Larry Niven defined "teleportation" as any method of moving from point to point in negligible time.

This used to be a mind-boggling cutting-edge science fiction concept back in the late 1800's, e.g., "Professor Vehr's Electrical Experiment" (24 January 1885 The Argonaut) by Robert Duncan Milne. But in 1965 Gene Roddenberry was developing a new TV series called "Star Trek" and found that landing the crew on an alien planet in some kind of shuttle would blow their entire special effect budget. So he invented the Transporter. One cheap optical effect to "beam" the crew down and they were well into the story by script page two.

So nowadays everybody knows what a transporter is, and the phrase "beam me up Scotty, there are no intelligent life forms here" is part of the popular lexicon. This may or may not be the reason why the concept has become passé in science fiction. Which is a pity because it allows science fiction authors to explore all sorts of deep philosophical questions.

The popular term for matter transmitter back in the day was "transmat". But the word really never caught on. George O. Smith said that if audio is for sonics; radio is for electronics; video is for television signals then transmitting matter is "mateo." That word never caught on either. In Poul Anderson's The Enemy Stars they were called "mattercasters." In Piers Anthony's Cluster series they were called "mattermitters."

But are they possible? Maybe. They are certainly unobtanium, verging on handwavium.


As with all fringe science fiction speculations, if you are going to go beyond physics as we know it, a wise SF author will try to limit the damage. Break one law of physic, not five or six. Try to keep the rest intact.

Conservation Of Energy

Assume that matter transmission obeys the law of conservation of energy. So if you use a transmat to teleport uphill, the transmat will need a way of using extra electricity to compensate for the gravitational potential energy difference or your body will suffer a sudden drop in temperature or other energy loss. Moving uphill creates a gain in potential energy, the law of conservation of energy says that energy has to come from somewhere.

Teleporting downhill means you will lose potential energy. If the transmat does not compensate for it, your body temperature will rise. The energy has to go somewhere.

The equations below were derived by me from Larry Niven's The Theory and Practice of Teleportation. They may be incorrect.

How much energy will be required to be added or removed in order to compensate for altitude change teleports?

ΔU = -(m * g * Δh)


ΔU = ± change in energy (Joules) plus for energy added to object, minus for energy removed
m = mass of object teleported (kg) man=68 kg
g = acceleration due to gravity (m/s) Terra=9.81 m/s
Δh = ± change in altitude (m) plus for traveling upwards, minus for traveling downwards

What will be the temperature effect of uncompensated altitude change teleports?

ΔT = -((m * g * Δh) / (m * C))


ΔT = ± change in temperature (°C or K) plus for heating, minus for cooling
m = mass of object teleported (kg) man=68 kg
g = acceleration due to gravity (m/s) Terra=9.81 m/s
Δh = ± change in altitude (m) plus for traveling upwards, minus for traveling downwards
C = specific heat capacity of object (J/kg-K) man≈4,184 J/kg-K (water)

Example: idiot PFC Floyd steps into a transmat and neglects to turn on the altitude compensator. He set the transmat's destination dials to the top of Mount Krumpet, which is exactly one kilometer higher than Floyd's current location. How much is his body temperature going to drop?

ΔT = -((m * g * Δh) / (m * C))
ΔT = -((68 * 98.1 * 1,000) / (68 * 4,184))
ΔT = -(667,080 / 284,512)
ΔT = -2.4°C

A drop of 2.4 degrees is not enough to kill, but Floyd's teeth might chatter momentarily.

If you used an uncompensated transmat to teleport from the International Space Station to Terra's surface (-400 km), your body temperature would rise from it's normal 37°C to about 997°C. Hot enough to melt silver, and certainly hot enough to kill you instantly. A compensated transmat would suck 266,832,000 joules out of your body in order to spare you from that cruel fate.

Actually, according to the Boom Table it only takes 1.42×108 joules to totally vaporize a body, leaving only a skeleton. Energy compensation is important.

Teleporting up to the ISS will make your body temperature fall from 37°C to about -923°C. Which is pretty frigid, since the coldest spot on Terra is about -50°C. This will also kill you instantly.

A reader named Yoel points out that -923°C is about six hundred and fifty degrees below absolute zero, which is impossible. Niven's equation was sort of assuming that the energy needed to make up for the potential energy loss would come from heat. This observation would mean that either the energy would come from somewhere else, or Floyd would materialize at an altitude corresponding to a temperature drop to absolute zero (−273.15°C). The result would depend upon the details of the teleporation method.

Conservation Of Momentum

Assume that matter transmission obeys the law of conservation of momentum. If you are in an automobile speeding along at 80 kilometers per hour, and use a transmat to teleport to a nearby truck stop, you will arrive at the truck stop. Still moving at 80 kph. It will be more or less the same as if you just jumped out of the moving car.

Conservation of momentum will affect you if you are standing on the ground (of a rotating planet).

Imagine you are above the North Pole of Terra looking down. Terra is spinning counter clock wise. You can see that person Alfa standing on the equator in South America is moving in a direction almost ninety degrees away from person Bravo standing on the equator in Africa (due East). If person Alfa teleported to Africa, the vector sum between their personal vector and the vector of the grounds of Africa will be such that they will be thrown up into the air. If they teleport in a Western direction they will be thrown into the ground. Ouch.

Terra spins "faster" at the equator than it does at, say 45° latitude. This means if you teleport north you'll be jerked to the left, and teleporting south will jerk you to the right.

The equations below were derived by me from Larry Niven's The Theory and Practice of Teleportation. They may be incorrect.

Teleporting East or West, how fast will our teleporter be thrown up in the air or slammed into the ground?

upVel = sinRad(deltaEW / (radiusPlanet * cos(latitude))) * (rotVel * cos(latitude))


upVel = ± velocity teleporter is thrown (m/s) plus for up, minus for down
sinRad(x) = sine of x, where x is in Radians
deltaEW = distance teleported East or West (m)
radiusPlanet = radius of the planet (m) Terra=6,371,000 m
cos(x) = cosine of x, where x is in degrees
latitude = geographical latitude of teleporter (degrees)
rotVel = rotational velocity of the planet at the equator (m/s) Terra=464 m/s

Teleporting North or South, how fast will our teleporter be thrown left or right?

leftVel = (rotVel * cos(startLatitude)) - (rotVel * cos(destLatitude))


leftVel = ± velocity teleporter is thrown (m/s) plus for left, minus for right
rotVel = rotational velocity of the planet at the equator (m/s) Terra=464 m/s
startLatitude = geographical latitude of starting position (degrees)
destLatitude = geographical latitude of destination position (degrees)

Transmitter And Receiver

In The Theory and Practice of Teleportation, Larry Niven noted some implications about a transmat's requirements for a transmitter or receiver.

If the transmat does not require a transmitter, it can reach out to anything in range and teleport it to the transmat's receiving stage (e.g., Skylark Duquesne by E. E. "Doc" Smith). This turns out to be unreasonably powerful. A kleptomaniac's dream. Whoever owns a transmitterless transmat can steal anything they want. Not just gold, also things like top-secret government documents. If one person has one they are the king of the world, until somebody assassinates them and becomes the new king. If there are several people who have transmitterless transmats, the economy of the world collapses, technological infrastructure decays, and eventually the transmat cannot be repaired. Civilization has to start over from scratch.

