Apparition seems to be a very quick process, through which a witch or wizard moves almost instantaneously from one place to another. Could Apparition be related to the Alcubierre metric or would this idea violate the rules of relativity involving faster-than-light (FTL) travel in some way, specifically that a slower-than-life object may not travel FTL?

The Alcubierre Drive holds that:

  • the object moving FTL is actually being held stagnant within a "bubble" of space, and is on a free-fall through that bubble of space, going from point A to point B (i.e. warp) as space surrounding the bubble moves faster than light. Think of an object in a wind tunnel -- the object remains stagnant while the air rushes around it.
  • The object free-falling within the bubble of space (the moving volume of the metric) experiences no mass increase and is immune to time dilation (meaning a clock would continue to keep real time, not time that is sped up.)
  • The object or person within the bubble experiences no G-force.
  • Enormous tidal forces would be present near the edges of the flat-space volume because of the large space curvature there, but by suitable specification of the metric, these would be made very small within the volume occupied by the object. Wiki link to basic overview of the Alcubierre Drive and a second source from the Analog Science Fiction & Fact Magazine

On one hand, it seems that Apparition may cause some G-force-like reactions:

[Harry] was being pressed very hard from all directions; he could not breathe, there were iron bands tightening around his chest; his eyeballs were being forced back into his head; his eardrums were being pushed deeper into his skull, and then –

He gulped great lungfuls of cold night air and opened his streaming eyes. He felt as though he had just been forced through a very tight rubber tube.

Half-Blood Prince - Page 60 - British Hardcover

Second to the original question, if Apparition is in any way analogous to warp, would incorrectly cresting the tidal forces near the edges of the Apparition destination explain Splinching?

ETA: Holy cow, I seem to have totally thrown the Baby Ruth into the swimming pool with this question. . . Yeesh, sorry about that! It's something I've been thinking about and thought perhaps some people more learned in warp might have some thoughts on it. I will now slink back to the dungeons :/

  • 3
    I don't think relativity applies to magic.
    – Kevin
    Jan 10, 2012 at 15:58
  • I think your research already highlights key points of similarity, answering both of your questions. If you're asking "Is Apparition a Form of Warp Drive", unless JKR has stated something on this explicitly, I'm not sure that that can be answered.
    – Xantec
    Jan 10, 2012 at 16:25
  • I love this question. Can someone please give a plausible explanation? Jan 10, 2012 at 18:30
  • @Teknophilia -- I'm glad that at least one person liked my question :D Jan 11, 2012 at 0:03
  • 4
    I'm amazed that no one has pointed out the corollary to Clarke's Law: "Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from technology" -- I don't know that the HP universe is meant to be structured this way, but many fictional universes that have 'Magic' are really using science -- just one that obeys laws that they don't fully understand yet. They often come up with pragmatic methods and 'rules', but the underlying science is still there, just undiscovered. See Chalker's 'Flux and Anchor' books for an example.
    – K-H-W
    Jan 27, 2013 at 23:56

2 Answers 2


I don't think apparition is a form of Alcubierre drive, if for nothing else than the fact that the instruction is "[feel] your way into nothingness." (book 6, ch. 18) Nothingness is different than extant space, even if said space is just a moving bubble. Perhaps it's a 4th dimension, perhaps the "quantum slipstream" that comes up a couple times in Star Trek. Or maybe it's just nothing at all, they cease to be in one place, and come back into existence in another. That sounds like what it's supposed to be, although it doesn't quite explain the pressing feeling.

  • Or maybe it's just nothing at all, they cease to be in one place, and come back into existence in another. Who knows what being disembodied feels like. If your physical form ceases to exist at point A, time wouldn't really have much meaning thus the act of "traveling" to point B could seem like an instant or an eternity and may feel like anything.
    – Xantec
    Jan 10, 2012 at 16:17
  • @Kevin - By extant space do you mean that such space would be living and not extinct, while nothingness is neither? Can you tell me what the quantum slipstream is? Thank you for taking the time to answer my question :) Jan 11, 2012 at 14:44
  • @Slytherincess Wikipedia and Memory-Alpha links for Quantum Slipstream. Basically it creates a localized pressure system "tunnel" that propels the ship forward by altering the quantum structure of space-time.
    – Xantec
    Jan 11, 2012 at 15:14
  • @Slytherincess "extant" = in existence. Xantec pointed you to QS already, basically something beyond warp; regular warp could be an Alcubierre drive, which is why I didn't say it.
    – Kevin
    Jan 11, 2012 at 15:22
  • @Slytherincess for further clarification, what I meant re: alcubierre is that the subject of such a drive sits stationary in a bubble of space that doesn't change, so they wouldn't feel or experience anything abnormal.
    – Kevin
    Jan 11, 2012 at 15:27

The Alcubierre Drive isn't like a wormhole. To get from A to B with the Alcubierre Drive you have to go through all the points in between. The high tidal forces around the drive would shred averything along the way.

You've probably seen the "rubber sheet" model for General Relativity on various popular science programmes. Roughly, the Alcubierre Drive moves around on the sheet by shrinking the rubber ahead of you and expanding it behind you, while the patch of rubber you're sitting on stays unchanged. If you're in the way of the drive you'd get shrunk then stretched, and I suspect you'd find this painful.

  • Thank you for taking the time to answer my question :) Yes, the rubber sheet analogy is the explanation of warp that I am most familiar with. The info on the Wiki seems to indicate that whatever is contained within the bubble remains constant, so no g-force, no shrinking, etc. Am I reading this incorrectly? Re: the tidal forces, it says "Enormous tidal forces would be present near the edges of the flat-space volume because of the large space curvature there, but by suitable specification of the metric, these would be made very small within the volume occupied by the ship," which seems (Cont) Jan 11, 2012 at 14:34
  • to imply that the area where the ship crests the tidal forces is somehow rendered passable. It seems also that the Alcubierre metric is related to wormholes, as (again, if I am reading this right) massive amounts of exotic matter are necessary for both. In warp, the exotic matter is necessary for forming the "bubble" which carries the person/ship/whatever along through space, while with wormholes it's necessary to keep the opening to the wormhole open so it doesn't collapse in on itself. But perhaps these are unrelated? Again, thanks for answering :) Jan 11, 2012 at 14:39
  • I like that "exotic matter" is really just a fancy way of saying "something we haven't found yet".
    – Xantec
    Jan 11, 2012 at 15:24
  • Inside the bubble space is flat so the occupant is fine. Also well away from the bubble space is flat so no problems there. The trouble is that as you drive the bubble down your street the edge of the bubble passes over the road surface, and as it does so the tidal forces at the edge of the bubble will shred the road, along with any cats, dogs, pedestrians etc that you happen to run over. The Alcubierre Drive is really intended to be used in a vacuum, e.g. between stars, where there's nothing in the way! Jan 11, 2012 at 15:53
  • In this context exotic matter just means matter that behaves as if it has a negative mass. A negative mass is necessary to make gravity repulsive instead of attractive, and you need this repulsion to warp space in the correct way to make a Alcubierre Drive, or as you say to keep the throat of a wormhole open. As far as we (i.e. physicists) know, exotic matter doesn't exist and there is no suggestion from any of the accepted theories of Physics that it could exist. Jan 11, 2012 at 15:58

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