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Something I'm working on:

An alien culture has developed teleportation to a certain extent, enabling them to move personnel and equipment. What can I do to avoid making it too easy for them to, say, teleport a WMD into their enemy's backyard?

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closed as too broad by Fhnuzoag, TrEs-2b, Mark, Jim2B, Mason Wheeler Nov 11 '15 at 12:24

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ How big an object does the teleportation device need to carry? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 10 '15 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ Clearly that could be part of an answer $\endgroup$ – Caleb Woodman Nov 11 '15 at 0:02
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    $\begingroup$ This is difficult to answer because we don't know enough about your fictional equipment's limitations. If you could narrow the question somewhat I think it'd be both easier to answer more likely to result in a good answer. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Nov 11 '15 at 2:45
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Quite simple - require a transmitter and a receiver, and make the machinery big and obvious and power-hungry.

This would preclude teleporting an object to a place without a receiver. They would have to take a receiver there first.

If their enemy had a receiver - perhaps they were friends but fell out - then I would also incorporate the capability to block senders. No doubt such a complex device would require an electronic handshake before doing its thing, and if the wrong sender ID came through, or a correct one came from the wrong place, then the transmission could be refused.

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    $\begingroup$ @ Monty - Building off your idea, you could also have the risk of hackers that could intercept the transmission. There is a whole story plot waiting for someone. Sort of like futuristic train robbers. $\endgroup$ – Night_Fox Nov 11 '15 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Night_Fox, you mean, sort of like part of the plot in David Weber's Heirs of Empire (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heirs_of_Empire)? Not that the Wikipedia article covers this properly, but still... $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Nov 11 '15 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ It's so hard to have an original idea, but you can always put a new face on it! I haven't had the privilege of reading the Heirs of Empire series. $\endgroup$ – Night_Fox Nov 11 '15 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Night_Fox, something like that also starts things rolling in the video game Half Life 2. Looks like an accident, probably wasn't. $\endgroup$ – Sean Boddy Nov 11 '15 at 2:54
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Perhaps they can only teleport to another teleportation device, which requires a facility and large energy reserves? That would limit them to areas where they are well established.

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If this isn't a "wormhole" device, then most teleportation requires the object to be broken down at the transmitter, and reassembled at the receiver, with only high quality information passing between the two.

Ironically, this means most WMD would be conceptually easier to teleport than complex machinery or computer chips (most chemical agents are "binary", so you simply ship two containers of only moderately toxic stuff and have them come into contact when you want to activate the weapon. A cup full of bacteria or virii would also be relatively simple to send. Even a "Hiroshima" bomb is relatively simple to construct, once you get access to the materials).

The safety mechanism would simply to restrict the types and amounts of materials available in the storage chambers of the receiving units. It would be hard to teleport a nuclear weapon if no fissile material is held in the receiver, for example. Chemical weapons could also be stymied by keeping the receiver free of volatile chemicals like chlorine or fluorine (or compounds containing them, since the receiver can presumably disassemble materials to get and rearrange the atoms it needs). Even if Dr Evil has cleverly encrypted the "message" going to the receiver, if the elements needed are not there, it isn't going to be made.

The only weak point is that the chemicals needed for life and organic materials are relatively cheap and common, and it would be hard to tell without some serious computational power just what that strand of DNA is supposed to give rise to: a Bollywood supermodel or a super virus? A total ban on teleporting organics will need to be enforced (and once again, ensuring the amino acids for DNA are not in the receiver for assembly is the fail safe).

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Make it possible only to teleport organic materials. This way humans couldn't transport weapons and clothes would need to be wool or cotton.

Living beings would get sick from the transport, sometimes throw up upon arrival (equivalent to summoning sickness used in some games) making surprise attacks from untrained people close to impossible.

Of cause nothing is foolproof, organic materials could be sent through mixed up and go boom. But as far as i know few WMD's exists that contains only organic materials.

I guess biological warfare would get a step up. But as in most weapons race, so would the protection, antidotes, gas masks and so on.

