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In Star Trek they have the transporters. It's an effectively instantaneous travel method that converts matter to energy, then back to matter in a different location. They give the machine a limited range and it takes about two seconds.

I want such a travel method, but I don't want the implications of matter-to-energy conversion technology. The only one I can think of is the space-bending method from Dune. I'm not too picky if it has no theoretical range limit. I am picky if it requires fixed start and end points, so no wormholes. I'm just looking for some method of instantaneous travel with open-ended start and end points. A good answer will note the relative safety of the method.

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    $\begingroup$ Portals or wormholes? $\endgroup$ – JustSnilloc Jul 14 '17 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ You can always accelerate matter close to light speed or since you are referencing Star Trek: Even beyond that. Also I think your interpretation of the Star Trek transporters is unusual. They are not really about fast travel but about convenience. I don't know if they use some kind of warp tachyon 1 attosecond faster transporters, but it is plausible that their space ships are faster than their transporters $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jul 14 '17 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ Do you require technological assist, or would psionic teleportation be acceptable? (Regardless, note that if it's instantaneous over any range, you will run into problems with relativity.) $\endgroup$ – Jeff Zeitlin Jul 14 '17 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Jeff I'm definitely thinking more scifi and less fantasy. Yes, I envision a machine doing the work, not a psychic. $\endgroup$ – fredsbend Jul 14 '17 at 18:24
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    $\begingroup$ As long as you can direct the location of wormhole to where you want to go, I don't see a problem with that. I don't know where you get the idea wormholes are at fixed locations. An advanced race could target the destination with an artificial gravity generator which drags the 2 points together. $\endgroup$ – cybernard Jul 15 '17 at 1:01
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1) Do not do the extra step. No Mass - Energy - Mass transfer. Send the "fermions" of the people directly (people would not survive the acceleration, but electrons would). You need two devices of course, one that atomizes people and one that deatomizes people. How can this be accomplished? No idea, otherwise I'd be a billionaire. But the same can be said about any other answer. How save would it be? It depends on where you are "teleporting". If there is stuff in the path, this would be problematic. If you are doing this in vacuum - this isn't much of a problem. I also do not think this is any more of a stretch than Mass-Energy stuff.

2) Instead of transporting people as energy, only transport the information needed to reconstruct them. If you want to go into Science Fantasy, you can combine that with the idea of a conscience that can be transfered into a computer and downloaded again. You would not transport anyone directly via energy but just what is needed to reconstruct that person. So in principal you destroy one body (or keep it for later use) at one location and recreate (or reactivate) that body in another location. This would most likely be safer than normal travel.

3) We are dealing with non-hard science here anyways, you can have your wormholes and portals behave any way you want. The idea generally used in Sci fi behind such travel devices is that they are a shortcut through space. Why they would be fixed to one location and why you couldn't make the appear anywhere you want is beyond me - since they are fictional anyways. Most people do that for story reasons, if you can just open portals anywhere you create problems. This is literally as safe as walking - or - alternatively as safe as you want it to be since you make up the rules.

4) I already stated this in the comments (sort of): "FTL drive". Have some kind of machine, maybe a space ship, that can travel as fast as you wish. Maybe inside a warp bubble. Maybe in hyperspace. Maybe in whatever since this is all made up make-believe. You decide how fast they can accelerate with that thing. You can decide how fast you can go with that. You can make up a train that goes from Earth to Mars in a second because "hyperspace".

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  • $\begingroup$ I think this would be a good use case for posting multiple answers instead of combining four answers into one. That way, users can vote on your answers independently, allowing good answers to more easily rise to the top. $\endgroup$ – Scott Weldon Jul 17 '17 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @ScottWeldon I would rather like to help than to have an answer on the top. But if you feel like one of these answers should be at the top, you can steal it from me. Many people already did post the same answers I already gave just containing one of the points. If you however feel that one of them is so bad that it deserves downvotes, please just tell me in the comments $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jul 18 '17 at 6:13
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think I'd downvote any individual answer, but since the OP said "I don't want the implications of matter-to-energy conversion technology", #1 and #2 might be problematic. $\endgroup$ – Scott Weldon Jul 20 '17 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ My point was that allowing good answers to rise to the top does help people, specifically future users who find this post. Remember that when you post an answer you are not helping just the OP, but likely many more users in the future. $\endgroup$ – Scott Weldon Jul 20 '17 at 17:12
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Space/time warp comes to mind.

In fiction, it hasn't been used for very short distances, but if you can bend space time to move between two solar systems, then you should also be able to bend space/time to get between a ship and a planet's surface.

It may be that a great deal of power is needed to warp space/time, so that might get you from the ship to the surface, but it won't get you back without a dedicated warping device.

Or, maybe your civilization has figured out how to warp space time with a very small device, maybe worn on a belt. If you're going to create a civilization, they may as well be brilliant.

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Since we are using Star Trek as a reference here, lets add a little cannon from the first season of Next Generation.

In "Where No Man Has Gone Before", Wesley Crusher and the Traveler have a conversation in which Wesley suggests that Space, Time and Thought are not the separate entities which we currently believe they are, but are instead part of a larger singular whole. The Traveler, who is from a much more advanced race implies that Wesley is right about the proposal. Later in the episode, the link between thought and location is actually demonstrated.

If that is they case, then perhaps the mode of transportation that you are looking for involves inducing a very strong-willed delusion about where you are.