If the transmat does not require a receiver, it can send objects out to anywhere it wants. Objects like bombs (e.g., The Person from Porlock by Raymond F. Jones). This also turns out to be unreasonably powerful. You could find the current location of the leader of a nation you disliked and teleport a nuclear warhead on to their lap. Again if there is only one the owner is the king of the world. Until they are assassinated. If there are two the owning nations will bomb each other and the rest of the world into the stone age (or at least into a level of technological decay where the transmats cannot be repaired).

The main way to reduce the effect these two disasters is to postulate some way of protecting certain areas from teleportation. For example, if they cannot operate on a location that is deep enough underground, or surrounded by a magnetic field, or something.

The easiest way to keep transmats from destroying civilization is to mandate that they require both transmitters and receivers. Most science fiction does for that reason. Except for Star Trek, they stop reckless use of transporters by stopping them with deflector shields around starships or magnetic fields around penal colonies to prevent beaming.


The old science fiction writers assumed that two bodies cannot occupy the same place at the same time. So they figured if you used a transmat to transmit yourself to point Charlie, and there was a large rock occupying point Charlie, both you and the rock would be transformed into a huge explosion. Actually material objects are mostly empty space so you'd probably just become an instant fossil inside the rock (or mostly inside the rock). You'd still be dead, either instantly or eventually.

Transmitting into a mass of air will kill you too. Embolisms, the bends, other nasty effects.

If you have proper transmats needing both transmitter and receiver, you'd want the business ends to have enclosed booths. The idea is as you (and the air around you) are being transmatted from transmat Delta to transmat Foxtrot, the volume of air in the booth on transmat Foxtrox is simultaneously being transmatted to transmat Delta. This way both you and the mass of air will be sent into an empty booth full of vacuum. No boom.

Or you could save power by just pumping all the air out of the destination transmat booth.

Other Limits

The main variables an author can play with are the maximum range between the origin and destination, and the energy cost per use. This mostly impact what conventional forms of transportation are rendered obsolete by transmats. If the cost per use is fixed regardless of distance, and expensive, automobiles and buses will remain but airplanes will vanish. If cost is cheap but range is limited, people will travel by a series of jumps. But eventually you will reach a point where it is cheaper to use an airplane. So automobiles and buss es will vanish.

For other limits, recognize that matter transmission is very much like Discontinuous ("teleport-like") faster-than-light drives. So many of the limits of the numerous times of discontinuous drives can be appropriated by the author and applied to their transmats.

Web and Starship

In the wargame Web and Starship (keep in mind this is a paper-and cardboard tabletop game, not a computer game) game designer (the legendary Greg Costikyan) had a clever limitation on matter transmission, used as a method of FTL travel.

The situation starts with two alien races: the Gwynhyfarr (hereafter referred to as "Birds") and the Pereen (hereafter referred to as "Moles"). Each has a totally different type of FTL transport system.

The Birds have FTL starships that can travel anywhere in the universe at will. No special launch or landing sites are required. The trouble is that the starships are expensive to build (i.e., there are not many of them), and each has a limited cargo capacity.

The Moles have FTL matter transmission. It requires both a transmitter and a receiver. Transmission is instantaneous. Unfortunately in order to transmit to a new planet, a receiver unit must by shipped to the planet by a Slower-than-light robot ship. This of course takes years. The advantage of matter transmission is that they have huge cargo capacities. The Moles can move entire armies through a matter transmitter in a matter of hours.

When the Bird Empire and the Mole Empire expanded to the point where their borders contacted each other, war was inevitable, but futile. Both empires wanted to destroy the other and take over the enemy's habitable planets. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of their respective FTL, war was impossible.

Say the Birds want to invade a Mole planet. The Bird starships can go anywhere, so the Birds load up their limited number of starships with the few numbers of solders each ship can carry, and invade the Mole planet. Whereupon the Moles use their matter transmitters to instantly transport in the planetary armies of all the other Mole planets, and the combined Mole armies turn the pathetically small Bird invasion force into a smoking crater.

Say the Moles want to invade a Bird planet. The Moles load a matter transmitter unit into a STL robot ship, aim it at the Bird planet to invade, and wait a few years for it to arrive. Years later, as it approaches the Bird planet, it is noticed by Bird space patrols, who promptly shoot it to pieces.


Until one fine day both the Birds and the Moles notice radio waves being emitted by a small planet set right in between the two empires. A planet called Earth.

Two great civilizations faced each other across the arm. The Gwynhyfarr, proud descendants of an aerial race, roamed the stars in mighty quantum-leap vessels. The Pereen, the children of burrowing animals, linked their worlds together with the Web. The two found each other incomprehensible. Their mathematics were incompatible, their languages based on different principles, their psychologies entirely at variance. They could not live with each other, and yet they must. Neither was sufficiently mighty to conquer its foe.

But more than this: technologies have military implications. The Gwynhyfarr ships could travel light-years in weeks, could dart from star to star and drive deep into enemy territory. They could also carry only small numbers of troops. Transporting even an infantry division required huge ships in large numbers. In a space battle, the Gwynhyfarr had no match. But the Pereen did not travel space.

The Pereen knew how to conquer intervening distance. Two points could be "gated" together, linked so that one object could pass from one point to another without travelling through the intervening space. Once a gate was constructed on a new world, it was linked via other gates to every world in the Pereen hegemony. The Web permitted instantaneous transmission of huge quantities of materiel from one world to another. The Gwynhyfarr might land a division on a Pereen world—but the Web would immediately transmit an army to that world to defeat its enemies.

But to open a gate, the Pereen must transport the necessary machinery to a new world to make the link to the Web. And the Pereen do not understand Gwynhyfarr faster-than-light travel, and have no such system of their own. Instead, sublight Pereen probes must drone their weary way across space-time toward their targets. When a target is reached, a new world can be added to the Web.

But sublight probes are small and defenseless; they cannot be otherwise, because moving anything at sublight speeds from one star to another requires a tremendous investment in energy and time. Only small objects can affordably make the trip. If a Pereen probe enters a Gwynhyfarr world, its fusion flare will almost certainly be enemy starships, and the probe destroyed.

And so, for decades, the two races bided their time in armed hostility, watching each other across the Carina arm. Limited by their technologies and systems of war, neither could defeat the other.

Then came the radio signals from Terra...

From Web and Starship game manual, Greg Costikyan (1984)

The Warbots

The Second Alakar (Warbot) was used in several conflicts, among them the most noticeable being the Haak Wars of 14696.

The Haak, centipedean creatures from some obscure place in the galactic center, had stretched their empire out in a most curious fashion. Most races preferred to expand in a globe, the center being their planet of origin. The Haak expanded in a straight line thirty light-years across. They had a science of teleportation, which could get a Haak on the outside border of his empire, twenty thousand light-years to the center, in two years. They did not do very much work with spaceships, beyond sending robot probes to land colonization reception booths.

When the first booths of Haak began landing on human planets in the distant Lace pattern, the alarm went out. The Lace Pattern was occupied by a large number of little human and non-human empires, none very large, and because it was four years of travel from the Palaric States, the nearest really organized culture, it never heard much from the main body of civilization, except for wandering ships of Alakars.