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    $\begingroup$ Honestly such limitation is completely and utterly unscientific and would work only if you justify it through some magic, or just throw physics out of the window Holywood style. $\endgroup$ – Davor Nov 11 '15 at 11:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Davor you are aware that you are saying that something is unscientific in the context of aliens and teleporting? I'm giving an idea for a story, the scientific techno babble is up for the author to fill in. $\endgroup$ – Magic-Mouse Nov 11 '15 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ I don't find life outside of Earth to be unscientific at all, and for the teleportation, yeah, that's a little bigger hurdle, but it's still a technological hurdle, not nonsense like arbitrary division of molecules into organic and not. I mean, your body has iron in it. If it can go through a teleport, so can a knife. It's too much for my willing suspension of disbelief. But than again, it could be acceptable for someone who is less into science. $\endgroup$ – Davor Nov 11 '15 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Davor i didn't see the hard science tag. Though it is all up to the story teller. Like Independence day where the computer geek could within a few minutes connect his laptop to an alien interface and upload code compiled on his machine? In my daily job it is sometimes a challenge to make windows compiled code run on a windows machine just because 2 java versions differ. But this is world building, where most of it is imagination unless there is a hard science / reality check /other tag. $\endgroup$ – Magic-Mouse Nov 11 '15 at 15:52
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If they have teleporting tech, they should have scanning tech that can detect explosives, bioweapons, etc. Look at an airport, now advance the tech a few hundred years. Could auto-filter hazardous materials, although this could still allow mechanical weapons or robots/androids/cyborgs that could disable safeguards.

Could make receiver have to confirm incoming object after scanning but while in a buffer, before rematerialisation.

Copied from comments

By requiring a receiving teleporter, it removes the ability to teleport anything or anyone to any location that doesn't have a receiver. It would prevent an attack by using the teleporting tech. Without requiring 2 stations, then depending on where you were attacking, you could teleport vital equipment from the other location, such as cooling systems, valves, monitoring equipment or personnel, or teleport something into a place where it would do damage without it being a WMD. What do you think would happen if you were to teleport an object into a coolant pipe & also into the shut off valves?

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  • $\begingroup$ As interesting as those comments may be, they don't actually answer the question, which is how to make sure their teleportation isn't too strong tactical advantage. I suggest to take a look at the tour and stroll around the help center. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Nov 11 '15 at 6:19
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    $\begingroup$ By requiring a receiving teleporter, it removes the ability to teleport anything or anyone to any location that doesn't have a receiver. It would prevent an attack by using the teleporting tech. Without requiring 2 stations, then depending on where you were attacking, you could teleport vital equipment from the other location, such as cooling systems, valves, monitoring equipment or personnel, or teleport something into a place where it would do damage without it being a WMD. What do you think would happen if you were to teleport an object into a coolant pipe & also into the shut off valves? $\endgroup$ – Psyke72 Nov 11 '15 at 9:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Psyke72 perhaps you should edit your answer with the content of your last comment, as your comment is more an answer than your answer ! $\endgroup$ – Tyrabel Nov 11 '15 at 10:05
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Make it require a lot of energy, and take more the farther it goes or the more mass it has.

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  • $\begingroup$ Won't that 1) Make it harder to transport legitimate heavy cargo and 2) Not be a huge problem? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 11 '15 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ Well, if they're teleporting off planet or across cities, then yes, a much bigger problem. And yes, that would make it harder to transport heavy cargo, but that's how all transport works. $\endgroup$ – Caleb Woodman Nov 11 '15 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, but if it's possible to transport an object of [X tons], then it's possible to transport a weapon of [X tons]. It clearly needs to be possible for heavy objects to be teleported, so there's certainly a way for heavy weapons to be teleported. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 11 '15 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ But not an EASY way. That being the point. An expensive way. $\endgroup$ – Caleb Woodman Nov 11 '15 at 0:44
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    $\begingroup$ But then you're making it basically unfeasible to use to move "personnel and equipment". WMD can be lightweight, although I'm not sure how light. It might be as light as a soldier or two, depending on what kind it is. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 11 '15 at 0:46

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