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Why You Don't Want Teleportation

This is why you don't want the ability to teleport. Six, nice. Teleportation, extreme interdimensional mobility. Sounds great. (puffing) We can all imagine what we'd do with such a power, whether it be good, oh, I found her in a tree, or bad, oh, I just found this. But, just exactly how we'd accomplish these feats is never quite explained in popular culture. And, I think a big reason why is that if you try to explain teleportation scientifically, try to make it work in our world, it's a superpower I don't think you'd even want. Oh. What? There we go. (electronic music) American writer Charles Fort is credited with coining the term teleportation, as the transportation of material objects from one place to another without traveling the distance in between, all the way back in 1931.

Teleportation is now a staple in many forms of fiction, especially science fiction. And, as a superpower you can find teleportation in everything from Dragon Ball Z, to Watchmen, to where it's probably best known, X-Men. In all of it's iterations, teleportation is incredibly powerful, however I think that the realistic version of this power would come along with many potential problems and pitfalls that fiction never fully explains. First, what is teleportation? Well, we'll be considering the Nightcrawlerian version because it's so popular. This kind of teleportation takes effort in extra dimensions to work. The user of the power either sees or concentrates on the location that they wish to teleport to, and then pops into and out of an extra dimension using it to traverse space without physically moving through it. I think the common sense interpretation of how this works is that someone like Nightcrawler leaves our reality, and then rejoins it, like picking up a chesspiece and moving it to the other side of the board.

But, this basic assumption is actually teleportation's biggest problem. Not a single cell in your body has known a world at rest. Thanks to the rotation of the earth, you were born into cosmic speed. Sure, the earth takes an entire day just to make one revolution, but you and me standing on the surface of the earth are covering a lot of distance in that time. If you were near the equator, you're covering 40,000 kilometers, or 25,000 miles per day. Which, if you divide the two, means that you, me, everyone, has a velocity tangent to the earth's surface of 465 meters per second, over a thousand miles per hour faster that the speed of sound.

You don't notice because you've always been going this fast. And, everything has, the air, the water, even Hugh Jackman, and he's down under. In this interpretation of teleportation, if you teleported to a dimension that smelled like a fart on fire, where you were presumably stationary relatively speaking to everything that was happening on earth, including it's spin, then if you'd just pop back onto earth, (wind whistling) you'd emerge and immediately encounter winds six times faster than a category five hurricane's. And, the instant your feet touch the ground friction would pull you into a tumble like you were one of those guys at the gym who try to jump on a treadmill except it was moving too fast. Except, you know, your skin would be totally sanded off, and you'd probably be dead. I need a bandaid. Thank you.

That dimension was filled with just physical bamf letters. Teleportation would be lethal if it did not take into account the conditions of the target location. So, what if this superpower's just a little bit more advanced? Teleportation gets a lot less terrible if, instead of dropping into and out of space-time as we know it, you reappear with the velocity that you left with. Kind of like how aperture science's portals work. This interpretation of teleportation isn't nearly as deadly as the last one. Though, it could be if you weren't careful. (whooshing) Oh. Right now we all have a tangential velocity on the earth's surface of over 1,000 miles per hour. And, the term velocity is very important here because velocity includes direction, but speed does not. So, if teleportation maybe saves your initial velocity like portals do, then depending on how far you bamfed, you might find your initial velocity pointing in a direction opposite of earth's spin. This would be just as lethal as the first situation we considered, except now you'd find all the objects on earth heading at you with twice the velocity. The simple solution to this teleportation problem would be to limit the distance of your jumps.

You wouldn't want to blindly jump to the other side of the planet. And, you probably wouldn't want to even leave the continent you're standing on. The earth spins at the same rate no matter where you are on it, but if you move closer to or further away from the poles, the circumference of the earth that you are covering in that time will change. Because of this, if you teleport to a different location the local velocity could be very different. For example, if I teleported from, let's say Los Angeles to the North Pole, then when I got there I'd have to hit the ground running at Mach 1. I'm only fine because there's no actual ground underneath me. If you ended up where you were teleporting with the velocity that you started with, the distance of your jumps, just to be safe, would probably have to be restricted to just a few kilometers, because the discrepancies between local velocities. I don't think that this is actually why Nightcrawler is canonically restricted to just jumping three miles north and south, and two miles east and west. But, it would make sense. That dimension is just fire. Even if you teleport in short hops, even if you can match the local velocity of your target location the best you can, you still have to remember one thing. The earth isn't just spinning.

