I can't recall seeing any reference to this in any of the Star Trek series, but it seems inconceivable that the air pressure on board the Enterprise would always be the same as where the crew was transporting to or from.

Because this transition is effectively even faster than that of a landing airplane, their ears must pop every time, right?

  • 2
    The transporter is smart enough to filter infectious diseases out of your bloodstream. It's probably smart enough to ensure that there's an appropriate amount of air in your inner ear. – Micah Nov 29 '14 at 4:09
  • 1
    @micah if you made that an answer I'd vote for it – ChrisFletcher Nov 29 '14 at 10:30
  • If you're Reginald Barclay, your ears pop every single time... even when transporting from one side of the room to the other side. – Omegacron Mar 19 '15 at 20:30

Although it's totally hand-waved in the show and films as being one of the things that the transporter just does (along with removing momentum) this issue has been addressed in at least one of the TNG novels.

In Indistinguishable from Magic, Captain Geordi LaForge is trialing a new faster transporter system. Apparently one of its key failings is that it works too quickly to allow the normal process of air pressure equalisation:

Captain’s Log, Stardate 60214.1. Since Tyler Hunt’s memorial service and the completion of the Challenger’s repairs, we have been on an extended detachment to test a new transporter upgrade that’s intended to provide near-instantaneous transport. No visible materialization phase, just pop, and you’re there. I’m sorry that that doesn’t really sound technical enough, but it’s the most accurate description of that I’ve heard so far. The ideal is that the full dematerialization and dematerialization phases should, together, take no more point zero two of a second. So far, the technology works, but the pressure differential caused by so quick a departure or arrival has — according to the results from testing with human-analog test objects — burst eardrums and caused other pressure-related problems. As a result, the program has gone back to the drawing board at the Daystrom Institute, and Challenger, I hope, will be free to resume a duty that, I don’t mind admitting, I find more appealing.

  • 1
    it's interesting that you quote a TNG novel. When I quoted several in my question about Worf's use of one name, you said they were non-canon and couldn't be used to prove anything and deleted them from my post. What is different about using a TNG novel here? The questioner didn't ask for anything canon or non-canon, he specified ST series, not novels. Just curious. – JMFB May 15 '15 at 2:54

It's one of those little details that you aren't supposed to pay any attention to.

The air pressure in the transporter room set is always the same as the air pressure in the planetary-surface set, so the problem never came up in a way that required explanation on screen.


If the pressure in the transporter room is the same as the pressure where you're beaming to your ears would not pop. I've never seen or heard of anything that states that in a Federation Transporter room the pressure is equalized to the destination. However keep in mind that your ears would pop once the pressure in the transporter room was changed, and whoever is running the transporters at the time would have ear popping pretty regularly each time a transport started, he/she walked out of the room, etc. So they'd pop before being transported.

If it's not pressurized in the transporter room it would be virtually impossible to pressurize the destination location. Are you going to pressurize an entire planet or large enough area that the person wouldn't be affected? The transporter isn't going to displace that much space and it would immediately shift back to the original pressure even if the transporter were capable of such a feat.

The third possibility is the transporter does something to you internally to adjust your ear drums, eustation tubes, etc. That would seem not possible, but transporters don't really make sense anyway, at least in the Star Trek universe, remember it's Science FICTION.

The answer above with the passage about Geordi needs further explanation as to the context. I'm assuming what Geordi is saying is that as a person goes through transport the environmental pressure around them slowly changes so it won't be an abrupt change. The transporter converts matter to energy (pattern+energy stream whatever that means) and then back to matter. I'm not sure exactly how atmospheric pressure would play into that or be converted into energy. Pressure is not a thing you can transport, it's a condition based on certain scientific principles. Either way, the change would be the same for the person whether it takes .02 seconds or 2 seconds. Your body doesn't adjust any different to those small time increments.

I took college level physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, botany, and electronics. I took those classes at a top 20 university at the time, albeit it was a long time ago. So I'm not going to put citations for what are essentially scientific facts.

Hope I didn't confuse things more. :)

  • Why would somebody downvote without a comment as to why? – JMFB Apr 6 '15 at 11:38
  • 1
    I think the reason for the downvote is that you provide a scientific explanation for this rather than an in-universe explanation citing sources. – Often Right Apr 7 '15 at 1:30
  • @N.Soong Do I have to put an in-universe explanation for something that is a scientific fact. I assume as we all do that scientific principals hold true in the STU. That is the reason the writers for ST go through such lengths to explain the science behind their technologies & try to stay consistent with them. The only time I assume that basic scientific principals such as pressure would be different is if there's an episode/novel that says otherwise. I know of no mention in STU that redefines pressure. So Geordi's use of it in a novel assumes that the reader already understands the concept. – JMFB Apr 9 '15 at 23:32
  • What's interesting is that I have received several upvotes for this answer and somebody(s) keeps downvoting afterwards to keep it at zero or below. Hmm... – JMFB Apr 9 '15 at 23:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.