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Teleportation is a mightily fun superpower. What I have problems with is how many times this is abused for no reason at all. As an example, the Nightstalker (I think) in X-men can teleport short distances, but will one moment do a backflip just before teleporting and as he re-appears from his teleport he is suddenly not doing a somersault, has turned around, facing an opponent that was outside of his vision, and is halfway through a punch with enough energy behind it to knock an opponent unconscious. Basically, when exiting the teleport the character is in position with whatever energy it wants. It even allows them to teleport into/out of moving vehicles without problems.

To get a better idea what a realistic teleporting person would go through, I have the following assumptions:

  • the person can teleport anywhere in their line of sight.

  • accuracy of the teleport is based on how well they can see and aim for the target area.

  • the person teleporting will inherit their bodily position, energy, and movement he had at the point of teleporting.

  • all material the person is carrying is teleported with him. No molecular bonds are broken this way. So, clothes are teleported along but if you carry your friends arm it wont be ripped off - simply not teleported with you (unless you bodily carry your friend).

  • the teleporter will swap with a volume of his size, swapping only with gasses or liquids but no solids totalling more than 200kg/m^3 (337 lb/yd^3) (the point is that you can still replace solids dispersed in air and water, not to make this a hard limit. Change the value to something that works if and when necessary). If the teleporter makes an error (say, placing his feet into the ground) he's teleported at maximum 1m (1.1yd) away from his chosen destination where no solids prevent his teleportation. If that is impossible, no teleportation happens.

Now imagine someone who decides to follow the highway towards his destination. He teleports a distance he feels safe with, so he doesn't accidentally end up on the highway. Each time he teleports he would logically need to regain his bearings rather than be able to teleport instantly again.

The question is how fast would an average person be able to gain his bearings and teleport again?

I originally thought this would be as simple as the average reflex time. But that only deals with reacting to one stimulus, not with appearing in an environment and choosing the next destination that is safe and in the direction you want.

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    $\begingroup$ There's no downside in attempting to teleport to an "unsafe" spot, as the teleportation simply doesn't happen in that case. It seems you could just teleport 10/100/1000 feet forward as fast as your reflexes allow, until something's in your way. Only when it doesn't work will you need to get your bearings. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Oct 30 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ Presumably if you teleport "up", whilst you fall you can get your bearings and thus be able to go well beyond the horizon in two jumps. (Nightcrawler, BTW ;) $\endgroup$ – We are Monica. Oct 30 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ I would liken it to the time it takes to get your barrings after jumping off of a trampoline. $\endgroup$ – Rob Oct 30 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ Is bodily position also containing rotational coordinates or could I teleport myself while falling feet down and be going feet up to change my momentum? $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Oct 30 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ @nuclearwang you can simulate how that goes actually. Open up google maps and randomly "teleport" trying to go to your destination. Its not that easy and you are extremely likely to teleport in harmful situations. Like in front of moving traffic, or into a position higher than the ground (a roof or simply because your aim was off) and eventually fall one or more stories to the ground. Randomly teleporting is like crossing the street blindfolded without paying attention to what you hear. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 30 at 20:43
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You were correct the first time.

The time needed to gain bearings would be roughly equal to one's reaction time, just as you originally thought.

You have to take into consideration that this person would likely have had this superpower for a pretty long time. Although it may have been challenging at first, through practice they would learn to adapt to suddenly being in random placements and positions. Their brain would learn to not only adapt, but to expect these kinds of situations.

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  • $\begingroup$ I dont think I was right the first time. When you arrive at your destination you need to look for your next destination. A reflexive teleport would mean you teleport to an open space on the right side of the road. If there is a bend the right side you aim for might be the middle, it could be in front of a crossroads or a car exiting a parkingspot, an open spot could also mean a water-filled ditch. The problem as I see it is that you have to build a picture of the entire situation, rather than react to a single change in a reflexive action. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 31 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ If you could react reflexively and learn this then we wouldnt need half as many rules on the road. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 31 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Demigan I believe you are underestimating the speed at which humans can accurately perceive their surroundings and then make split-second decisions. $\endgroup$ – overlord - Reinstate Monica Oct 31 at 16:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Demigan There are rules of the road because it evolves human interactivity, which is an extremely complex system. Your question involves a single individual and his own perceptions. He can make his own rules based on his experience. $\endgroup$ – overlord - Reinstate Monica Oct 31 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ This is the answer that the game Champions uses. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Nov 1 at 19:45
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Okay, for starters you are thinking of Nightcrawler from the X-men, and there is a valid explanation for why he can seemingly interrupt his acrobatics. Nightcrawler doesn't teleport from one location to another on Earth, he teleports from Earth to an equivalent spot in Mephisto's Realm (basically Hell). So he starts his flip on Earth, bamfs to Mephisto's realm, finishes the flip, runs a bit, turns around, and bamfs back to Earth.

TL:DR - As far as getting your bearings are concerned, your situation shouldn't be too bad. If a normal person wanted to keep going in a straight line, there would not be any immediate problems, but a few minutes of constant teleportation might make you feel sick.

Sound: If you immediately travel a long distance, you are going to arrive at your destination before the sound waves which leave from the same spot as you at the same time. The implication being that if it takes you a second or two to gather yourself between jumps, you might hear the same sounds over and over again. While repetitive sound is by no means an issue, the exact sound signature from a source or sources might be problematic. This can be counteracted by wearing noise cancelling headphones.

Nausea: The human brain does not like being rapidly presented with new scenery while not experiencing motion. People playing VR games where they can quickly teleport short distances repeatedly sometimes report nausea and disorientation. Though with practice, you could become accustomed to this.

Temperature: If you walk from one room into another which is just a degree different in temperature, you'll notice the change. If you instantly inhabited a space with a different temperature, you'd certainly notice it. If you did that about once per second, you may experience a crawling sensation on your skin, or other form of distracting feeling. This could be distracting and slow down your teleportation time.

Complex Maneuvers: If you are doing some form of acrobatics, and teleport in the middle of it, it would be difficult for an untrained person to quickly recover, get their bearings, then teleport again. Someone who has training in tumbling (like a Cirque Du Soleil performer) could probably do it on level terrain, but if the location they are teleporting to has different terrain, it would be difficult.

Altitude: If you were trying to quickly gain altitude (like teleporting up a mountain), there will definitely be problems which slow down your ability to gather yourself for another jump. Basically, the pressure change would be the same as a scuba diver surfacing too fast, and you'd get the bends. This and the thinning of the air could make you pass ought, or impair your senses and judgement so that you can't concentrate well enough to teleport again.

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  • $\begingroup$ A good point about the VR Nausea. Ironically, It is much easier to get used to teleportation than from frictionless/reactionless movement. There are plenty of games that I can rapidly teleport pretty decent distances and not get nausea. $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Nov 1 at 19:58

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