owner, Julie, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. Although she agreed to be photographed with her cat, Julie asked that her last name and hometown not be disclosed – fear of marauding villagers being what it is.

According to the AP report, the company that created Little Nicky, Sausalito based
Genetic Savings & Clone (yes, I kid you not), said it hopes by May to have produced the world’s first cloned-to-order dog – a market that we know is far more lucrative than cats. Genetic Savings & Clone expects to clone dozens of pets by the end of this year at $50k a pop. The company has yet to turn a profit, but expects a tidy sum in the world of tomorrow.

One note of caution, though. “The thing that many people do not realize is that the cloned cat is not the same as the original,” said Bonnie Beaver, a Texas A&M behaviorist. “It has a different personality. It has different life experiences. They want Fluffy, but it’s not Fluffy.”

That whole issue of fidelity, it seems, is a bit of problem.

Now we come to Charlotte. Is there any doubt that if we marauding villagers had our way we would just copy the heck out of each other? How many Yellow Labradors can we have? Not enough. We are a city of McMansions and khaki pants. We are a city of SUVs and no there there.

The charge against Charlotte is that the city lacks soul. That’s one way of saying that the city is simply a copy of some idealized norm, that there is nothing unique about her. To bring us back to the world of SciFi, imagine the planets Alderane, Coruscant, Naboo and Tatooine. Any Star Wars fan knows that each of those planets has distinct physical and orbital characteristics. What is unique about planet Charlotte? What is it about Charlotte that cannot be copied? What is it that we should remain faithful to that would give us soul?

It’s so simple. Does anything better describe our inner geek than Money, Mills and NASCAR? We are high finance and banking. We are converted mills and warehouses. We are race car science and technology. Let’s get with it and build our world of tomorrow.

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