Cogito Ergo Sum

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  • $\begingroup$ This is part of the plot for a novel that I can't recall the name, now, but it had some people able to teleport and even time-travel by having some better understanding of the mind processes. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Jul 14 '17 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ I gave an up vote, but the sort of mystical fantasy that ST was prone to is not what I'm looking for. $\endgroup$ – fredsbend Jul 14 '17 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ There are Pilots in the Dune series that do exactly this. They envision the math involved in being in the other location, and it happens. They are aided by an atmospheric drug infusion... $\endgroup$ – IchabodE Jul 14 '17 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ @fredsbend, Thanks for the up vote. I've added another, less mystical answer, but you probably won't like it much either. You have posed a difficult question and ruled out the only easy answer. So to give you any answers at all, I'm having to bend either the laws of physics or the definition of the word "instantaneous". Hope it helps. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 14 '17 at 21:38
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The question as written is difficult to answer in any specific manner since what is considered a 'good' answer will be based on one's personal sense of balance between imagination and rationality.

With this in mind, it seems a couple of specific examples may prove most useful.

  1. Travel utilizing "Dimensional" structure: I once created a starship for a short story which was able to 'slide' along 2-dimensional space, thereby somehow avoiding some of the pitfalls of 3 (or 4) dimensional curved space-time, and thereby enabling cross-galactic travel. The ship (I believe I referenced as a 'slip-streamer'...) was introduced as alien technology of an unknown source (of course), but its construction included a pair of 'manifolds' of which a portion existed only in 2-dimensional space. These manifolds acted like ice skates as one skates across an ice rink, with only a two dimensional portion (the portion of the blade which actually touches the ice) subject to inertia, etc. Could be as safe as you like. Note however, in my story the craft was no less difficult to master than skating.

  2. Travel utilizing the background energy matrix of zero point energy: This could be a 'transporter', a bridge, a craft, etc. which directly interfaces (is attached to?) the zero point energy field of modern physics theory, allowing one to 'break the rules of nature' by traveling outside normal space. Sounds safe to me.

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Quantum teleportation. We know quantum particles can and do "tunnel" through barriers, and we can induce them to teleport short distances under some circumstances. Through the magic of handwavium [insert technobabble here], our teleporters do that on a macroscopic scale.

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Kamikaze Transport Pods

These are computer piloted surface to orbit one-man shuttle craft which provide apparently instantaneous transportation. It is only apparently instantaneous because it does actually take time, sometimes even a few minutes, to complete the journey, but it holds its occupant in a state of suspended consciousness during that time. A person can literally step into a pod in mid-sentence and step out onto the planet without missing a syllable. The time consumed by the journey simply doesn't exist from the passenger's point of view.

The reason that the pods suspend their passenger's consciousness has to do with their autopilot's driving habits. Where most AI piloted craft spend the greater half of their processing power and fuel supply in making their passengers comfortable, Kamikaze pods just get the job done; in the absolute minimum amount of time survivable by their human occupant. They make meteors look slow.

Not that the pods can't land slowly. Sometimes they have to. During their entire journey, they carefully monitor their unconscious passenger's health and make allowances for any detected frailty. But when the passenger is up to the rigors of a full speed descent, nothing can get them there faster than a Kamikaze Pod.

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  • $\begingroup$ Since the 'instantaneous' nature of the travel is a function of perception rather than physics, not sure this qualifies, but interesting in any case. $\endgroup$ – Starrdaark Jul 15 '17 at 20:44
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At the earth site I would choose to map the brain of the traveller, send the brain map to the destination via traditional data transfer technology like a satallite (there is ongoing work in this field like Blue Brain).

At the destination there will be a body with a template brain waiting mapping. Like an avatar sort of thing, but the traveller original "copy" cryogenically hybernated to wait for the travelled brain map to return.

So you need to work on creating avatars resembling the traveller's body waiting at the destination site.

When the traveller is going back home, the new brain map should be uploaded to the earth site to overwrite the original traveller brain.

Transportation should be then very cheap and super safe.

The avatars by design should have a self destruction timer or aging mechanism so travellers won't travel for the sake of immortality. Unless you want them to.

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If your "universe" is actually a simulation, then pretend your inhabitants are sentient NPCs who have figured out how to hack the code from within the simulation. This allows them to totally bypass all known physical laws of their "universe." They can instantly move their location with the right hack, even though such movement ought to be impossible. Perhaps over time they figure out other hacks. As a twist, you can pretend the NPCs don't realize what they've done, only that they've achieved the impossible. Then they try to come up with a coherent in-universe theory to justify how that was possible. Perhaps it will be a new science of magic, or hyperdimensionality, or psionic power. Or perhaps a new religion, even.

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    $\begingroup$ *Inception sound.* $\endgroup$ – Scott Weldon Jul 17 '17 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ While this is an interesting thought, I think all this does is move the problem one level deeper (as indicated by the last sentence of your answer). $\endgroup$ – Scott Weldon Jul 17 '17 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ @ScottWeldon: 1) LOL! Hadn't thought of Inception. I was thinking of more specific tweaks, but yeah. Although, in Inception, the simulation broke down once the NPCs figured out their world wasn't real. If I'm remembering it right. 2) I don't understand your second comment at all. $\endgroup$ – dmm Jul 18 '17 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding my second comment, I meant that if the OP wants an in-universe (or here NPC-facing) explanation, then this doesn't really answer the question (aside from the brief speculation in the last sentence). $\endgroup$ – Scott Weldon Jul 20 '17 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ @ScottWeldon: OP said, "I'm just looking for some method of instantaneous travel with open-ended start and end points." I assumed he meant something that would make scientific sense to his readers. For his inhabitants, "hack travel" would violate physics -- but it would exist. So it would require an explanation outside of known science. Hence: magic, pseudo-science, or religion. $\endgroup$ – dmm Jul 20 '17 at 17:13

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