In fact, it was not generally known that all those marvelous myths of Antares, and TOSS, and Pale, and so on, were not fairy tales. Few of the Alakars who wandered through the region had ever been anywhere near the Civilization. The entire war, though it dragged on for ten years, was hardly eighth-page news back in Antares.

From THE WARBOTS by Larry Todd (1968)

The Time Mercenaries

(ed note: the Human/Revain alliance is fighting an interstellar war with the Nerne. The latter species has a breeding rate which makes rabbits and cockroaches look like pikers. They use soldier-wave tactics, Nerne life is less than worthless, they store millions of their newborn offspring in vats under suspended animation.)

     His (the Nerne commander) thoughts drifted away from his own problem to the larger one of interstellar conflict. Centuries ago his own species (the Nerne) had evolved a technique of stellar conquest which was well suited to their prodigious powers of reproduction: send in a ship, establish a base and hold it against attack for long enough to get the matter-transmitters in operation. After that it was simple: pour in troops and weapons powerful enough to hold off a space-borne attack. Once you had done that, the planet was yours and troops could keep pouring in until it was literally flooded.
     Understandably, the Revain, with their vastly slower reproductive capacities and limited numbers, could not match this technique. They could not afford the eighty percent casualty rate of interstellar matter-transmission so they had stuck stubbornly to their growing space fleet. The Nerne had only constructed to keep ahead, not to gain a vast lead in ships, but now, with the humans adding their weight, the Nerne would be compelled to increase their own production. The Commodore felt a twinge of unease. How? Where? They would need at least sixty more production sites to meet the allied construction threat and where would they put them? With every vacant space filled with vats, just how and where would they do it? There was no room in orbit; his home worlds had already lost sixty-five percent of their light from the vast conglomeration of orbiting repair shops, construction vessels and factories.
     His thoughts returned to his own position with some bitterness. These human worlds, all twenty-five of them, could have been taken and occupied in a matter of days with the flooding technique.

     On the three habitable planets of system eighteen, the Nerne took routine defensive measures. Target-seeking missiles were boosted into orbit in increasing numbers, ready to leap outward as soon as the presence of enemy vessels triggered their recognition tapes. On mountaintops and other suitable sites repeller weapons and other massive, long-range armaments bared their black snouts in readiness to meet the invader.
     Beyond the range of all these weapons, however, something happened on the Revain flagship. A peculiar device protruded from its surface which for long seconds flickered oddly, then the fleet changed course.
     For the next three days it traversed the entire length of enemy-held worlds and, at carefully timed intervals, the peculiar device flickered.

     The (Human/Revain) fleet did move and let loose with a reply of their own, a carefully timed avalanche of robotically constructed missiles, most of which were no bigger than the human thumb.
     The acutely sensitive instruments of the Nerne perceived their coming and succeeded in accounting for forty percent of them. Force bubbles sprang into existence over cities, vital installations and the inevitable vats, but the missiles were not aimed at these. One by one, and often in twos and threes, the heavy planet-based weapons were knocked out.
     The local (Nerne) command was not unduly concerned since, protected by the bubbles, they could easily send for more. It was, of course, regrettable that a hundred and eighty thousand troops had been left outside, together with a large number of technicians and construction people, but these, too, could be replaced.
     The (Nerne) technicians switched on the reception cubicles in the huge gasometer-like buildings and made ready to receive. The disposal chutes were open, ready for the removal of loss. The technicians were not entirely without feeling, merely hardened by experience. The first twenty or thirty loads would be a mess; they always were.
     Lights came on, indicating contact with the transmitting beams, and then a piping noise announced the transmission of the first loads.
     Transfer was almost instantaneous but this time there was no crackle of reassembly. Instead, smoke crawled out of power boxes and here plastic or metal turned liquid and circuit breakers fused.
     Alarms piped, acrid blue smoke swirled down corridors, and emergency extinguishers went into action.
     Frantic calls went out. "Reception failure. Halt transmission!"
     Transmission was halted but a considerable number of troops and equipment had already been dispatched. Unless repairs could be effected in a very short period, the projected atoms would lose their cohesion and their reassembly would become an impossibility.
     At the reception cubicles, Nerne technicians blinked their orange eyes helplessly. Whole circuits, printed and atomically suggested, had been wiped out of existence—repair would take days.
     It did not take the experts long to discover that the enemy had found some method of distorting the transmission beams (the peculiar device that flickers oddly).
     By this time, however, leaving four heavy ships in orbit over the planet, the (Human/Revain) fleet had moved on to the next Nerne stronghold, where the same process was repeated. This time, however, no attempt was made to transmit or receive. The Nerne took refuge in their force bubbles.
     The pattern of attack was now alarmingly clear to the Nerne High Command. The enemy were virtually immobilizing their bases one by one—bases which they were unable to reinforce by transmission and, worst of all, expansion bases in the process of development.

From THE TIME MERCENARIES by Philip E. High (1968)

Tunnel in the Sky

An auxiliary gate had been set up on the floor, facing gate five and almost under the balcony. Two high steel fences joined the two gates, forming with them an alley as wide as the gates and as long as the space between, about fifteen meters by seventy-five. This pen was packed with humanity moving from the temporary gate toward and through gate five and onto some planet light years away. They poured out of nowhere, for the floor back of the auxiliary gate was bare, hurried like cattle between the two fences, spilled through gate five and were gone. A squad of brawny Mongol policemen, each armed with a staff as tall as himself, was spread out along each fence. They were using their staves to hurry the emigrants and they were not being gentle. Almost underneath Rod one of them prodded an old coolie so hard that he stumbled and fell. The man had been carrying his belongings, his equipment for a new world, in two bundles supported from a pole balanced on his right shoulder.

The old coolie fell to his skinny knees, tried to get up, fell flat. Rod thought sure he would be trampled, but somehow he was on his feet again minus his baggage. He tried to hold his place in the torrent and recover his possessions, but the guard prodded him again and he was forced to move on barehanded. Rod lost sight of him before he had moved five meters.

There were local police outside the fence but they did not interfere. This narrow stretch between the two gates was, for the time, extra-territory; the local police had no jurisdiction. But one of them did seem annoyed at the brutality shown the old man; he put his face to the steel mesh and called out something in lingua terra. The Mongol cop answered savagely in the same simple language, telling the North American what he could do about it, then went back to shoving and shouting and prodding still more briskly.

"If you will turn your attention again to gate five, we will repeat what we said earlier: gate five is on forty-eight hour loan to the Australasian Republic. The temporary gate you see erected below is hyper-folded to a point in central Australia in the Arunta Desert, where this emigration has been mounting in a great encampment for the past several weeks. His Serene Majesty Chairman Fung Chee Mu of the Australasian Republic has informed the Corporation that his government intends to move in excess of two million people in forty-eight hours, a truly impressive figure, more than forty thousand each hour. The target figure for this year for all planetary emigration gates taken together, Emigrants' Gap, Peter the Great, and Witwaters and Gates is only seventy million emigrants or an average of eight thousand per hour. This movement proposes a rate five times as great using only one gate!"

