We know that Stargates only reintegrate matter at the destination once the entire object has gone through the gate on the departing side. This behavior is made explicit in the Atlantis episode 38 minutes (Season 1, Episode 4). The episode makes clear that a whole person is not a discrete object to be reintegrated, but rather the entire system that person is a part of. (In 38 minutes half of a puddle jumper enters the gate, but then gets stuck so two crew members and half the jumper have dematerialized, while the several other Atlantis members and the back half of the jumper remain outside the gate. The crux of the episode is that if the back half of the jumper does not enter the gate, then the front half + 2 crew members will never rematerialize.)

However, this behavior does not seem to apply to gates in the Milky Way. A few notable times this behavior did not apply and partial objects got rematerialized:

  • Ernest Little field in the episode Torment of Tantalus from Season 1. We can clearly see in the archive footage that Ernest is attached to a breathing apparatus on the Earth side of the gate (as he is in some sort of diving suit) and that the breathing tube and apparatus remain on the earth side (there is close up footage of the severed breathing tubes in the archive Daniel is watching). So, how could he have reintegrated at Heliopolis? Should not the gate have been waiting for the rest of the breathing apparatus to come through?

  • In episode two (“The Enemy Within”), when Kawalsky is taken over by a Goa'uld symbiote, O'Neill kills him holding his head half-way in the gate and calling for it to be closed, thus cutting off half of Kawalsky’s head.

  • Teal'c, in his efforts to recover O'Neill from Edora in "A Hundred Days," shoots a projectile attached to a rope through the gate. The gate on Edora is buried, and the projectile lodges itself in the rock on the other side, allowing Teal'c to climb up the rope on the Earth side, through the gate, and be suspended above the event horizon on the Edora side. How can the projectile and rope rematerialize on the Edora side while some part of the rope is still on the Earth side (so that Teal'c may climb it)?

  • In 200 the puppets manage to rematerialize without their puppet strings going through the gate!

Is this a difference in behavior between Milky Way gates and Pegasus gates or is something else going on here? Does the gate technology make some sort of distinction between ropes and non-ropes? (It is not between animate and inanimate objects as a partial puddle jumper is unable to rematerialize.)

  • 10
    200 wasn't canon, else those really were the Furlings ;)
    – Izkata
    Apr 9, 2012 at 11:40
  • As for A Hundred Days, I'm like 90% sure it's come up on SE before, and the general consensus ended up being that Teal'c could have ran through the Gate at the same time the projectile was fired, and everything gone through at once.
    – Izkata
    Apr 9, 2012 at 11:43
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    This situation would also conflict with the SG-1 episode where Jack O'Neill rounds up the off-world NID team and holds the gate to Earth open by stepping through and keeping his hand in the wormhole. His body materialized on the SGC side but his arm and hand were still on the off-world side. This makes me think it is a difference in gate technologies (hardware and/or software).
    – Xantec
    Apr 9, 2012 at 13:58
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    @acolyte Except that a gate will not transmit an object through to the destination until all of it has passed through the event horizon.
    – Xantec
    Jan 15, 2013 at 20:18
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    @Xantec very very very very late here, but there is nothing to stop you walking into the gate with your arm out backwards, you would still enter fully but you arm would exit last. He could have stepped fully through like normal but just stopped before his hand was fully out. His arm wasn't still at the sending end, he could fully enter and then stop walking before exiting. He was fully in the buffer and sent, except he just stopped
    – Matt
    Apr 16, 2020 at 0:44

4 Answers 4


The Stargate Wiki article has no information on this, but here's a likely reason:

The Stargate software (which has subroutines for a lot of eventualities) has a threshold length -- a maximum length for objects that may be transmitted through (no need to have thresholds for other dimensions because ring diameter already limits them).

For objects beyond a certain length, the gate may start re-materializing the object on the other side without waiting for the tail-end. The ancients (if they're anything like human engineers) probably did this not to deal with ropes, but to avoid buffer overflows.

Imagine someone trying to push a full length cargo train through a gate. This will cause the data buffers to overflow. The only way to avoid losing what already went through is to start re-materializing on the other side.

Out-of-universe: It has all the signs of a writer goof.

