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There are many aliens in fiction that can phase through solid matter. Ghost Freak, Martian Manhunter, you get the idea. Is there any scenario that could allow phasing, or the ability for solid matter to go through other solid matter, to naturally evolve in a sentient species? I'm looking for more than just the same vague anomaly. The more specific the better.

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    $\begingroup$ While I'm delighted to see you're getting answers, I'd like to point out that if science today could answer the question, "is there any scenario that could allow phasing ... to naturally evolve in a sentient species?" we'd be colonizing distant stars and genetically engineering supermen by now. We barely know how we evolved. I therefore assume the real question is "Does science today suggest a suspension-of-disbelief explanation for a sentient, phasing being?" (BTW, do you mean sentient, or did you mean sapient?) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Nov 17, 2020 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe Smith Where is your research, please? What's your own explanation of phasing, beyond "… many aliens in fiction can phase through solid matter"? How does that relate, for instance, to Star Trek's idea of phasing? I don't being to suggest Trekkie ideas are better but surely you won't deny they're far more widely recognised and accepted? Others might get the idea of Ghost Freak or Martian Manhunter and having been reading and watching SF since about 1964, I've never heard of either. $\endgroup$ Nov 18, 2020 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ GhostFreak is an Ectonurite from the hit show Ben !0. He's the creature in the picture provided. He basically has every power associated with a ghost. Martian Manhunter is a martian superhero and prominent DC Justice League member. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Smith
    Nov 20, 2020 at 5:24
  • $\begingroup$ Phasing was first described to me as solid matter vibrating through the empty space between subatomic particles $\endgroup$
    – Joe Smith
    Nov 20, 2020 at 5:27

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You’re a Ben Ten fan too? Anyways, I do have a character who has intangibility as one of her abilities. She can basically toggle the collision of two objects so she can hide in walls, ignore enemy defenses when attacking, etc. While quantum tunnelling is the most likely explanation of her ability, she basically squeezes stuff so finely it ignores the electrostatic repulsion between individual entities. Or something along those lines, and things made intangible aren’t intangible to everything and still have mass.

There’s a limit to her ability, as anything denser than atomic nuclei can’t be made intangible to anything. That’s because she can’t make the particles themselves pass through each other, she just lets particles pass around each other. Even though that’s an ability unusual for her species. As for why the heck a species would evolve intangibility, maybe they live in a planet with labyrinthine caves, and to evade predators or hunt prey, they can’t follow the paths, as that’ll take too long, and they can’t break down the walls, as that’ll take too long, is energy-inefficient and can risk cavern collapse, so they evolve intangibility as it’s easiest route out of such a predicament.

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Your creature might be made of an exotic neutron-based matter

Neutrons, not having an electric charge, do not interact much with matter, thus they can travel across it way longer than protons and electrons can do.

The neutron has no measurable electric charge. With its positive electric charge, the proton is directly influenced by electric fields, whereas the neutron is unaffected by electric fields. The neutron has a magnetic moment, however, so the neutron is influenced by magnetic fields. The neutron's magnetic moment has a negative value, because its orientation is opposite to the neutron's spin.

Neutrons however interact with atomic nuclei, and this may account for some sort of drag while the creatures are passing through an obstacle. And apparently if they would be crossing through living being it would be dangerous for them

Exposure to free neutrons can be hazardous, since the interaction of neutrons with molecules in the body can cause disruption to molecules and atoms, and can also cause reactions that give rise to other forms of radiation (such as protons). The normal precautions of radiation protection apply: Avoid exposure, stay as far from the source as possible, and keep exposure time to a minimum. Some particular thought must be given to how to protect from neutron exposure, however. For other types of radiation, e.g., alpha particles, beta particles, or gamma rays, material of a high atomic number and with high density makes for good shielding; frequently, lead is used. However, this approach will not work with neutrons, since the absorption of neutrons does not increase straightforwardly with atomic number, as it does with alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. Instead one needs to look at the particular interactions neutrons have with matter (see the section on detection above). For example, hydrogen-rich materials are often used to shield against neutrons, since ordinary hydrogen both scatters and slows neutrons. This often means that simple concrete blocks or even paraffin-loaded plastic blocks afford better protection from neutrons than do far more dense materials. After slowing, neutrons may then be absorbed with an isotope that has high affinity for slow neutrons without causing secondary capture radiation, such as lithium-6.

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  • $\begingroup$ The danger from neutrons that you cite above would not apply to neutrons that are part of something that moves slowly. They are an effect of neutrons that have a very high velocity, such as a significant percent of the speed of light. The shielding ideas are still valid to keep the creature out, but a touch from him is not inherently dangerous in the same way that radiation is. (Not ruling out that he might still be malicious.) $\endgroup$
    – Brianorca
    Nov 18, 2020 at 17:00
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Large scale quantum tunneling might explain such ability.

Quantum tunnelling or tunneling (US) is the quantum mechanical phenomenon where a wavefunction can propagate through a potential barrier.

The transmission through the barrier can be finite and depends exponentially on the barrier height and barrier width.

Tunneling may be explained in terms of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in that a quantum object can be known as a wave or as a particle in general. In other words, the uncertainty in the exact location of light particles allows these particles to break rules of classical mechanics and move in space without passing over the potential energy barrier.

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4th dimensional movement

Imagine there is a swimming pool. The surface of the water is a 2D plane with 2D creatures in it. You're a 3D creature at one end of the pool and in the middle is a solid barrier.

For the 2D creatures this obstacle is insurmountable. For you however, it's easy. Get out of the pool and go in on the other end. Or just climb over it. You can ignore that exact 2D layer by moving through others.

For a 4 dimensional or higher creature this can be much the same. It can move through an extra dimension (classically time, but that is just because we perceive a passage of it). Some rules we think are insurmountable might not apply to such a creature, so it can phase through walls.

The reason it would evolve such things is because it is hugely helpful in survival. Gathering food, evading dangerous situations and more can all help assist their lives.

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