The commentator continued: "Yet when we watch the speed, efficiency and the, uh forthrightness with which they are carrying out this evolution it seems likely that they will achieve their goal. Our own figures show them to be slightly ahead of quota for the first nine hours. During those same nine hours there have been one hundred seven births and eighty-two deaths among the emigrants, the high death rate, of course, being incident to the temporary hazards of the emigration.

"The planet of destination, GO8703IV, to be called henceforth 'Heavenly Mountains' according to Chairman Fung, is classed as a bounty planet and no attempt had been made to colonize it. The Corporation has been assured that the colonists are volunteers." It seemed to Rod that the announcer's tone was ironical. This is understandable when one considers the phenomenal population pressure of the Australasian Republic.

Gate four had been occupied by a moving cargo belt when he had come in; now the belt had crawled away and lost itself in the bowels of the terminal and an emigration party was lining up to go through.

This was no poverty stricken band of refugees chivvied along by police; here each family had its own wagon, long, sweeping, boat-tight Conestogas drawn by three pair teams and housed in sturdy glass canvas square and businesslike Studebakers with steel bodies, high mud-cutter wheels, and pulled by one or two pair teams. The draft animals were Morgans and lordly Clydesdales and jug-headed Missouri mules with strong shoulders and shrewd, suspicious eyes. Dogs trotted between wheels, wagons were piled high with household goods and implements and children, poultry protested the indignities of fate in cages tied on behind, and a little Shetland pony, riderless but carrying his saddle and just a bit too tall to run underneath with the dogs, stayed close to the tailgate of one family's rig.

It occurred to Rod that there probably was no coffee where they were going and might not be for years, since Terra never exported food, on the contrary, food and fissionable metals were almost the only permissible imports; until an Outland colony produced a surplus of one or the other it could expect precious little help from Terra.

It was extremely expensive in terms of uranium to keep an interstellar gate open and the people in this wagon train could expect to be out of commercial touch with Earth until such a time as they had developed surpluses valuable enough in trade to warrant reopening the gate at regular intervals. Until that time they were on their own and must make do with what they could take with them...which made horses more practical than helicopters, picks and shovels more useful than bulldozers. Machinery gets out of order and requires a complex technology to keep it going but good old "hay-burners" keep right on breeding, cropping grass, and pulling loads.

He scrunched down in his seat, trying to see through the gate to guess the cause of the hold up. He could not see well, as the arching canvas of a prairie schooner blocked his view, but it did seem that the gate operator had a phase error; it looked as if the sky was where the ground ought to be. The extra-dimensional distortions necessary to match places on two planets many light years apart were not simply a matter of expenditure of enormous quantities of energy; they were precision problems fussy beyond belief, involving high mathematics and high art—the math was done by machine but the gate operator always had to adjust the last couple of decimal places by prayer and intuition.

In addition to the dozen-odd proper motions of each of the planets involved, motions which could usually be added and canceled out, there was also the rotation of each planet. The problem was to make the last hyper-fold so that the two planets were internally tangent at the points selected as gates, with their axes parallel and their rotations in the same direction.

Theoretically it was possible to match two points in contra-rotation, twisting the insubstantial fabric of space-time in exact step with 'real' motions; practically such a solution was not only terribly wasteful of energy but almost unworkable the ground surface beyond the gate tended to skid away like a slidewalk and tilt at odd angles.

This gate, being merely for Terra surface commuting, was permanently dilated and required no operator, since the two points brought into coincidence were joined by a rigid frame, the solid Earth. Rod showed his commuter's ticket to the electronic monitor and stepped through to Arizona, in company with a crowd of neighbors. The almost solid Earth. The gate robot took into account tidal distortions but could not anticipate minor seismic variables. As Rod stepped through he felt his feet quiver as if to a small earthquake, then the terra was again firma. But he was still in an airlock at sea level pressure. The radiation from massed bodies triggered the mechanism, the lock closed and air pressure dropped. Rod yawned heavily to adjust to the pressure of Grand Canyon plateau, North Rim, less than three quarters that of New Jersey. But despite the fact that he made the change twice a day he found himself rubbing his right ear to get rid of an ear ache.

Rocket ships did not conquer space; they merely challenged it. A rocket leaving Earth at seven miles per second is terribly slow for the vast reaches beyond. Only the Moon is reasonably near, four days, more or less. Mars is thirty-seven weeks away, Saturn a dreary six years, Pluto an impossible half century, by the elliptical orbits possible to rockets.

Ortega's torch ships brought the Solar System within reach. Based on mass conversion, Einstein's deathless e=mc2, they could boost for the entire trip at any acceleration the pilot could stand. At an easy one gravity the inner planets were only hours from Earth, far Pluto only eighteen days. It was a change like that from horseback to jet plane. The shortcoming of this brave new toy was that there was not much anywhere to go. The Solar system, from a human standpoint, is made up of remarkably unattractive real estate—save for lovely Terra herself, lush and green and beautiful. The steel-limbed Jovians enjoy gravity 2.5 times ours and their poisonous air at inhuman pressure keeps them in health. Martians prosper in near vacuum, the rock lizards of Luna do not breathe at all. But these planets are not for men. Men prosper on an oxygen planet close enough to a G-type star for the weather to cycle around the freezing point of water... that is to say, on Earth.

When you are already there why go anywhere? The reason was babies, too many babies. Malthus pointed it out long ago; food increases by arithmetical progression, people increase by geometrical progression. By World War I half the world lived on the edge of starvation; by World War II Earth's population was increasing by 55,000 people every day; before World War III, as early as 1954, the increase had jumped to 100,000 mouths and stomachs per day, 35,000,000 additional people each year...and the population of Terra had climbed well beyond that which its farm lands could support.

The hydrogen, germ, and nerve gas horrors that followed were not truly political. The true meaning was more that of beggars fighting over a crust of bread. The author of Gulliver's Travels sardonically proposed that Irish babies be fattened for English tables; other students urged less drastic ways of curbing population none of which made the slightest difference. Life, all life, has the twin drives to survive and to reproduce. Intelligence is an aimless by-product except as it serves these basic drives. But intelligence can be made to serve the mindless demands of life. Our Galaxy contains in excess of one hundred thousand Earth-type planets, each as warm and motherly to men as sweet Terra. Ortega's torch ships could reach the stars. Mankind could colonize, even as the hungry millions of Europe had crossed the Atlantic and raised more babies in the New World.

Some did...hundreds of thousands. But the entire race, working as a team, cannot build and launch a hundred ships a day, each fit for a thousand colonists, and keep it up day after day, year after year, time without end. Even with the hands and the will (which the race never had) there is not that much steel, aluminum, and uranium in Earth's crust. There is not one hundredth of the necessary amount.

But intelligence can find solutions where there are none. Psychologists once locked an ape in a room, for which they had arranged only four ways of escaping. Then they spied on him to see which of the four he would find.

The ape escaped a fifth way.

Dr. Jesse Evelyn Ramsbotham had not been trying to solve the baby problem; he had been trying to build a time machine.

