So I’ve got a nice point-A-to-point-B teleporter machine, and for some extra flavor I’d like to have the experience of using it include a healthy dose of gravitational/physical warping to push, pull, squash, stretch, and generally jostle around the user; stretching some parts a bit further than usual or in new directions, distorting their body a bit, maybe some particles from the “outer” layers (skin, hair, etc) moving away from the body and generally acting somewhat less like a solid…the usual “things get a little weird at light speed” treatment. Don’t worry—all particles, physical forces, and body parts are carefully stabilized before the end of the process, so that all is back in place before they step outside again.

But I’d also like to have my characters acknowledge that experience, and be both alive and in well enough condition to do so (not to mention, to have the teleporter to be practical at all). How is it possible so much spatial warping, not just of the teleporter interior but even of the user’s body itself, can occur without killing, hurting, or otherwise being very painful for them? (Some soreness afterwards seems to be a given, though.)

Now it’s worth mentioning that this teleporter does already use a protective force field-like “envelope” or “layer” to shield the user from too much damage by the effects of pushing them through a wormhole or traveling at extremely high speeds, and that could help minimize the effects of that warping thanks to its function as a “protective bubble” of sorts. This could maybe have some sort of effect or hand in allowing that pain/death-free body-warping to happen, or function as the tool that whatever method allows for this effect is performed through. (But remember that it’s not just a matter of using that force field to stop the warping—the question is about it being a given for the user in a way that won’t hurt or kill, not about how to prevent it).

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    $\begingroup$ To quote Michael Okuda on how Star Trek's teleporters works : "They work just fine thank you!". Often times we want to explain how everything we create works, but sometimes that's actually not needed or worse, detrimental to your work. Do you have good reasons you feel you need this explained? I mean, beyond telling some technobabble like the quantum hypermaterialization makes transitioning matter stable? $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2023 at 3:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena mostly just since the description I’m envisioning and would like to have, in many readers (and in the type of character in that situation as well), does likely immediately evoke the question “so how come that didn’t kill them/break their bones/etc?”. And I personally would also just enjoy having some sort of supporting concept there, even if it is somewhat technobabble-y as long as it’s still rooted in some sort of real concept or known science (be it literal or hypothetical) $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2023 at 3:39
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    $\begingroup$ Based on your description here as well as your comments below, it sounds like you want your teleporter to transport people by sending them through a wormhole in a warp bubble with enough internal curvature to still affect the passenger. In that case, the real question you want answered is "Can the human body survive a gravitational gradient which is steep enough to cause noticeable physical distortion?", which is a physics/biology question, not a worldbuilding question. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2023 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ @amphibiaenjoyer Being rooted in science typically means that you start your prompt with the science. That's how we got to scifi devices like teleporters. Starting with your conclusion which is yet another step beyond science and working backward is inviting failure here. The big scifi concepts are ones that specifically avoid the details because the more you think about it the more it's not real. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2023 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ @EthanManess If we followed your reasoning and stripped all worldbuilding intents, more than 90% of questions here are off-topic, not worldbuilding. From the tour : "WB:SE is a site for writers, artists and others using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings.". $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2023 at 5:20

8 Answers 8


You can't do what you're suggesting to the degree you're hoping for in the way you want

This is a frame challenge.

In many ways the human body is remarkably resilient. Somebody smacks you on the arm with a stick. Flesh, muscle, all kinds of things move around leading to bruising, damage, and pain. Maybe someone jovially taps you in the tummy. You lose your breath, but no real harm done, and everybody starts laughing a bit later. You get on a roller coaster or some other ride and get spun around, not just playing with your inner ear's balance, but actually jostling you something awful! You stagger off the ride, proudly proclaiming that you want to go again.

It seems like these are the kinds of experiences you're looking for. The problem is that during transport it's irrelevant what happens. That's all energy transfer. There's no feeling or comprehension. It's the period of the event that's explained using technobabble to justify what happens next.

During reconstruction of the body whatever happened during the transmission phase (and, much more likely, what's happening during the reconstruction phase. We'll get to that in a moment) is made physically manifest. But you can't change too much of the body. The "jostling" that happens during a roller-coaster ride or a tilt-a-whirl is not what's happening here. This is more like stirring pigment into paint. Once you've stirred pigment into paint you can't get the original color back. It's dead.

