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Asking for what pseudoscience might explain a storytelling need:

Given parallel dimensions (worlds), we discover that through a portal device, a person equipped with a special spacesuit-like outfit can temporarily inhabit an "adjacent" world. If (when) their power supply is depleted, they "snap back" to the portal, but otherwise can interact with the other dimension freely. There is supposed to be some sort of "navigation" inherent in the portal itself (à la : "dialing a Stargate")

This includes breathing the air and obtaining power, potentially eating food, etc. Ie: they do not have to stay completely isolated from the environment as "spacesuit" might suggest.

The origin of the portal and suit technology is extraterrestrial and doesn't need a detailed explanation. However, some scientists on Earth will naturally be investigating its workings. (The human suits were manufactured by humans, but based on captured alien widgets, with about as much understanding as asking a 1923 radio tinkerer to build headphones for your Android phone.)

I've a notion to attribute this all to "string theory" and avoid a detailed analysis, but wonder if there's any specific or plausible mechanism that could work like this? Eg, for some throw away lines from the scientists.

(NB: there's no reason to believe — for nor against — that the alternate world couldn't be some far-distant place in our own universe, ie, someplace one might eventually be able to fly to, in infinite time)

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No explanation is needed. It's extraterrestrial technology. There's nothing in the suit and the battery that even suggests machinery. Nothing to examine or analyse. Suit and portal just work fine for dimensional travel. So does recharging the battery.

The science behind it is too advanced for our primitive minds. However, what you want is a few throwaway lines from the scientists. I'd suggest they would be all arguing with each other and not getting anywhere.

Examples: "I think it's M theory."

"I tried that, it doesn't make sense."

"What about the many worlds version of QM?"

"Superficially, yes, but still nothing pans out."

"I disagree. The portal is a shadow matter converter."

"That discarded concept. Ridiculous! No it's a wormhole."

"But it's not any sort of wormhole that general relativity predicts."

"I think the portal generates a field of coherent quantum tunnelling."

"That's easy for you to say. But what's the mechanism?"

"Your guess is as good as mine."

Basically everyone arguing at cross-purposes scientifically and getting nowhere. A whole lot of maybes but no genuine answer to dimensional travel. That should be pseudoscience enough.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's more or less exactly the sort of thing I'm fishing for. I'm going to be mean and wait a day to accept in case something ridiculously awesome appears but I'd have to say this sounds like the right kind of (non) explanation. I'm assuming these are legitimately non-silly propositions that someone might try to use to understand this "magic" device. $\endgroup$ – BRPocock Jul 9 '16 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ @BRPocock You are assume correctly. Although "a field of coherent quantum tunnelling" is my own invention, but it is the kind of left-field science someone could come up with as an almost explanation. It makes me smile and feel a little proud of it. There's nothing mean about waiting longer. It's the sensible thing to do $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 9 '16 at 9:39
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Discrete dimensional travel as you describe it is beyond every reasonable model we have, so it will be hard to come up with good pseudoscience beyond just making up words. Most higher dimensional systems, such as string theory, have continuity. You might be able to get away with some comment about multiple stable states, but that's not all that strong.

However, you can convey this message very effectively by noting the scientists' demeanor. Are they excited that they can't figure it out? Are they frustrated that they can't figure it out? Convey how they feel about the unknown parts of the problem and your readers will forgive the fact that you're not saying much about the known parts.

My favorite scientists in books are the ones where you ask them about what they know, and they keep trying to point you to all the cool stuff they just don't know yet! Why focus on what is already done when there is still so much to do!

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You could use the sci-fi trope of parallel universes all "vibrating" at different frequencies.

The portal: The portal isn't a portal. It's a safety mechanism, like a parachute or a bungee cord. It doesn't actually transport travelers to parallel universes, but instead wraps them in a field which will continually pull them back to the portal (like trying to walk through a huge, rubber sheet).

Anyone attempting to walk through the portal without a Traveler Suit will find it impermeable. It must be tuned to the destination frequency, as it needs to be able to follow the Traveler into the parallel universe.

The Suit: The suit forces the wearer's matter (at the subatomic level) to vibrate at the target frequency, for as long as the power source lasts. As soon as the power source is exhausted, the Traveler's matter returns to its native frequency.

However, because the aliens who invented this technology were safety-minded, there is no way for a Traveler to manually tune their Suit. The tuning is performed when the suit makes contact with a "dialed-in" Portal. At that moment, the Suit activates, and the Traveler's frequency shifts to that of the destination universe.

The Suit also resists the safety field, which allows the Traveler to move freely. When the Suit's power source is exhausted, this resistance ceases and the field yanks them back to the portal. Because distance between universes is meaningless, this affect is similar to a light shove, regardless of how far the Traveler moved in the alternate universe.

Without the safety field, a Traveler would re-appear in their native universe at the exact point from which they left. However, their home planet would've moved since then (planetary rotation, revolution about the sun, galactic rotation, universal expansion, etc). The safety field ensures that they always return to the portal itself.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is pretty close to where we started from, complete with the "Why can Ensign Ro still breathe?" trope. The "vibrating" in this case I'm taking off mumble-mumble-super string vibration something … Although I was kinda fishing for what hand-wavey bits might justify that vibration/etc bit. Bungee Cord is a great analogy though. $\endgroup$ – BRPocock Jul 9 '16 at 3:23
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Use the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. Every collapsed quantum wave function causes new dimensions to form, each one with a different outcome of events. Your device opens a wormhole to other branches of the multiverse.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry. This mixes up the many worlds interpretation with the Copenhagen interpretation. MWI doesn't collapse the quantum wave function, CI collapses the QWF to explain why there's only one outcome. MWI assumes there exists a world for every possible outcome of a quantum event. In this world, we see only one outcome. I agree. Good idea if the portal opens a wormhole into the multiverse. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 8 '16 at 9:06

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