Progress in physics is achieved by denying the obvious and accepting the impossible. Any nineteenth century physicist could have given unassailable reasons why atom bombs were impossible if his reason were not affronted at the question; any twentieth century physicist could explain why time travel was incompatible with the real world of spacetime. But Ramsbotham began fiddling with the three greatest Einsteinian equations, the two relativity equations for distance and duration and the mass-conversion equation; each contained the velocity of light. "Velocity" is first derivative, the differential of distance with respect to time; he converted those equations into differential equations, then played games with them. He would feed the results to the Rakitiac computer, remote successor to Univac, Eniac and Maniac

But he did not give up. He made a larger model and tried to arrange a dilation, or anomaly (he did not call it a "Gate") which would let him get in and out of the field himself.

When he threw on power, the space between the curving magnetodes of his rig no longer showed the wall beyond, but a steaming jungle. He jumped to the conclusion that this must be a forest of the Carboniferous Period. It had often occurred to him that the difference between space and time might simply be human prejudice, but this was not one of the times; he believed what he wanted to believe. He hurriedly got a pistol and with much bravery and no sense crawled between the magnetodes.

Ten minutes later he was arrested for waving firearms around in Rio de Janeiro's civic botanical gardens. A lack of the Portuguese language increased both his difficulties and the length of time he spent in a tropical pokey, but three days later through the help of the North American consul he was on his way home. He thought and filled notebooks with equations and question marks on the whole trip.

The short cut to the stars had been found.

Ramsbotham's discoveries eliminated the basic cause of war and solved the problem of what to do with all those dimpled babies. A hundred thousand planets were no farther away than the other side of the street.

From TUNNEL IN THE SKY by Robert Heinlein (1955)

Operating Principle

Now the question arises how the heck does the blasted transmat actually work? The operating principle generally creates some major unintended consequences.

Ironically, when Gene Roddenberry invented the the Star Trek transporter in order to save some money on his special effects budget, it turned around and bit him on the derrière with an unintended consequence. Not because of the transporter's operating principle. Instead the problem was the fact it worked at all.

You see, Mr. Roddenberry invented the transporter to make it easy to get the characters from the Starship Enterprise down to the planet du jour. Unfortunately it also made it easy to get the characters back to the Enterprise. As David Gerrolds explains: it is very hard to create dramatic tension if, at the first sign of a danger, Captain Kirk whips out his communicator and says "Scotty, save my ass!"

The Klingon ambush team/hideous alien space creature/whatever looks sadly at the Enterprise crew beaming to safety, taking the dramatic tension with them.

The Star Trek writers were forced to invent some new contrived reason to render the transporter unavailable for each script in order to rescue dramatic tension. Which got really old after happening five episodes in a row.

Tunnel Diode

A tunnel diode is a common electronic component. But its operating principle contains that magic word "Quantum", beloved of writers of technobabble everywhere. Teachers explain how the things work by using a description that is almost, but not quite, 100% totally wrong. They say that electrons enter in one side and come out the other but do not pass through the space between.

Which was close enough to teleportation for science fiction authors.

I only mention this because it was popular in 1970's science fiction and you might run across it (e.g., "The External Triangle" by George O. Smith). Just be aware that it is technobabble.

We Can Rebuild You

With this method, you somehow convert the atoms of the intrepid explorer's body into radio waves (or tachyon beams, or something), beam them to the destination, then somehow convert the radio waves back into matter.

In a variation on this method, a scanner records each atom's type, position, and energy state. The record is sent to the destination. There an assembler uses the record to reconstruct the traveler's body using a stockpile of various chemical elements. In some science fiction stories, the scanning process vaporizes the traveler's body (e.g., Poul Anderson's The Enemy Stars). In others, the scanning process is harmless, so the traveler is actually sending a duplicate while they stay at home (e.g., Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson's Farthest Star).

All of these methods open up jumbo-sized cans of screaming worms. They have some serious legal, ethical, and philosophical questions.


First off is the interference problem. What if the signal becomes filled with static? What arrives at the destination will probably be quite dead.

Captain Kirk: "Starfleet, do you have them?"

Starfleet: "Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long, fortunately".

From Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979 )

Soon, troops, vessels, weapons and equipment were pouring through the matter-transmitters in a flood. Not all of it arrived. Transmission of matter was only one hundred percent assured of arrival intact up to ten thousand miles. It diminished by one percent per twenty thousand miles beyond that distance. As the Nerne were transmitting in terms of light-years, their losses were considerable. More often than not, soldiers, ships and weapons were reassembled in the reception chambers in a gruesome conglomeration of plastic, metal and Nerne flesh.

The species took these losses without comment or concern. They were getting twenty percent through and the invasion force was growing hourly.

The technicians switched on the reception cubicles in the huge gasometer-like buildings and made ready to receive. The disposal chutes were open, ready for the removal of loss. The technicians were not entirely without feeling, merely hardened by experience. The first twenty or thirty loads would be a mess; they always were.

From THE TIME MERCENARIES by Philip E. High (1968)

Things can be much worse, as anybody who saw one of The Fly movies knows. If a fly shares the transmat booth with you, what arrives at the destination can be a man with a fly head and a fly with a human head. Or a gruesome melding of the two.


Next problem, if it cannot be recorded, it cannot be recreated. I don't mean to go all metaphysical on you, but if you have something like a soul it probably ain't gonna be 3D printed at the destination. Which means you will be dead, even though there will be a remarkably realistic soulless replica of you walking out of the transmat booth.


"What worries me," McCoy said, "is whether I'm myself any more. I have a horrible suspicion that I'm a ghost. And that I've been one for maybe as long as twenty years."

The question caught Captain Kirk's ear as he was crossing the rec room of the Enterprise with a handful of coffee. It was not addressed to him, however; turning, he saw that the starship's surgeon was sitting at a table with Scott, who was listening with apparently deep attention. Scotty listening to personal confidences? Or Doc offering them? Ordinarily Scotty had about as much interest in people as his engines might have taken; and McCoy was reticent to the point of cynicism.

"May I join this symposium?" Kirk said. "Or is it private?"

"It's nae private, it's just nonsense, I think," the engineering officer said. "Doc here is developing a notion that the transporter is a sort of electric chair. Thus far, I canna follow him, but I'm trying, I'll do myself that credit."

"Oh," Kirk said, for want of anything else to say. He sat down. His first impression, that McCoy had been obliquely referring to his divorce, was now out the porthole, which both restored his faith in his understanding of McCoy's character, and left him totally at sea.

"Somebody," Kirk said, "had better fill me in. Doc, you've said nine times to the dozen that you don't like the transporter system. In fact, I think 'loath,' is the word you use. 'I do not care to have my molecules scrambled and beamed around as if I were a radio message.' Is this just more of the same?"

"It is and it isn't," McCoy said. "It goes like this. If I understand Scotty aright, the transporter turns our bodies into energy and then reconstitutes them as matter at the destination…"

"That's a turrble oversimplification," Scott objected. The presence of his accent, which came out only under stress, was now explained; they were talking about machinery, with which he was actively in love. "What the transporter does is analyze the energy state of each particle in the body and then produce a Dirac jump to an equivalent state somewhere else. No conversion is involved—if it were, we'd blow up the ship."

"I don't care about that," McCoy said. "What I care about is my state of consciousness—my ego, if you like. And it isn't matter, energy or anything else I can name, despite the fact that it's the central phenomenon of all human thought. After all, we all know we live in a solipsistic universe."

