Government Spending

Weird Science

Building a better TARDIS.


In 2004 the U.S. Air Force released a report on the feasibility of teleportation–the procedure, familiar to students of Star Trek and Doctor Who, in which an object is dematerialized in one location and reappears in another. The study includes no new experiments or theoretical breakthroughs; its author, Eric W. Davis of the Las Vegas-based contractor Warp Drive Metrics, simply assembled all the material he could on the subject, covering topics from the quantum teleportation of particles, a phenomenon grounded in mainstream science, to what Davis calls "alternative teleportation concepts that challenge the present physics paradigm."

He also lists all the sequels and remakes of the 1958 film The Fly and touches on the career of the purportedly psychic showman Uri Geller. His 79-page paper cost the government $25,000, a fee that has earned Davis the envy of freelancers everywhere.

The average reader might suspect the Pentagon could have gotten more for its money by buying a dozen hammers, but a few analysts have stepped up to defend the project. Interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle, director John Pike suggested that the study's real aim was "to get China to waste money on things that we know are not feasible, while discouraging them from working on things that we believe to be quite promising."

This argument would be more persuasive if Davis' paper did not wax enthusiastic about a series of Chinese experiments "using gifted children and young adults, who possessed well-known extraordinary PK [psychokinetic] ability, to cause the teleportation of the various test specimens." Who's fooling whom?