I'm not going to go into the magic in my story in much detail here, because it's hard to put into words. But basically, magicians say what they want and if they are concentrating hard enough, it happens (Sorry for the run-on sentences, I've been studying Biblical Greek recently).

If you teleport an object what would the effects (on the object, the area it was teleported from, and the area it was teleported to) be?

I'm pretty sure that there would be a sharp increase of air pressure where the item was teleported to, possibly damaging nearby objects. Could living organisms survive this without specifically warding the creature or human from harm?

And what additional effects would there be?

Please ignore the fact that the teleportation is done using magic. Let me reframe the question as: What would the effects be of an object disappearing and reappearing somewhere else?

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    $\begingroup$ What's your audience? Sanderson's first rule of magic is "The ability of an author to resolve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to the reader's ability to understand it." If you're going to make claims like "no evolutionists would understand it anyway," then you might get away with not needing to have any "realistic" limitations based on science. You may be able to get away with whatever your target demographic understands. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 14 '15 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ Might be a good edit to make. Regardless, we could use a sense of how hard or soft your magic system needs to be. Many magic systems just handwave away the air pressure increase, others swap out equal volumes, and still others generate sonic booms. Knowing more of the audience would help tailor answers. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 14 '15 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ These wizards don't know Pauli's exclusion principle; they're not going to take into account the increase, which is why I don't want to just ignore it and write it off to 'magic!'. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by hard or soft, though. $\endgroup$ – Wick Nov 14 '15 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ How about the difference in vector an object has at different points on the planet? Since the earth is spinning at 1,700 kph at the equator, teleporting clear across the planet will put you at an enormous velocity relative to the ground. $\endgroup$ – user243 Nov 14 '15 at 3:56
  • $\begingroup$ I think what Jon of All Trades is saying is can a skydiving wizard teleport to the ground to safety? in other words how is this different from crashlanding since both involve sudden deceleration in almost no time at all... is he dead or alive/superposition state or in many places at once? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Nov 14 '15 at 5:53

Imagine that you call a cab. It arrives and you step in. You tell the driver your destination. He drives there, deals with the traffic, maybe you have a little chat. You arrive, the driver tells you the fare and you pay it, and you step out at your destination.

That is teleportation in action. Your magical teleportation differs from this in following, non-essential, ways. You call it with magic. It doesn't look like a cab. It is much faster. And it can presumably pass thru intervening space without interacting with it noticeably. Although most settings do have some methods for blocking teleportation, so some interaction with intervening space can be assumed.

So basically your question can be answered by answering the question: "How do you notice that the (invisible) cab has arrived." The most obvious ways are the sight and sound of the cab, in your case these would be special effects you can freely choose and can be ignored here.

With a cab there would be also exchange of air, but the fact that teleportation skips interaction with intervening space causes an issue here as it requires a change to some non-interacting phase at the origin and back to normal at the destination. This requires either that the destination is linked to the origin before departure or that teleportation works like some sort of accelerated astral travel where interaction needed to "shift back" is possible in transit.

Usually these two forms of travel considered separate and only the former is considerde teleportation. That means that two points are connected in advance of the teleportation and the arrival or departure of the teleporter would be preceded by a a gust of wind caused by the pressure difference possibly causing scents or even light objects being carried to the point with lower pressure. In that way it would be more like stepping thru a doorway than using a cab.

You can ignore the motion vector issues, any plausible form of teleportation has to match the frames of reference. If it doesn't it isn't teleportation, it is a cannon blasting the target with sub-atomic particles thru obstacles. Pretty useful but not really relevant. And using metal for ammunition is cheaper than forcing people to step in such a device.

As for limits, you can model these thru the cab analogy. Reasonably knowing the teleportation spell would be like owning a car. It would require maintenance and refueling between uses. It would have maximum carrying capacity in both the size and mass of what it can carry. And it would have a maximum usable range based on the amount of fuel in the tank. So you could do a second jump right after a short hop, but would have to split long distances to shorter hops with refueling stops. It would also have a maximum speed that would drop with mass carried, but it is probably not worth modelling that, unless the plot requires carrying somethin near the maximum mass limit.


I'm pretty sure that there would be a sharp increase of air pressure where the item was teleported to, possibly damaging nearby objects.

