Once a year, Fordham University’s arts and sciences faculty comes together to honor its distinguished accomplishments and to learn something new from one of its members. This year, the group heard from Fordham physicist Martin Sanzari, Ph.D., who attempted to answer a question that has haunted generations of Star Trek fans: Is it possible for a person to be teleported onto the Starship Enterprise without having his or her electrons scattered all over the galaxy?
The answer is probably not, according to Sanzari.
In a talk titled “The Strange University: Exploring the Secret Unbreakable Code and Teleportation,” Sanzari guided the faculty audience through a lightening-quick tour of quantum mechanics and physics.
One of the difficulties of teleporting people, he said, can be explained by way of Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which states that the very nature of observation can affect the movement of particles, making it impossible to accurately observe and measure particles in action. If you can’t tell exactly where an atomic particle is within a body, how can you hope to teleport it?
Martin Sanzari, Ph.D., explains the myths and realities of teleportation at a dinner celebrating the arts and sciences faculty.
Photo: Bruce Gilbert
In science fiction, said Sanzari, teleportation is instantaneous, and it permits an entire human body to travel unharmed from place to place at the speed of light. Not so in reality, where a teleporter would be able to move only one pair of electrons at a time at a speed much slower than light. The likelihood is that an actual teleporter would allow a scientist—through a quantum cryptography system—to move information, but not matter itself.
“Maybe someday computers will have teleporters installed within,” Sanzari speculated, but it is doubtful that they will work in quite the seamless manner of the ones on the Enterprise.
Following Sanzari’s lecture, the faculty adjourned to a celebratory dinner—where, it should be said, the food, wine and good spirits were not teleported in. Four arts and science faculty members received distinguished teaching awards at the event, and a toast was made in honor of Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill and an associate professor of history. Father von Arx is leaving Fordham in July to become president of Fairfield University.
Teaching award recipients included Fred Wertz, Ph.D., chair of the psychology department, who was honored for his commitment to teaching in the sciences, as well as his excellence in scholarship and service.
In the social sciences, Mary Beth Combs, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics, was awarded the distinguished teaching award. Combs recently helped forge a partnership with the faculty of Universidad Iberoamericana, a Jesuit University in Puebla, Mexico, demonstrating her commitment to global scholarship.
Dean Béchard, S.J., assistant professor of theology, was honored for distinguished teaching in the humanities. Father Béchard, who completed a doctorate in sacred scriptures at Yale, is a scholar of the New Testament.
Finally, the award for graduate teaching was given to John Drummond, Ph.D., professor of philosophy and director of graduate studies. Drummond, a scholar of Husserl, among other continental thinkers, was cited for his remarkable ability to make difficult material accessible to students.
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