In this series of articles – The Tech Side – I continue expanding on various bits of assorted tech, what gave me the ideas for them, and a little about what I did with them in various stories.
This time, I’ll be taking a look at the transmatter system!
The transmatter – or transporters, teleporters or matter transmitters, as readers may know them by different sources, is a pretty nifty way of getting around in our sci-fi future! Although the characters in Galaxii (or Quantum) wouldn’t be caught dead saying “beam me up, Scotty”, the transmatter in my series has become a mainstay form of fast inter-ship transportation. Shuttles or docking stations in planetary orbit are still the preferred means of arrival in this sci-fi universe however, and so most transmatter systems are relatively short range – being considered safe at a range of just a few kilometers distance!
The transmatter then, is a mechanism which transmits matter from one place to another almost instantaneously.
You may be wondering why I opted to include teleportation in my series, and I can tell you right away, because it’s a fascinating way to travel, and it makes a lot of sense… that is, if you can get past making up pseudo-scientific explanations of how these things are supposed to work in a way that sounds scientifically plausible – without getting eviscerated by avid sci-fi fans who also keep abreast of current scientific theory and studies!
Let’s take a look at what current cutting-edge science says about the possibility of a transmatter being made workable in the probably distant future:
- “Scientists Achieve Quantum Teleportation” IFL Science, May 30, 2014
- “First Object Teleported from Earth to Orbit” Technology Review, Jul 10, 2017
- “Beam Me Up, Scotty! Scientists Teleport Photons 300 Miles Into Space” Guardian, Jul 12, 2017
To summarize the scientific status quo in brief, it’s obvious that at this stage, teleportation is possible and practical, but only for items on the quantum scale – such as light particles or photons. This may change as our grasp of quantum physics grows and our technological capacity develops, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s not going to happen in my lifetime. In the meantime, we’ve seen teleportation put to good use in sci-fi series and movies like “Star Trek”, “Stargate”, “Doom”, and while some of these have explored the consequences of teleporter malfunctions, none I think have envisioned what could go horrifyingly wrong as “The Fly”! Presumably some sort of fail-safe or integrity-discrimination filters would need to be included in these devices, right?
Also, according to this article in 1993 “physicist Charles Bennett and a team of IBM researchers confirmed that quantum teleportation was possible, but only if the original object being teleported was destroyed. Why? The act of scanning disrupts the original such that the copy becomes the only surviving original.” Well… that makes sense to me – in fact, that’s exactly what I was thinking when approaching this article this morning while driving to work! Be that as it may, this is hardly a desirable outcome – imagine the hero stepping into a teleportation booth and being utterly destroyed by the machine! Even if a perfect copy is transmitted somewhere else, that’s hardly feasible – or ideal! It would literally be like long-distance cloning – with the source committing suicide with each transmission!
Then at that point, metaphysics enters the debate – would the individual on the arrival end of the transaction be the same as the person who has just been disintegrated and obliterated by the transmission (“scanning”) process described in the How Stuff Works article? What about their energy – that essence that makes them the same person – their spirit, or for want of a better word, “soul”? Would that be sent to the new body created at the other end of the transmission, or would it be left hanging around wondering WTF happened to its meat-suit, and where’d that draft come from all of a sudden? Errmmm…. No thanks!
I wonder about the legal impact of the advent of teleportation as a commercially viable means of transportation. Imaging what it will do to the legal industry! Insurance? Healthcare? What would the long-term effects be on people who make regular use of such a device? Wouldn’t there be any? Or, for example, would someone who travelled through a teleporter several times a day, five days a week, every month for ten years – say, work commutes, and also to attend meetings and seminars etc, simply sputter out of existence one day without any warning? How would this impact on OHS for example?
Would the physical, biological or even psychological integrity of such a high mileage individual begin to degrade over time with each rematerialization, perhaps even becoming a little blurry or faded around the edges? Would there be new mental disorders for people suffering trauma from the effects of over-use of teleportation? Would the implications of the phrase “he’s not all there” become ominously and surrealistically true? Who really knows!
From my point of view however, the implications overall of teleportation for Humanity and Human society are simply immense and far-reaching!
