It's hard to imagine life without teleportation. This amazing (and largely fictionalized) technology allows us to travel instantly from one point in space to another, and all we have to do is destroy our bodies, break it all down into digital information and transmit that data to a receiver, which flawlessly rebuilds our minds and bodies.
Except, of course, when the teleporter malfunctions and turns us inside out.
Look, accidents happen. Data crashes corrupt your files, cell phones drop your signal and -- yes -- sometimes your morning commute zaps you straight into the side of a mountain.
Small errors are common. Most of us have probably emerged from a telepod unexpectedly naked or missing an ear. No biggie, right? Luckily for humanity, the truly severe teleporter accidents are few and far between.
Ahead, we'll look at some of history's worst teleporter accidents, as well as the monstrous things that emerged on the other side of the data stream.
If you're familiar with "The Hyperion Cantos" by author Dan Simmons, then you know all about the Fall of the Farcasters in 2852. Before this point in history, human civilization had managed to colonize hundreds of worlds, all connected via a network of teleportation gateways called farcasters.
These wondrous passages made it possible to step instantly to distant worlds light-years away. Rivers flowed through them, creating crazy transplanetary waterways. The wealthy even used farcaster technology in their homes and offices, creating single environments that overlapped multiple worlds. Goodness knows what they did to their toilets.
You could say humanity was somewhat addicted to teleportation technology, and then, in 2852, everyone went cold turkey. The network of farcasters crashed and, unfortunately, thousands of people were still using them at the time. Some people were cut in half, others suffered amputations and still others vanished into oblivion.
And, of course, countless more found themselves stranded at home with several light-years between themselves and office. A new age of teleworking had begun.
The lesson from this horrible event? Never tarry when passing through a teleportation portal.
Any conspiracy theorists worth their tinfoil hats can tell you all about the fabled Philadelphia Experiment. Allegedly, the 1943 U.S. Navy experiment sought to turn a U.S. Navy destroyer invisible -- and accidently teleported the USS Eldridge from Philadelphia, Penn., to Norfolk, Va.
Sounds great, doesn't it? As if you set out to discover a cure for the common cold and happened to wipe out cancer instead. But, of course, there was a problem. While the experiment successfully teleported the Eldridge some 271 miles (436 kilometers) in one piece, the human crew didn't fare so well.
According to both conspiracy nut ramblings and one 1984 movie, the teleported destroyer re-entered physical reality with much of its crew half-buried in the ship's bulkheads. Indeed, contents may have shifted during flight -- and reformed inside other contents.
If there's any validity to this story of reality-warping warships, then the Philadelphia Experiment represents humanity's first awkward dabbling in teleportation science. The U.S. Navy, for what it's worth, denies the whole incident.
Denizens of the 21st century knew the Dixie Chicks as a Texan country music trio, famous for the hit "Wide Open Spaces" and a controversial comment or two about the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
By the year 3008, however, things had taken a grotesque turn for the worse. Due to a gruesome teleporter malfunction, the three musicians' bodies fused into a single, amorphous blob of human flesh. The accident left them in a state of intense, constant pain, but their surviving heads and limbs permitted their blockbuster musical career to continue unchecked.
This catastrophic merger also altered their physiology in astounding ways, greatly extending their life span and allowing their horrifying new body to absorb other organisms -- presumably their new form of sustenance.
Let their example be a lesson: one at a time in the teleporter. No crowding.
By the early 24th century, humanity already had a knack for teleportation -- or "jaunting" as it was known in those days. But you know how it goes. New technologies start off on rather shaky legs. Jaunters used a primitive and dangerous method of teleportation known as the Carune Process.
What was wrong with it? Well, nothing if you happened to be a shipment of steel girders or an absurdly long novelty meatball sub. For living things, however, the Jaunt was a whole different kettle of fish.
Shove an unconscious mouse through a jaunt portal, and the creature emerges unscathed. The rodent wakes and goes on to live a normal, mousey existence. Shove a conscious mouse through, however, and the creature dies immediately upon re-emergence.