Kirk searched his memory. "But you still haven't answered my question. What's all this got to do with the transporter?"

"Nary a thing," Scott said.

"On the contrary. Whatever the mechanism, the effect of the transporter is to dissolve my body and reassemble it somewhere else. Now you'll agree from experience that this process takes finite, physical time—short, but measurable. Also from experience, that during that time period neither body nor consciousness exists. Okay so far?"

"Well, in a cloudy sort of way," Kirk said.

"Good. Now, at the other end, a body is assembled which is apparently identical with the original, is alive, has consciousness, and has all the memories of the original. But it is NOT the original. That has been destroyed."

"I canna see that it matters a whit," Scott said. "Any more than your solipsist position does. As Mr. Spock is fond of saying, 'A difference which makes no difference is no difference.'"

"No, not to you," McCoy said, "because the new McCoy will look and behave in all respects like the old one. But to me? I can't take so operational a view of the matter. I am, by definition, not the same man who went into a transporter for the first time twenty years ago. I am a construct made by a machine after the image of a dead man—and the hell of it is, not even I can know how exact the imitation is, because—well, because obviously if anything is missing I wouldn't remember it."

"Question," Kirk said. "Do you feel any different?"

"Aha," said Scott with satisfaction.

"No, Jim, I don't, but how could I? I think I remember what I was like before, but in that I may be vastly mistaken. Psychology is my specialty, for all that you see me chiefly as a man reluctant to hand out pills. I know that there are vast areas of my mind that are inaccessible to my consciousness except under special conditions—under stress, say, or in dreams. What if part of that psychic underground has not been duplicated? How would I know?"

"You could ask Spock," Scott suggested.

"Thanks, no. The one time I was in mind-lock with him it saved my life—it saved all of us, you'll remember—but I didn't find it pleasant."

"Well, you ought to, anyhow," Scott said, "if you're as serious about all this. He could lock onto one of those unconscious areas and then see if it was still there after your next transporter trip."

"Which it almost surely would be," Kirk added. "I don't see why you assume the transporter to be so peculiarly selective. Why should it blot out subconscious traces instead of conscious ones?"

"Why shouldn't it? And in point of fact, does it or doesn't it? That's pretty close to the question I want answered. If it were the question, I would even submit to the experiment Scotty proposes, and ask everybody else aboard to as well."

"I," said Kirk, "have been on starship duty somewhat longer than either of you gentlemen. And I will say without qualification that this is the weirdest rec room conversation I've ever gotten into. But all right, Doc, let's bite the bullet. What is the question?"

"What would you expect from a psychologist?" McCoy said. "The question, of course, is the soul. If it exists, which I know no more than the next man. When I was first reassembled by that damnable machine, did my soul, if any, make the crossing with me—or am I just a reasonable automaton?"

"The ability to worry about the question," Kirk said, "seems to me to be its own answer."

"Hmmm. You may be right, Jim. In fact, you better had be. Because if you aren't, then every time we put a man through the transporter for the first time, we commit murder."

"And thot's nae a haggle, it's a haggis," Scott said hotly. "Look ye, Doc, yon soul's immortal by definition. If it exists, it canna be destroyed—"

"Captain Kirk," said the rec room's intercom speaker.

From SPOCK MUST DIE! by James Blish (1970)

There were a lot of things, he told himself, that Man would have to unlearn, as well as things to learn, if he ever should become aware of the galactic culture.

The limitation of the speed of light, for one thing.

For if nothing moved faster than the speed of light, then the galactic transport system would be impossible.

But one should not censure Man, he reminded himself, for setting the speed of light as a basic limitation. Observations were all that Man — or anyone, for that matter — could use as data upon which to base his premises. And since human science had so far found nothing which consistently moved faster than the speed of light, then the assumption must be valid that nothing could or did consistently move faster. But valid as an assumption only and no more than that.

For the impulse patterns which carried creatures star to star were almost instantaneous, no matter what the distance.

He stood and thought about it and it still was hard, he admitted to himself, for a person to believe.

Moments ago the creature in the tank had rested in another tank in another station and the materializer had built up a pattern of it — not only of its body, but of its very vital force, the thing that gave it life. Then the impulse pattern had moved across the gulfs of space almost instantaneously to the receiver of this station, where the pattern had been used to duplicate the body and the mind and memory and the life of that creature now lying dead many light years distant. And in the tank the new body and the new mind and memory and life had taken almost instant form — an entirely new being, but exactly like the old one, so that the identity continued and the consciousness (the very thought no more than momentarily interrupted), so that to all intent and purpose the being was the same.

There were limitations to the impulse patterns, but this had nothing to do with speed, for the impulses could cross the entire galaxy with but little lag in time. But under certain conditions the patterns tended to break down and this was why there must be many stations — many thousands of them. Clouds of dust or gas or areas of high ionization seemed to disrupt the patterns and in those sectors of the galaxy where these conditions were encountered, the distance jumps between the stations were considerably cut down to keep the pattern true. There were areas that had to be detoured because of high concentrations of the distorting gas and dust.

Enoch wondered how many dead bodies of the creature that now rested in the tank had been left behind at other stations in the course of the journey it was making — as this body in a few hours' time would lie dead within this tank when the creature's pattern was sent out again, riding on the impulse waves.

A long trail of dead, he thought, left across the stars, each to be destroyed by a wash of acid and flushed into deep-lying tanks, but with the creature itself going on and on until it reached its final destination to carry out the purpose of its journey.

From WAY STATION by Clifford Simak (1963)


The transmat is actually a blasted object duplicator. A subatomic level 3D printer. What Star Trek calls a "replicator." You see, you can send the radio signal to several transmats and the traveling object (or person) will pop out of each and every one. Even worse, you can record the radio signal so it can be re-used at a latter date. And incredibly worse, the recorded signal can be edited so that the resulting object (or person) is structurally different.

This opens up several more huge cans of worms.

First off, there is the basic fact that the invention of a matter replicator will cause the utter collapse of the global economy. The collapse can be slightly less that "utter" if somebody can invent a substance that cannot be transmatted/replicated. Otherwise it will be impossible to have physical money which cannot be instantly counterfeited.

But the ethical questions grow exponentially worse once you start replicating people

Star Trek tried to dodge this problem by saying people could not be duplicated because of reasons (except those times when they could).

If you have two or more PFC Floyds, which one is legally the "real" Floyd. Which one gets his paycheck, which one is married to Mildred?

If you keep a recording of a Floyd transmatting, and one day Floyd dies in an accident, you could use the recording to bring him back to life. Can he collect on his own life insurance?

If transmatters are the kind where scanning destroys the original, you send Floyd to Mars, but then you just make a recording instead of sending the signal to a receiving transmat, are you guilty of kidnapping? Or murder, since the original is so much hot vapor? Does it stop being murder if you replicate Floyd before the trial?

If transmatters are the kind where scanning does not harm the original, is it ethical to use it to send a duplicate Floyd on a suicide mission? This was actually a common practice in the novel Farthest Star. Officials talk you into volunteering for a painless suicide mission, painless because it won't be you who is actually dying. Step into the transmat then go home to your wife. Meanwhile your duplicate does the mission and dies in agony, spending their last breath cursing the day you were born.