And that's your basic problem

You want people to feel weird about an experience but the process you appear to be relying on is a physical process that will result in dead people. You don't have a period of time where flesh is compressed or the body is moved around. All you have is the aftereffect of something that's (at best) interpreted that way. Otherwise, you have dead people. The damage caused by that stick to your arm is happening in a fraction of a second — but imagine the consequences if all of the action occurred instantly, with no delay at all (such as during reconstruction). That would cause much more damage. It might shatter the arm, rupture blood vessels and tear flesh that would otherwise have been only bruised.

I therefore suggest that this has nothing to do with the transport phase of your teleporter's action. Frankly, whomever engineered the teleporter did a lousy job if they didn't compensate for effects during transport. Have you ever driven in a car that had no shock absorbers or springs? You're going 3-5 miles an hour and it's a back-breaking experience. Now let's take away the cushion (and springs) on the seat and the rubber (and air) of the tires. You can see my point. Engineers long after the invention of such a terrible carriage would never let a potentially harmful condition arise. And if they were tempted to due to corporate greed or something like that, no decent bureaucracy would ever allow it lest the users of said transporter start voting for someone who will fix the problem.

Reconstruction is your enemy

Which means we're talking about something during the reconstruction phase of the experience that's leaving people feeling like they've been turned a bit inside out. In other words, there's no actual danger in the teleportation experience. It's perfectly safe by design. But there's no way to stop you from feeling weird about it any more than a safe boat trip on a calm, sunny day can still leave you utterly sea sick.

Said better: all of the conditions you mention in your post like "spatial warping" is nothing more than the technobabble that rationalizes the idea of "and that's all compensated for during reconstruction" which is what results in the feeling of sea sickness.

An example: I remember reading a short story once about a space traveler having to make a choice to use an emergency teleporter due to system failure. He was sure to die if he didn't use it. What was the crux of the story? In that world, teleporters didn't move the unique person from one place to another. They were more "realistic" in that they were duplicators. Once you pushed the proverbial button, what appeared on the planet was a duplicate of yourself. One that was perfectly safe.

But "you," the original "you," were still on the ship... dying in a very horrible way.

If I recall, the story investigated themes like what it was like to use a life-saving device that still made you feel complicit in a horrific death. What it meant to realize that you were not really you — that the flesh had never been touched by a loving spouse or had even touched the fabric of clothing before, but still had the memories of those things. If I recall correctly, the story even touched on the philosophical question of, "am I really me?"

So I recommend you change your focus a bit

If we ask the question, "what could make me feel the equivalent of sea sickness in an energy teleporter world?" you have everything from "am I really me?" types of psychoses to the "vibration" of the atoms in your body not being quite the original, which would still let you live just fine, but could rationalize feeling really weird.

But to give you a better or more focused idea of what could specifically cause these feelings in your world would require a much more specific explanation of how the teleporter procedurally operates. From the moment someone decides to use the machine to the moment they walk away after transport, what is happening to them step-by-step?

E.G., my machine solves the duplication problem by destroying the original body. It's actually part of the process. It's impossible to "interpret" or "read" the structure of the body and its energy without dismantling it in the process. This means that some part of the brain is "feeling" this experience of "dying" the instant before dematerialization is complete and that feeling is retained... ah-hah!

But as you think about that, remember that the result of the teleport cannot have in any significant or measurable way any actual change to the physical body — otherwise you have everything from a vegetable on the transporter pad (synaptic pattern failed to resolve, nobody's home anymore) to a pile of mush.

