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  • Suppose we're working with aliens who live near Alpha Centauri to build a wormhole teleporter

  • so we can go visit them - for dinner, or interstellar diplomacy, or whatever. Of course we'll

  • need to be able to talk with them about what to make each side of the portal out of, how

  • big to make the various pieces, and so on. But since we've never been to Alpha Centauri,

  • and they've never been here, this is tricky – I mean, if you tell me to make you an

  • arc that's 300 cubits long, and I don't know what a cubit is, you'll probably get

  • an arc that's not exactly what you were hoping for .

  • So we'll have to build, from the ground up, an easily sharable way of communicating

  • about the universe, where distances and such are based on ideas, rather than specific artifacts

  • . We'd probably start with basic materials, you know, like how instead of sending a vial

  • with a chunk of lithium in it across interstellar space, we can just sayuse the atom that

  • has 3 protons, 3 neutrons, and 3 electrons.” Water would bethe molecule that's a

  • combination of one atom with 8 protons and two atoms with 1 proton.” And so on.

  • Once we have materials down, we can do clockswe just tell the aliens that if they take

  • the atom with 55 protons and 78 neutrons , make it emit a photon of light in a certain way

  • , and wait for that photon to oscillate 9,192,631,770 times: that's what we call one second.

  • Once we have clocks, we can do distances: just tell the aliens to see how far light

  • goes in one 299,792,458th of a second – that's what we call a meter.

  • But this is when we would run into a massive roadblockliterallyPretty much the

  • rest of our communication about the universe requires knowing what mass is, and what we

  • currently call a kilogram isn't an idea we can just tell distant aliens, the way we

  • can saythe atom with 3 protons”. A kilogram is just a particular lump of metal sitting

  • in a particular room in a particular place on our planet , and if you want to know how

  • many kilograms of say, antimatter, you have, you have to take it there and weigh them against

  • each other . In the very near future, we're going to

  • settle on a more sensible way of talking about mass, so instead of sayingin order to

  • build this teleporter you have to come to the part of earth with good cheese so we can

  • show you our shiny lump of metal,” , we'll either be telling the aliens to just get a

  • pile of something like 21.5253873 septillion of the atom that has 14 protons and 14 neutrons,

  • or we'll tell them to weigh how much mass an atom or molecule loses after emitting a

  • photon of light that oscillates roughly 135.6392534 septillion septillion times each second. One

  • of these two concepts will be our new kilogram, and even though the pile of atoms option sounds

  • simpler in principle, it's actually kind of harder and more expensive to do in practice.

  • Whichever way it is, once we have our new way of communicating about mass as an idea

  • instead of an object, we'll be able to build our wormhole teleporter with the alpha centaurians

  • . And then we can bring them here to earth, have dinner, and afterwards, show them the

  • chunk of metal that used to be THE THING that we used to talk about the mass of all other

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Suppose we're working with aliens who live near Alpha Centauri to build a wormhole teleporter

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How to Build a Teleporter with Aliens

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    Summer posted on 2021/10/21
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