While you are spinning around the earth, the earth is spinning around the sun, with an average orbital velocity of 29.8 kilometers per second, 66,600 miles per hour. The devil's velocity. If you pitted the earth's orbital velocity against, let's say, the velocity of a supersonic rifle bullet in the 100 meter dash, the earth would have finished the race in the time it took the bullet to cross the three meter mark. And, this raw velocity is important because teleportation, at least Nightcrawler's, isn't truly instantaneous. Going back and clocking just how long it takes Nightcrawler to teleport an X to the bad one, it looks to be about one second between popping in and popping out. And, if that is the time, then by the time he showed up at the place he wanted to arrive at, it would be about 30 kilometers away from where he intended it to be. And, this isn't even the worst part. Because of the earth's curvature, if you really got a jump wrong, or you took too long, you'll either end up in the atmosphere falling to your doom, or in space.

To really work, true superhero style teleportation would need secondary powers, apart from the ability to jump into and out of extra dimensions, so that you could jump safely. You would want powers that could help you match the local velocity of any place on earth that you wanted to teleport to. And, powers that would help you project the position earth will be in along it's orbit when you got to where you were going. Now, think about it this way, do you really want to be the one without some secondary powers, having to do decently complicated space-time coordinate calculations on the fly just so that you don't end up inside a fence or hitting the wall at Mach 1.4? I don't think so. Of course, you could be a little bit more careless if you didn't mind ending up in the atmosphere somewhere, but just don't forget to bring a parachute. (wind whistling) Of course, we could just say that whatever teleportation is, because it's fictional, just deals with all of these problems. It instantaneously generates velocity, and it locks you into perfect space-time coordinates, as you you travel through dimensions. That one was just syrup.

But, I think the more realistic interpretation of this superpower doesn't come along with magical GPS and extradimensional thrust. Even so, I think there is a way to make teleportation something that you actually want. It just has to change from popcultury, to more science and technology. If you could already teleport, what you would need is just some device that could rapidly do the space time calculations for you, so that you could jump safely. And, games like Universe Sandbox 2, can already do this. I mean, imagine a more sciency superhero turning to you and saying something like, look, by the time we get there the earth will have moved 50 kilometers, with a relative spin fast enough to break your legs. Without this, we are gonna find out what a fly hitting a semi truck feels like. Now, take my hand. So cool. So, what, sorry, see, this is why you do not want teleportation. Like Nightcrawler says, it's a very delicate and dangerous process that's even more limited than you think it is. To do it you'd have to jump, like Nightcrawler says not to, blindly forward into space-time over distances longer than Nightcrawler can canonically jump, having to compensate on the fly for the position and velocity of earth at every point. And, if you got any of that wrong, you'd either end up falling to your death, or into the sun. You may not want popculture style teleportation, but if you actually did have the ability to traverse space through extra dimensions, science and technology, and not comic book logic, may make this power teleimportant enough to be worth the danger. Because science. Dang it.

Also, if you're trying to be stealthy, as Nightcrawler is often trying to be, without some backfilling of atmosphere where you left, like Nightcrawler does with his Brimstone dimension, you'd create loud bangs, kinda like mini-thunder, wherever you appeared and disappeared from. Which would make it very hard to be stealthy. Also, I do know that Nightcrawler travels at hypervelocity, through the Brimstone dimension, which would help with catching up to the earth in it's orbit. But, even hypervelocity objects are not traveling as defined, you know, in military speak, are not traveling as fast as the earth is traveling in it's orbit, and you'd have to jump farther still than Nightcrawler's distance limit. Thank you so much for watching, Robert. And, thanks to Matter Being for their help on this episode. If you want more of me, go back to Alpha at, where if you sign up now for a free trial you can get this show two days earlier than anyone else. And, you can get a discount on all the new merch we just put out.

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