Why? Your magic works by visualization. Why would it have undesirable side effects like that? You don't visualize yourself teleporting and being damaged. Well, maybe you would. But the typical wizard won't. The magic system that you describe would work because that's the way that the users see it. Ironically, learning more about the way that it works would actually make it harder to make it work. Knowing what could go wrong would make it more likely that you would visualize it going wrong--and then it would.

If you want things to go wrong, then you may want to consider having magic discovered in a relatively advanced society. Well-educated members would have a much better understanding of what could go wrong. Perhaps only ignorant members could be successful wizards.

Note that even skipping purely magical explanations, you can easily get around this by switching the air where you are going to return to where you have been. And this wouldn't be much of a problem if you simply pushed the air out of your way. Unless you are in a small, enclosed space, the higher pressure will quickly disperse.

  • $\begingroup$ That is a good point. Visualization based magic would have side effects based on your imagination not the physical reality. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Nov 14 '15 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Brythan if a mage happened to imagine that while he cast the spell, it would not affect the outcome. You think what you want to happen; you cant cast a spell that you don't want to. However, there could still be unintended consequences. My question is what would these be if the mage simply said something along the lines of 'be at place right now'. $\endgroup$ – Wick Nov 15 '15 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ Shut down all enemy spells by yelling "don't think about yellow monkeys!" at them. $\endgroup$ – SPavel Dec 27 '16 at 18:43

*Possibility regarding air pressure: if you're going to go there as a realism point, but have the person instantaneously displace a person-volume worth of air when he rematerializes, then the air breaking the speed of light would be more destructive to the fabric of space-time than just making some people's ears pop.

Perhaps re-materialization takes the form of an infinitesimal point of energy that grows into the size/shape of the person, turns back into the person's matter when the size/shape is correct, and the person - in teleport-energy form - can consciously control the speed of this transition?

That way, the person can stop the pressure spike from (at the low end) making him sick and/or (at the high end) triggering the nuclear fusion of atmospheric nitrogen/oxygen.

*Secondary note: does the person end up completely naked every time he teleports, or does he bring his clothing with him? If his clothing teleports too, then that would mean that an enemy could wait for him to teleport, then force something like a crowbar or a brick into the energy bubble where the person is going to "land."

The person's vital organs might re-arrange around the object, but that would still be at least as dangerous as penetrative injury, and the person cannot teleport himself and leave the object behind (which would otherwise return his vital organs to a safer positioning) because he would bring the object inside his body when he teleports for the same reason he brings his clothing outside his body.

Is this the kind of side effect you're looking for?

  • $\begingroup$ Yes it is. But he could simply cast something like, 'make me and my clothing be at place right now' and the object would not also teleport. Alternatively, he could think of 'me' as him and his clothing. Most people probably would automatically. For example, imagine yourself walking into a room. Did your imaginary self have clothes on? It did? $\endgroup$ – Wick Nov 15 '15 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ True, but if he can do that, then wouldn't there be no additional effects (air pressure or otherwise)? $\endgroup$ – Simpson17866 Nov 15 '15 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ There would still be unintended consequences. $\endgroup$ – Wick Nov 15 '15 at 21:55

@Wick, I suspect many, if not most, of your concerns with respect to the theory and practice of teleportation are addressed in Larry Niven's essay EXERCISE IN SPECULATION: THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF TELEPORTATION.

The essay is adapted from a talk Niven gave at Boskone, the New England Science Fiction Association conference which is reliably packed with MIT students. So Niven knew he couldn't get away with non-rigorous handwaving, and had to look fairly carefully at the various scenarios. Since he has a good working knowledge of physics and has read a lot of science fiction, there's a lot of good solid speculative science in it.

Among other things, Niven goes into a good amount of detail about the kinds of issues @JonOfAllTrades raises: conservation of momentum and energy.

My own favorite zany speculation is the design for the "end-teleport drive", a spaceship that teleports itself onto its own front end. That's just glorious.


Rather than teleporting by "moving yourself there," you could "exchange your body with the air there." Then the volume your body filled "there" would be void of air, so no pressure effects "there," and the volume your body left behind would be filled by the air from "there." You might get some small aerodynamic effects in the location you departed from because of air pressure differences, but they'd be minimal.



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