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    $\begingroup$ An alternate stance here: how much of this applies if I specify it to be a non-energy/wormhole teleporter? Instead of deconstructing at point A and reconstructing at point B, it’s creating or using some sort of “pod” or “force field” to contain the user and physically zapping THAT through a wormhole or something similar, from point A on one end to point B at the other. Our user is conscious and (although, like I mentioned, a bit warped from their typical form) physically existent in there the whole time, not being destroyed at one end and then recreated from feeling-less energy/data $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2023 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ @amphibiaenjoyer Sentence #1 is irrelevant. Since teleporters don't exist the technobabble you use to describe yours is an aesthetic. Only the operational rules count. Sentence #2 is getting closer, but saying that you're using a pod doesn't really mean anything, either. Is the pod being dematerialized or not? Is the occupant feeling it or not? Those are the kinds of rules YOU set. How long does teleport take? How long is the occupant experiencing the "effects" (more technobabble) that result in the emotions you want them to feel? Welcome to worldbuilding! Rules first, aesthetic second. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 31, 2023 at 7:23
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    $\begingroup$ The point is OP isn't thinking of the victim being decon-reconned, the teleportee is being sent through the wormhole in one piece! $\endgroup$
    – No Name
    Jul 31, 2023 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ @NoName I didn't follow that line of reasoning intentionally (and I'm hoping it's not the case). There is no science explaining transportation through a wormhole. There's math (at best hypothesis) suggesting it could be done, but nothing at all explaining what it would feel like. That brings us right back to "my travelers feel X because of worldbuilding rule Y and that's explained using [technobabble]." So, in the end, same result, just more difficult to rationalize (IMO). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 31, 2023 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH I'm gonna partially disagree with that. The math totally explains what it would feel like to move through a wormhole in a "warp bubble" a la Alcubierre--the space your body occupies remains entirely un-distorted, so it doesn't feel like anything at all because you aren't experiencing any sort of gravity gradient. Reading OP's question, it sounds to me like they are describing this type of transportation, except that the bubble isn't quite perfectly flat. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2023 at 19:47

Because it isn't actually happening, it's just how the body percieves the experience to be. The nerves and other receptors are hit with information they cannot decipher properly, and think they're being turned inside out while being twisted into a couple of imaginary dimensions.

This isn't an experience we have evolved to understand.

The same thing happens with people who sniff glue and other altering substances. Their minds and bodies think they're doing impossible things, then they snap out of it and their bodies are normal.


"Gravitational warping" doesn't warp things, it curves space.

You make it survivable by ensuring that the space where the user is stays mostly flat, with the vast majority of the warping happening in the space around him. This is the "warp bubble" idea that you've probably heard many times before.

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    $\begingroup$ Warping space which contains things necessarily warps the things contained within that space. See: spaghettification. OP is already describing a warp bubble, their question is essentially what if the warp bubble is imperfect?" Or, more explicitly, "can the human body survive a gravitational gradient steep enough to cause noticeable shape distortion without it being lethal?" $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2023 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ Spaghettificaton happens when the space is not flat. If the bubble negates the effects from the outside, then the user should be fine. Light from their body could take a weird path however and could make limbs take on weird shapes to the eye. This, together with the, albeit miniscule, imperfections in the bubble could lead to a very weird feeling and perception of reality during warping. $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2023 at 13:37

Discontinuous acceleration when moving between gravity domains

Human body is sensitive to sudden changes of rate of acceleration, which is called jerk.

If the teleporter start and end point have different local gravitations, the change will be easily perceptible - the faster the change, the higher the jerk. To make the trip survivable, it probably has to be very quick - otherwise body processes such as blood flow and neural signals would be disturbed.

This puts a limit to how comfortable the ride can be made. For elevators, ISO 18738 standard specifies 6 m/s³ jerk as intolerable. For example a teleporter trip from orbit down to Earth would involve a gravity change of 10 m/s². To keep it under the "intolerable" level, a 1.6 second transition period would be needed. But that is probably too long to keep a body in a transition state. With suitable physical supports, much higher jerks can be survivable, such as in car accidents.

As a summary: teleport between two spaceships? Fine and comfortable. Beam down to planet? It's gonna feel like a car crash, except without actually hitting anything.


Take it for granted

"How does it not kill someone" is only a question that would be asked when the thing explained, and the explanation is lacking.

I'll jump on the don't-try-to-explain-it wagon, because no matter what technobable you come up with, you will absolutely be wrong. Astrophysicists with ten doctorates in theoretical spacetime phenomena would be wrong.

Everyone in-universe except those uppity non-relativistic gravitational spacetime majors at University just takes it for granted that the user feels like they had a brief acid trip, but come out alive and well on the other end. The same way you can have a Zoom call with Grandma and sometimes the image is pixelated or the audio is choppy, you don't need a network engineer to explain to her why, and she will still be happy to see her favorite grandchild.


