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Feb 13 2008   1:52PM GMT

Where are my “Jumper” cables? Darth Vader, MIT and the science of teleportation.

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

There’s no question that living in Cambridge and writing about technology has its benefits. The city is swimming in startups, geeky events and plugged-in discussions.

Last month, I was lucky enough to score an invitation to a Q&A session with two distinguished MIT physicists focused upon the theoretical underpinnings of teleportation , followed by a roundtable discussion that brought in with “Jumper” director Doug Liman and Anakin Skywalker himself, Hayden Christiansen. The movie will be in wide release tomorrow, so I thought it would be timely to offer a comment or two concerning this confluence of fact and fiction.

You know you’re in a special place when professors receive enthusiastic applause comparable to the reception given to a Hollywood director and bonafide heart throb movie star. That being said, Hayden was clearly the focus of considerable adoration, expressed at his entrance and in more than one invitation to dates and afterparties.

Serious students of quantum physics are going have to employ the classic “willing suspension of disbelief” to fully embrace this picture. In other words, when questioned, both Dr. Edward Farhi and Dr. Max Tegmark kindly but firmly ruled out the possibility of human teleportation any time in the near future. The current state of this branch of science is exciting, however, given that experiments have successfully teleported the properties of photons over a distance. This sort of quantum teleportation relies on “quantum entanglement“, whereby the properties of two particles can be tied together even when they are far apart, a phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.”

I managed to capture the presentations of Professor Tegmark and Farhi on the physics of teleportation on my webcam and stream it on uStream. My apologies: The quality of both the audio and video is regrettably poor. Still, I’m happy to share. Jumper’s plot relies on a staple of science fiction, however, not fact: genetic mutation. In other words, some evolved version of CERN‘s large hadron collider or a hitherto undiscovered means of stabilizing worm holes powered by cold fusion is not at at the heart of the film. Some people are born with the ability to teleport from one place to another. Off to the races.

Mr. Liman’s direction of Swingers, Go and the Bourne Identity , however, recommends taking a chance on his vision of the moral and ethical challenges presented to someone with the power to teleport at will. I found his willingness to research what the event would actually look and sound like was impressive, particularly the collapse of air into the vacuum left by the removal of a body. He said he fell in love with the script when he read that the first action of the character upon discovering his power was to rob a bank.

For more coverage of the event, check out:

Following is the trailer, if you’ve somehow missed it theaters, on TV or elsewhere on the Web.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/uS8u4MDq7Ow" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
If you’re looking for some geeky fun on Valentine’s Day, just google “movie: jumper [your zipcode]” and enjoy.

UPDATE: I’ve gotten some anecdotal feedback that “Jumper” isn’t exactly Citizen Kane. RottenTomatoes.com has delivered a dire rating of 15% while imdb.com users are being considerably kinder with a rating of 6.4/10.  That being said, the film raking in $27.2 million at the box office this past weekend, so tastes may be for forgiving out and about.

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