Even if you do not send your duplicate on a suicide mission, a proliferation of duplicates could be problematic. If your fanaticism forces you to over-use the blasted thing, you might be driven to the draconian solution used by Robert Angier in the movie The Prestige. Nasty.

The proliferation problem is also explored in Algis Budrys' Rogue Moon.

In George O. Smith's Identity (the final Venus Equilateral story) things are really vile. Legally the duplicate of a person is property, not a human being. So if a doctor wants to perform a tricky surgery on you, they will use the replicator to run off a dozen copies of you and practice on them til they all die. Then the doctor can do the surgery perfectly. In the story nobody cares that there really is no way to tell a duplicate from an original. Well, nobody but the duplicates of course, they object strongly to being disposable.

Also in the Venus Equilateral stories, a recording can be edited. So you can make a recording of a cube of dirt, edit the recording, and use it to replicate cubes of solid gold.

Editing a recording gets more extreme in Farthest Star. They could edit a copy of you to make you a water breather or otherwise alter your biochemistry and body.


However, the proliferation problem might not arise. It seems that in quantum mechanics there is something called the No-cloning theorem. It states that it is impossible to create an identical copy of an arbitrary unknown quantum state (quantum states cannot be copied).

What does this mean? It means Captain Kirk cannot be scanned by the transporter, and have an exact quantum-level duplicate created down on the planet Vulcan while Kirk One remains on the Starship Enterprise. The duplicate can be an atomic-level assemblage of meat, but it will not have copies of the quantum-level stuff (such as the pattern of moving electrons in Kirk's brain that encodes his thoughts, personality, and memory). Basically Kirk's dead body materializes on the planet while the still alive Kirk One on the Enterprise is annoyed.

Related is the No-teleportation theorem from quantum information theory. It states that an arbitrary quantum state cannot be converted into a sequence of classical bits; nor can such bits be used to reconstruct the original state. This is implied by the no-cloning theorem: if it was possible to convert a quantum state into bits, it would be trivially easy to copy quantum states. Note the "teleportation" they are talking about is totally different from quantum teleportation (see below).

What is allowed is Quantum teleportation. This allows a quantum state to be destroyed in one location and an exact replica created at a different location.

What does this mean? The transporter can make a perfect quantum-level copy of Captain Kirk down on the planet Vulcan if the quantum-level information in Kirk One on the Enterprise is totally destroyed. Including the pattern of moving electrons in Kirk's brain that encodes his thoughts, personality, and memory. Basically Kirk One on the ship drops dead, killed by the scanning process, and a living Kirk Two materializes on Planet Vulcan while finishing the thought he had a microscecond ago.

For an in-depth philosophical analysis of this concept in comic-book form read this Existential Comic.


With this technique, one makes two points in space contiguous — somehow. Generally one of the types of Discontinuous ("teleport-like") faster-than-light drives are used as a model. The two points might be brought together by folding space in the fourth dimension. A wormhole or Einstein-Rosen Bridge might be utilized.

The point is that unlike replicator-like transmats, these do not change the traveler. Instead they change the space in between the start and destination.

Perry Rhodan Transmitters

The on-going Perry Rhodan series (currently up to around issue #2931) has a variety of matter transmitters, instead of the single variety seen in Star Trek. Some are due to different tech levels, others are retcons insisted upon by the series science adviser.


(from notes supplied by Michel Van)

Perry Rhodan and the protagonists first encountered a matter transmitter early in the series: issue #14 Das Galaktische Rätsel (The Galactic Riddle). As part of a interstellar scavenger hunt mandated by a slightly deranged weakly godlike entity, our heroes must utilize the entity's "cage transmitter". The writers use the problematic "We Can Rebuild You" handwaving, where the travelers are disassembled atom by atom and reassembled at the destination. The cage is to prevent the intrusion of foreign objects (like flies).

Kurt Mahr, then science adviser for the Perry Rhodan series, deeply disliked using that explanation, probably due to all the nasty cans of worms it opens (which you can read about above). It was also practically identical to the explanation used for Star Trek's "transporter", which dilutes Rhodan's originality. In 1962 Mahr left the post of Perry Rhodan science adviser for a job in the US aerospace industry.

In 1970 Mahr returned to his PR science adviser role, only to become rudely surprised at how deeply the flawed transmitter principle had become in the series. The problematic device was used in far too many of the stories. Unfortunately Mahr did not have the authority to veto the authors using such a popular bit of handwaving. He just had to grit his teeth and put up with it.

Thing improved in 2000 when author Rainer Castor joined the Perry Rhodan writing team (a remarkable man who passed on too soon, and personal friend of Michel Van). Castor became author, science adviser, and keeper of the series database. Castor shared Mahr's dislike of the disassemble/reassemble explanation. As it turns out lots of the readers were unhappy as well. Castor did some brainstorming with fans on the Perry Rhodan Technik Forum. Castor also did some studies of the mathematics of the concept.

Castor invented a new explanation of the transmitter operation. This new concept not only avoided the nasty pitfalls of the old concept, but also was internally self-consistent with the other science-fictional science in the Perry Rhodan series. And it had absolutely nothing in common with the Star Trek transporter.

In the Perry Rhodan universe their technology for faster-than-light starships, antigravity, and power generation depends upon manipulating "hyperspace" and "hyperenergy." So it would be internally self-consistent if the matter transmitter technology also utilized this. Now, granted, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Even if it actually a screw. Thus it is a rule for science fiction writers to avoid using their fabulous science-fictional breakthrough as the solution for everything. But as Hector Barbossa observes, it is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules. And welcome aboard the Black Pearl.

Anyway if there exists hyperenergy, it has to come in positive and negative charges. As a general rule opposite charges attract. A negatively charged electron will move toward the positively charged pole of an electrical battery. The idea is when a person steps into the matter transmitter, it charges them up with a negative hyperenergy static charge. This will attract them to the positive hyperenergy static charge on the destination matter receiver. Since this is hyperenergy, the person will not move through normal space but instead will jump through hyperspace. They will suddenly appear at the destination receiver, without needing any problematic disassembly and reassembly. Nor any unfortunate resemblance to the Star Trek transporter, for that matter.

This also allows the teleporting mutants in Perry Rhodan's Mutant Corps to jump from spot to spot by simply creating hyperenergy static charges with the power of their mutant brains. Instead of with the power of their mutant brains disassembling an object into atoms, moving them, and reassembling them atom-by-atom. Which is a lot to ask of a mutant brain, especially if the object being disassembled is the mutant brain itself.

Unlike Mahr, Castor did have the authority to make canon this new explanation of matter transmitters.


Mono-polar Transmitter

This is the simplest and lowest tech-level of the transmitters. It does require both a transmitter and receiver.

Cage transmitters have a wall surrounding the transmitter to prevent the intrusion of foreign objects. They are immune to hyperimpedance in the surrounding hyperspace. The disadvantage is they are relatively large and bulky.

Archway transmitters are not enclosed by a wall. An arch-like structure generates a continuous transmitting field. Any object entering the field is automatically transported to the receiver. Stripped-down versions are easier to transport to wilderness (or enemy-held) locations and assembled on the spot, than are the more bulky cage transmitters. The disadvantage is archway transmitters are more vulnerable to hyperimpedance in the surrounding hyperspace, making them dangerous to use.