They called it the Jaunt effect, and it all boiled down to the perception of time. Physically, a mere 0.00000000067 seconds passed between two jaunt portals. But for the conscious mind, an immeasurable and unfathomable gulf of years spanned the two points.
While accounts vary, as many as 30 live human beings allegedly passed through the jaunt during its testing phase -- and all of them emerged on the other side either dead or insane. Meanwhile, the rest of humanity enjoyed the fruits of teleportation while gassed unconscious on a hospital gurney.
In the most infamous example of the effect, a 12-year-old boy mischievously held his breath during a family jaunt to Mars. He re-emerged white-haired, babbling madness and clawing his own eyes out. Author Stephen King famously recounted this tragedy in his work "The Jaunt."
The Carune Process was eventually abandoned in favor of less-dangerous methods, but it underlies an ever-present concern with teleportation. No matter how instantaneous the method of matter transference, there is always a hidden or implied space between -- space enough for any number of horrible things.
Scientist Seth Brundle is remembered today as one of the fathers of early teleportation technology. As far back as 1986, Brundle successfully teleported inorganic matter from one telepod to another. What's more, Brundle's method avoided the disastrous Jaunt effect. Following a failed (and messy) first attempt, he safely teleported a live, conscious baboon across a Toronto apartment.
Given enough time, who knows what Brundle might have accomplished? But rushed by a pending magazine publication, the overzealous scientist teleported himself -- and it would have worked swimmingly if a common housefly hadn't snuck in there with him. See, while the teleportation computer had factored in the some 100 trillion microbes thriving in Brundle's body, the program didn't know what to make of the housefly.
Brundle emerged from the second telepod seemingly unchanged, but the computer had fused the fly DNA with his own. As a result, Brundle suffered a catastrophic metamorphosis into a hybrid "Brundlefly" creature.
Ever the scientist, Brundle developed a hypothetical cure, by which he would splice himself with a second human test subject, producing an entirely new human being -- as well as a monstrous byproduct made of all that garbage DNA. Fortunately, Brundle died before he could test the method out on his lover and unborn child.
Three years later, Brundle's son Martin (also afflicted by spliced human/fly DNA) succeeded in carrying out his father's horrifying cure, though at the expense of industrialist Anton Bartok's life.
In the end, some DNA was spliced, some baboons were everted and a handful of hideous monstrosities were unleashed on humanity, but the age of teleportation was born.
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Author's Note: 5 Sickest Teleporter Accidents Ever
Teleportation! It's one of those fantastic sci-fi ideas that both thrills us with the possibilities of human ingenuity and forces us to ponder some deep, existential questions.
For starters, if a teleporter essentially destroys my physical body before digitizing it and sending it, then what exactly emerges on the other side? Is it me, or some soulless copy? Has James T. Kirk essentially died countless times? Is each reassembled version of him something new? These questions are pondered to excellent effect in 2006's "The Prestige" and the 2001 "Outer Limits" episode "Think Like a Dinosaur."
And then there are all the grotesque possibilities to wind up chopped, spliced, everted, or as crazy as an outhouse rat -- which is to say a rat fused with an outhouse in a bizarre teleporter mishap.
- "Bender's Game." 20th Century Fox. 2008.
- "Event Horizon." Paramount Pictures. 1997.
- "The Fly." Brooksfilms. 1986.
- "The Fly II." Brooksfilms. 1989.
- King, Stephen. "The Jaunt." Skeleton Crew. Signet. 1986.
- "The Philadelphia Experiment." New World Pictures. 1984.
- "The Philadelphia Experiment." U.S. Navy. Naval History and Heritage Command. Nov. 28, 2000. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq21-1.htm
- Simmons, Dan. "The Fall of Hyperion." Doubleday. 1990.
- "Space Balls."Brooksfilms. 1987.
- "Star Trek." NBC. 1966.
- "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." Paramount Pictures. 1979.