Fortunately, Galaxii and Quantum aren’t quantum physics – they’re science-fiction – and set in a time when all the nasty and inconvenient little risks and niggles have already been sorted out, and the transmatter is far more user-friendly! Imagine going off to work in the morning, waving a cheery goodbye to the wife and cats, planning all the stuff you need to do at the office, stepping into a teleporter – and then simply not existing anymore? Or coming home again, but something went wrong with the teleporter and moments after reforming on the jump platform, your molecules all come unglued at once!
“Honey, I’m ho-aaaaargh!”
Sounds kind of messy! And the stain on the carpet! Eeeuww!
Risk of obliteration should be down to at least as little as the risks of communting to work on a train before it becomes a feasible means of transportation in my world!
Galaxii, Quantum & Panic Series Transmatters
In Galaxii and my other series, the transmatter is a teleportation device in general use on starships, space stations, loderunners and even onboard luxury space liners! Their use is not restricted to the military, even though they have their strategic advantages!
Typically the crews of the starships Antares, Mordrake and Mercury use these devices to teleport from their ships to other ships without having to use a shuttle, or to spacewalk between ships while wearing viro-suits! (Although this does happen one time in “Life Signs” during an emergency!
Onboard a starship, the compartment in which the transmatter is located is commonly referred to as a “transmatter chamber“, or just a “transmatter”. Although there are many configurations, the most common, typical layout is the one demonstrated in the diagrams below. The scale is approximate, but the size of the device and its carrying capacity are generally dictated by its specific application, and the size of the ship and crew compliment etc.
A space liner might use one to teleport its passengers to and from the surface of a planet being visited, so it would likely have a larger jump platform than those aboard a Terran warship for example. An example of this can be seen in “Life Signs” as well.
Transmatters can be completely freestanding, without an alcove, however the typical arrangement shown here saves space and is better suited to smaller ships, such as loderunners, yachts and pleasure craft. The general layout is applicable across the board; in that transmatters consist of primarily a raised platform (referred to as a “jump platform“) which contains most of the working components of the transmatter device.
A short distance away from the alcove or jump platform, there is usually a control desk from where the device is operated, positioned in order for the operator to have a good view of the people either leaving or arriving, and for ease of communication with them.
There’s a vast array of uses and applications for this sort of technology – not just in the humdrum run-of-the-mill transportation sense – but also in the sense of duplicating an item faithfully to the original as many times as necessary – a process described as ‘replication’. The transmatter technology is applied in other areas of starships, as described in previous articles such as the “Slamtorpedo Production Plant” which eliminates the need for warships to carry magazines full of torpedoes.
They are also very useful when it comes to loading or unloading cargo for example – instead of time spent moving cargo out of a cargo deck with more conventional means involving forklifts, cranes or manual labor, a transmatter could teleport a cargo aboard, and then teleport it to the receiver upon arrival at a spaceport.
When Things Go Wrong
Considering all the mishaps in sci-fi involving teleporters, this provides a very useful plot device to writers – and sometimes these mishaps can be entertaining instead of tragic!
In “Loderunner” for example, the decrepit old loderunner “Celeste” is equipped with an antique, rather dodgy transmatter that none of the crew will attempt to use on account of it being permanently on the fritz! The crew simply aren’t making enough money to have it repaired or replaced! On account of this dodgy transmatter being, well, so dodgy, Timaset Skooch and Jonn Deire use it as a weapon! A couple of bad guys wind up getting snatched away from where they were about to do harm – and rematerialize on the jump platform as a pair of flattened, crisped biscuits – with shoes poking out the bottom – and still smoking! No, this wasn’t a setting on the device – it was the result of a malfunction! This should also give a good indication of the importance of keeping this sort of tech well-maintained and always ready to use!
To sum up
For more information about the sort of ships and tech – or the Space Fleet – featured in Galaxii , feel free to download the free guide shown below (click on the cover!)
That about covers it! I hope I’ve explained everything in a way that’s easily understood! I really enjoyed translating my original hand-drawn sketches into digital blueprint diagrams for this article, and I think they look pretty neat that way!
Until next time,
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.