  • Out of universe, it was episode 1x11, so I'd guess the writers were still figuring out the limitations of the Stargate, since as mentioned in the question, the limit wasn't made explicit until nearly a decade later.
    – Izkata
    Apr 9, 2012 at 11:40
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    Could it have something to do with the lack of a proper DHD on earth, we know the DHD has some ability to compensate when the originating gate gets DHD controlling the buffers and when dialing from the SGC this control isn't there allowing the flexibility of ropes and such being sent through in non discrete units?
    – ewanm89
    Apr 21, 2012 at 10:06
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    I'm a bigger fan of the answer that @ewanm89 posted - the lack of a proper DHD. The buffer overflow thing sounds absolutely great, until you realize that length wouldn't really be the determining factor for data in the buffer - mass, perhaps? Seems like a rope, no matter how long, would be much less complex than a human, or something. Then again, who knows.
    – user14952
    Aug 1, 2013 at 21:50
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    @HNL: Ancient Bug Tracker Product Change Request #008123543 Severity: 03- Enhancement User complains he cannot tie a rope between objects at source and destination ends of the wormhole. User desires this capability in case the Stargate at the source and destination ends are not in the same orientation with respect to their local gravitational fields. Sep 17, 2014 at 15:00
  • 5
    @ThePopMachine Bug status changed to WONTFIX by Ancient Developer. Local gravitational fields should be managed by the user - this is a hardware problem.
    – jammypeach
    Dec 12, 2014 at 14:34

Kinda wonder if anybody is gonna read this now xD anyway, as for Ernest and Teal'c's rope, I got no answer for that (these questions actually brought me to this thread in the first place). Other than writer oversight that is.

Now for Kowalski's head and O'Neill's hand. From your answer I get the feeling that you assume that when O'Neill stuck his hand into the gate, it came out on the other side. I don't think that's the case. First of all he stuck his hand into the exit gate, and gates send stuff only one way, so that wouldn't work. I'd say his hand was "right on the other side" of the event horizon, which means inside the wormhole. The reason he did this is that stargate has a safety protocol that detects if something is going through the event horizon, and if it does, the protocol prevents the gate from shutting down (cause if it did, the wormhole would cease to exist, and so would O'Neill's hand inside it. Now I think it's possible the matter doesn't just cease to exist, but is ejected somewhere along the way in its disintegrated state. So as long as O'Neill has his hand in the gate, it will stay active for up to 38 minutes, preventing the rogue NIDs on the other side from dialing out to somewhere else. They used the same thing in Stargate Universe, episode Air 3. It's also why the gate in Pegasus didn't cut the stuck jumper in half (at least not for 38 minutes).

As for poor Kowalski: the gate closes automatically when nothing is going through. It's practical, cause otherwise whenever someone would dial out, it would block 2 gates for 38 minutes. The protocol I just wrote about detects if something is going through and prevents the gate from closing AUTOMATICALLY. Unfortunatelly for Kowalski, that gate was shut down manually, causing the top of his head to cease to exist/disintegrate. Think of it this way: you can set your computer to not automatically go to sleep mode or shut down when you're working on it. But if someone manually pulls the plug and cuts the power, it dies anyway. And everything you were doing is gone (or not).


In the case of the Atlantis gate, when the jumper was cut in half, the reason might be that the jumpers are handled specially by the gate, as they are made specifically for gate travel.

  • Or maybe that they're not long enough to overflow the buffer?
    – Jeff
    Sep 4, 2014 at 14:15

To compensate for the time delay in entering the sending gate and exiting the destination gate a sufficient amount of the travelling object must be stored in the buffer. without this buffer Ernest moving forward and pulling on the breathing apparatus would not be able to pull more through from earth until it had travelled the distances between gates. I would argue not enough of the puddle jumper had been buffered for the gate to re-materialise it and still compensate for the time delay.

Other people have pointed towards buffer overflows however my answer evolves around the very reason the gate has a buffer. Once the destination gate has a sufficient amount stored in its buffer to counteract the partially re-materialise travelling object's actions/movement on the other side it allows it through.

If the gate didn't have a buffer, if you put your hand through the gate, and someone pulled on it from the destination side, they would be pulling your hand from the event-horizon faster than the particles from your body on the sending gate side could travel to the destination gate.

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