Sun Transmitters are powered by networks of suns, so their range is up to two million light-years (between galaxies). These were constructed by the now extinct Lemurian empire.

Time Transmitters allow time travel between transmitters and receivers located in different time periods.

Duo-polar Transmitter

These are of a higher tech-level than mono-polar transmitters. They can operate in either transmitter-less mode or in receiver-less mode. The duo-polar transmitter can [a] transmit an object from its transmitter platform to any location in range, no receiver required or [b] grab an object in range that is not on a transmitter and teleport it on to the duo-polar's receiver platform. As noted above this will be an unreasonably powerful weapon, unless there is some way to shield against transmission. With energy screen, for instance. In the Perry Rhodan series this technology remains beyond the ability of the Solarian empire.

Transform Cannon is a weapon used to transmit an explosive device deep into the heart of an enemy starship. It cannot transmit with any stability, the object explodes at the destination. This is not a problem since the object is a bomb to start with, the instability just increases the explosive force. Transform cannons cannot grab objects, they can only transmit.

Space-Time Transmitters are used to store objects. No time passes for the object, much like a Larry Niven stasis field. You pop the object into the Space-time transmitter, take it out of the same transmitter some time later, but the object is perfectly preserved. Basically it transmits the object through time to the point where it is retrieved.

Time Transmitters are similar to mono-polar time transmitters. They do not require a receiver. However, from a specific time transmitter an object or person cannot be sent back in time prior to the construction of the time transmitter, nor into the future past the destruction of the time transmitter. This is actually a common limitation of the more realistic theories on time travel.

Situational Transmitters are like stationary versions of a starship's Linear FTL engine. It projects an energy field around an object and catapults it into Linear FTL space toward a destination. The object does not need to have an engine.

Three-polar Transmitter

These do not require the object to either start at a transmitter nor end at a receiver. The Three-pole transmitter can grab an object which is not on a transmitter, and teleport it to a location which is not at a receiver. Their range is unlimited, anywhere in the entire universe. They can be used for time travel, not even limited to the period between the transmitter's creation and destruction. You can even change you mind and alter the destination of the hapless person or object while it is still in transit. It mostly operates in higher dimensions, like between the 5th and 6th dimension or even between the 6th and 7th dimension. It doesn't really have any limits.

They are ultra high-tech, used by weakly godlike entities.


By the year 2000 the Perry Rhodan writers had abused the matter transmitters so shamelessly that they became ridiculously unbelievable. There were few limits, and the transmitter ranges were outrageously long. Even the readers were complaining. So in 2003 a decision was made to "re-set" the tech level to give the matter transmitters more reasonable limitations.

Since the transmitters utilize hyperspace, the writers postulated a change in hyperspace. A strange hyperimpedance came over the hyperspace surrounding not just the galaxy, but the entire universe. For handwaving reasons the hyperimpedance rendered archway transmitters virtual death-traps. The limited hyperspace static charging allowed by an arch was not enough to overcome hyperimpediance.

Cage transmitters were relatively unaffected by hyperimpedance. Obviously they have more complete coverage around the transmitted object, allowing better hyperspace static charging. A pity the hyperimpediance reduced the maximum transmission range to only five light years, but behind the scenes the writers considered this to be a more reasonable limitation. The maximum explosive force from a transform cannon was reduced from 10,000 gigatons (more than Shoemaker-Levy fragment G, about 600 time the current world's nuclear arsenal) to only 2.5 gigatons (about fifty times as large as the Tsar Bomba hydrogen bomb).

To get more range you need to use Sun transmitters powered by networks of suns, which again is a more reasonable limitation.

The hyperimpedance was caused by the godlike entities know as the Cosmocrats, who thought the Solarian empire and other relatively ant-like galactic civilizations were making a nuisance of themselves.

Weaponized Transmats

Half of the reason that receiver-less and transmitter-less transmats are so unreasonable is that they can be used to make some rather ugly and unstoppable weapons.

  • A receiver-less transmat can make a nuclear warhead unexpectedly materialize close to an enemy warship. Or inside the warships defensive force fields. Or inside the warship itself. Heck, materializing a puny hand grenade inside the warship's CIC will probably kill everybody in it and at least temporarily disable the entire ship. The same goes for assassinating the leader of a hostile nation by materializing a nuclear warhead inside their underwear or up a convenient body orifice.
  • A transmitter-less transmat can assassinating the leader of a hostile nation by making their still-beating heart appear in the transmat, while the rest of their body in the original location futilely tries to live without it.

A transmat that requires both transmitter and receiver can still be pretty nasty, if the transmitter can transmit something that is not actually in contact, and the transmitter is small enough to fit in, say, a rifle-sized long arm.

  • In Mindbridge by Joe Haldeman, a transmat transmitter is a special crystal. Some aliens manage to make a gun-like device with a tiny crystal, which will transmit everything inside a cylindrical volume about one centimeter in diameter and about ten meters long. Basically it acts like a disintegrator ray. It cuts a long thin tunnel in the target. In the novel the transmat needs no receiver, but the weapon will still work if one is required. The receiver (where ever it is) will just have to be periodically hosed off to remove the cylinders of armor, bone, blood, and body tissue.

  • In The Armageddon Inheritance by David Weber, "warp rifles" have much the same effect as the Mindbridge weapons. Its just they send the cylinders into hyperspace. Warp grenades send into hyperspace anything within the "blast radius". If you are lucky, half of you will be inside and half out, killing you instantly. If you are not, you will find yourself floating in trackless infinity of hyperspace with your lifespan limited to your oxygen supply. And nobody will ever find your body.

  • In The Universe Between by Alan E. Nourse, researchers manage to anger being who live in another dimension by accidentally mutilating the other dimension. The beings retaliate by trying to remove the machine doing the mutilating. The researchers start running around like their hair is on fire when volumes the size of city blocks start randomly vanishing all over New York City.

In some science fiction stories, the operating principle of starships faster-than-light drives are based on transmat technology. Occasionally this can be turned against the starship as a weapon.

  • In the wargame Starforce Alpha Centauri the FTL engines of the starships are actually psionic women, who teleport the ships from star to star by using the power of their minds. As a weapon the psionic team can send a telepathic command (a "combat cast") to an enemy ship's psionic team, forcing them to make an uncontrolled teleport to an awkward location. Such jumps are typically five times the distance of a "safe" jump, so it will take the enemy ship a long time to crawl back to the battle. A ship's psionic team can divert part of their power into an "anti-cast" to try and mute an enemy's combat cast.
  • In War in Heaven by David Zindell starships move by opening up wormhole entrances before them and moving through. The entrance location and destination are created through a metaphysical process that the pilot controls by using mathematical theorems. Whatever. The point is that in combat, the idea is to open a wormhole in front of your opponent that will teleport them to the surface of a sun or other deadly location.

Atomic Rockets notices

This week's featured addition is MOVERS Orbital Transfer Vehicle

This week's featured addition is UM Lunar Transport

This week's featured addition is Afterburner fission-fragment rocket engine

Atomic Rockets

Support Atomic Rockets

Support Atomic Rockets on Patreon