Now you’re thinking with portals – the travel door

This is the fourth post in my blog series about building a real life moving castle. I’ve interwoven this text with videos – they’re there to deepen the subject. The text is written as a standalone, so you can skip them if you like.

This one I won’t build into my own walking castle, because it isn’t invented. Yet. It will probably be invented in no time, but… well, here’s where my training in history of religions shines through; my usual time perspective is five thousand years – give or take a few millennia. The reason is that most of our oldest written texts – the texts that have survived that is – are around that age, be it the Gilgamesh Epic, Deborah’s Song in the Bible, or the I Ching. That makes “in a blink of an eye” roughly fifty years long. “In no time” is about one hundred years. The day we have something that even resembles the travel door I won’t be around to see it.

The travel door is a form of snap transportation, similar to Star Trek’s beaming transporter. As a solution it’s more elegant than the Star Trek one – you see where you’re going, and you get full control of your travel. In Star Trek the operator starts the procedure, and the transported has to put their faith in this person. Series later than DS9 – unfortunately unavailable to me – has beaming via the com-badge, but the traveler still has to start the process without seeing their destination. If I, as a fantasy/SF writer, would put them on a timeline I’d put the Star Trek transporter as a “first” try, and the travel door as an improvement. I would also make the door consume a lot more energy, since it turns on the very moment you open the door and stays on regardless of if you use it or not.

Snap transportation on the Star Trek model can work in two different ways; either the transporter deconstructs matter into light and transport it to a receiver that reconstructs everything to its original form, or it picks apart the original for analysis, sends the resulting file to the receiver, that then builds a perfect copy.

In Star Trek it’s ambiguous whether the transporter is working on the former or latter model, in Howl’s Moving Castle it’s not; it’s clear when Sophie plays around with the door she’s transported, mind and matter, to the other place. If it works on the Star Trek transporter model, it’s the one transforming matter into light and back again. Another solution, often experimented with in science fiction when it comes to space travel, is that it is a dimensional fold. In science fiction it’s a method of “crinkling” space and allowing a space vessel to travel along the tops of the crinkles, instead of covering the entire fabric. How this would translate into a portal is even harder to imagine than building a transporter into a framework, so let’s just leave it as an option.

Brief flash of Sophie playing around with the door at 1:13. (Howl’s Moving Castle – Official Trailer, Crunchyroll Store Australia, 1:35)

The scientific field where we have with the biggest chance to invent a transporter is quantum mechanics. That’s the field that works with the fact that light is both a wave and a particle, and that’s where it’s most likely we’ll rise to the challenge of transforming light into matter. Now, just as stupid as it is to learn about religion from a physicist, it is to learn about physics from a historian of religions (even if I am mostly a troll painter these days), so I’ve added two videos from CrashCourse below the post. There you can get a somewhat deeper understanding of quantum mechanics, and hopefully understand why I’m pointing to this field as the most probable “birth place” of a transporter.

The reason I think we’ll have some sort of transporter in no time is the intense pull the idea has on human minds. It’s not just Star Trek and Howl’s Moving Castle; portals and snap transports shows up everywhere in fantasy and SF. Quantum teleportation has been around since 1993, and comes closest, but it is still veeeeery far from what we want; you can’t teleport matter with it, only information – and it has to be completed with info that has to be sent the classical way, meaning we lose the snap transport effect. While the distances for quantum teleportation have increased over the years its clunkyness remains. It may stay an ‘almost but not quite’ solution forever.

Psychologically – and slower – you can get the effect of the travel door by living in a tiny house you move from place to place. Especially at the beginning of the tiny house trend owners’ reported that it was unnerving walking out of their door – a contraption most of them were used to sitting in a stationary place – and suddenly find a beach where it was a mountain yesterday. In a walking castle you get this effect automatically, so it won’t be completely void of the feature.

I’m obviously not a physicist, so I don’t have much insight in where quantum teleportation is headed or what is needed for a break-through. In the latter case it’s usually something unexpected, so physicists may not even know themselves. But human minds and faith is my field, and the combination of a goal we really, really want and an ‘almost but not quite’ solution is extremely triggering for creative minds. If it’s in any way possible to invent a transportation portal the humanity will have one… in no time.


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The CrashCourse videos on quantum mechanics. Remember to make use of the pause function to think things over – re-calibrating one’s mind to the weirdness of the field can take time.

Quantum Mechanics – Part 1: Crash Course Physics #43 (8:45)
Quantum Mechanics – Part 2: Crash Course Physics #44 (9:07)


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