Is Teleportation A Death Sentence?

I noticed an interesting speculative article in Slashdot (Ask Slashdot: Is Beaming Down In Star Trek a Death Sentence?) dealing with the subject of teleportation, in particular that of Star Trek. Does the process of scanning a person into the transporter cause the death of the person?

The article has a number of worthwhile comments, but I thought I'd make some science fiction notes from books that speculated on this process of teleportation in a more detailed manner than Star Trek.

The earliest reference to the idea that I know about is the telepomp from The Man Without a Body, an 1877 story by Edward Paige Mitchell.

The earliest reference to the idea of a detailed scanning of the body is from The Cosmic Express, a cool 1930 story by the remarkable Jack Williamson; see the entry for the Cosmic Express.

The final example I'm going to give is the materializer from Way Station, the classic 1963 novel by Clifford Simak:

Moments ago the creature in the tank had rested in another tank in another station and the materializer had built up a pattern of it - not only of its body, but of its very vital force, the thing that gave it life. Then the impulse pattern had moved across the gulfs of space almost instantaneously to the receiver of this station, where the pattern had been used to duplicate the body and the mind and memory and the life of that creature now lying dead many light years distant.

And in the tank the new body in the new mind and memory and life has taken almost instant form - an entirely new being but exactly like the old one so the identity continued in the consciousness ( the very thought only momentarily interrupted) that to all intents and purposes the being was the same. There were limitations to the impulse patterns, but this has nothing to do with the speed, for the impulses could cross the entire galaxy with but little lag in time. But under certain certain dishes and the patterns tended to break down and this was why there must be many stations, many thousands of them. Clouds of dust or gas or areas of high ionisation seemed to disrupt the patterns and in those sectors of the galaxy where these conditions were encounter end, the distance jumps between the stations were considerably cut down to keep the pattern true. There were areas that had to be detoured because of high concentrations of the two stars and gas and dust.

Enoch wondered how many dead bodies of the creature a good now rested in the tank has been left behind at other stations in the course of the journey it was making, as this body in a few hours time would lie dead within this tank when the creatures pattern was sent out again, riding on the impulse waves.

A long trail of dead, he thought, left across the stars, each to be destroyed by a wash of acid and flushed into deep lying tanks, but with the creature itself going on and on until it reached its final destination to carry out the purpose of its journey.

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