For the same reason jumping to warp speed doesn't immediately kill everyone onboard the Enterprise

Gravitational effects occur because spacetime itself becomes warped. If the warping is homogenous across an area, nothing happens to objects within that area since, from those object's perspective, nothing has really changed.

It's only when gravitational warping becomes heterogenous across an area that weird stuff happens inside it. If you have space on the left half of your body that is pulling you in a different direction or at a different acceleration than that of your right half, you're going to feel the difference. Once that difference is great enough, the results become a bit graphic.

This is what happens near a black hole as well. As an object falls toward the center, gravity is acting on the side closest to the center stronger than the side furthest. It's this difference in forces that are what ultimately tear the object apart.

The behavior of wormholes is somewhat ill-defined in science considering how they've only ever been theorized, but in science fiction they are commonly portrayed as similar to (if not synonymous with) black holes. As you approach the wormhole, spacetime will contract and elongate differently depending on how close or far you are to the threshold. In all likelihood, this would have similar results to the object entering a black hole, with the only difference being that instead of the particles collecting at a singularity, they are jettisoned into space in a shotgun-spread on the far side of the wormhole.

What does this all have to do with the Enterprise?

Warp drives in Star Trek operate on a different technological goal, but they would deal with very similar gravitational effects. When the Enterprise utilizes its warp drive, what it's actually doing is creating a pocket of stabilized spacetime around the ship and then bending spacetime itself around it. Without that pocket, the warp drive wouldn't just distort spacetime around the ship, it would distort it within the ship as well, which would almost certainly obliterate the ship and instantly kill everyone aboard.

This is how the Star Trek universe gets around the speed-of-light barrier. By introducing a technology that warps spacetime, the ship itself is never actually moving faster than light. Instead, it basically "warps" spacetime to greatly decrease the distance to the destination, making travel to there at sub-light speeds actually manageable.

Your wormhole-based teleporter would have to accomplish something similar. By surrounding the user in a bubble of stabilized spacetime, everything within that area would be protected by the wormhole's gravitational effects. You can then proceed to punch a hole in spacetime, shoving that bubble through so that it ends up on the other end.

To an outside observer, it might appear like the person shrank uniformly to an infinitesimal point in one spot and then grew from an infinitesimal point in another spot. The entire process would look strange, probably even quite comical, as though someone was using the Free Transform tool in Photoshop on a person to scale them smaller than a pixel before reversing the process.

To the user themselves, the world would grow impossibly large, redshift into darkness, and then the new location would appear impossibly large around them before blueshifting back into the visible light spectrum while shrinking back to life size. Within the pocket itself, though? Nothing would happen. The user wouldn't experience any gravitational effects whatsoever. Just as long as the user keeps all arms and legs inside the bubble at all times, because anything that gets stuck outside is going to be staying outside.


Quantum entanglement of their original state

While the teleportation machine doesn't use directly quantum entanglement, the life preserving functions do. The start and end state of the person are entangled, and so the person is kept alive to the end.

As such, while the person may be 'killed' by the transportation, it revives them fully by the end.

In terms of how the deeper science of this works, it works very well, and experienced and skilled scientists in your novel can attest that this is the correct way to understand quantum mechanics.


Physical compression algorithm

A person is compressed into the warp bubble by applying a multitude of physical forces. Think of it like an MRI, just with much more force.

There are magnetic field generators, electric field generators, gravitational field generators, field suppressors, field deflectors, for some reason there are lasers, and all of that is superimposed and honestly almost nobody really understands why it works, but it does.

However, the physical compression has losses, the forces don't quite amount to a perfect bubble, just to an approximation of the bubble. It's good enough, everything else would require so much more computational power that it just isn't economic.

It's not a problem loosing an atom, molecule or a cell here and there or having it transferred to a place where it doesn't belong. You won't really notice the effect. Of course, the computational precision is higher at the brain so people don't worry too much.

The rest is just what your brain makes of that experience.

Bonus point: the VIP version works better.

There's still debate whether this causes cancer or not.


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