The Air Not There

A consequence of the Rule of Perception: Air, which you can't see, doesn't actually exist.

Some applications:

  • If you stop time, so that everything in the world is frozen in place except you, you can move around easily; you are not held immobile by the air molecules frozen in place around you. (Suffocating is also not a problem.)
  • If you can travel at Super Speed, you don't have to worry about air resistance or friction.
  • If you are teleporting somewhere, it's important to arrive in an empty space where you won't be intersecting any solid objects, but you don't have to worry about intersecting the air molecules that are probably swarming through your empty space.
  • You can carry antimatter around in the open, without worrying about it annihilating anything — provided it doesn't touch any solid objects.
  • If you are shrunk to the size of an ant, you can still breathe, even though your lungs are now trying to insert "regular-sized" air molecules into your bloodstream — like shoving volleyballs through the eye of a needle.
  • If you become intangible so solid matter passes through you without interacting with you at all, this won't apply to air. You can still breathe and talk normally. (Of course, the ground and any other surface you need to walk on is usually immune, too.)

  • Frictionless Reentry: Atmospheric resistance and friction don't exist for spacecraft entering and leaving a planetary atmosphere.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Since breathing on Earth is possible and air is not there, it should be just as easy to breathe in space when the air is also not there.

For characters with superpowers, may be a consequence of Required Secondary Powers.

Because this is a nigh-Omnipresent Trope, please only list notable aversions, subversions and other examples in which it is not played straight.

Examples of Aversions & Subversions

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Generally averted in Kimagure Orange Road: when the Esper protagonists teleport, it always causes a short but violent air displacement, both at the spots of departure and arrival. One episode feature the variant of time-stopped people ignoring air, though.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Guldo of the Ginyu Force can only stop time as long as he can hold his breath. This makes sense, since he wouldn't be able to breathe if the air was frozen in place.

    Comic Books 
  • Nightcrawler from the X-Men goes "BAMF" on teleporting in and out because he's displacing air molecules. The sound is actually the air collapsing on the space he has suddenly vacated (the 2nd movie actually uses a very realistic sound for the collapse of a human-sized vacuum). He also makes the sound when appearing because, presumably, the same thing is happening, just in reverse. Those molecules that were where he's appearing are pushed out of the way, and fast.
  • The various speedsters know as The Flash all have an aura specifically to protect them from air friction. (Wally West even once removed it from someone he was carrying...) A "possible future" story featured Wally's son, who had the Super Speed but not the aura, and was incapable of using his powers without being burned alive.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Incredibles, when Edna Mode explains to Helen about the suits she designed for the Parr family, she mentions specifically making Dash's suit out of a material that can "withstand enormous amounts of friction without heating up or wearing out" so he can run hundreds of miles per hour in it. Regular cloth, in other words, would be worn down to shreds or burst into flame in a very short time.

  • Discworld:
    • In the novel Thief of Time, the History Monks use special equipment to slow down time relative to themselves, but can still move and breathe because the time dilation field extends beyond their own bodies. This would have unfortunate effects if the field partly eclipsed a living thing, so extreme care with the equipment is needed.
    • Susan, like the History Monks, carries her own little bubble of personal time with her; when she stops time and walks out in a snowstorm, she leaves a tunnel of empty air behind her because the snowflakes resume falling when she comes near.
  • In H. G. Wells's short story "The New Accelerator", moving thousands of times faster than normal causes the protagonists to heat up due to friction with the air.
  • In Wells's story "The Man Who Could Work Miracles", the title character stops the earth from spinning. Due to the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum, the atmosphere starts going into space.
  • In the Doctor Who Tie-In Novel Nuclear Time, when the Doctor's personal timeline briefly un-reverses, he chokes on air that is suddenly being inhaled rather than exhaled.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's The Stars Are Cold Toys, it is strictly forbidden to activate the jumper prior to exiting the atmosphere. The protagonists are forced to do this when escaping, even though they know the displaced air may cause hurricanes.
  • The Cyborg and the Sorcerers by Lawrence Watt-Evans is one of the few works with a Disintegrator Ray to consider the issue of the ray having to disintegrate all the intervening air molecules before it reaches its intended target.
  • Every instance of teleportation into air in the Young Wizards series is accompanied by a loud bang of displaced air, frequently described as sounding like a gunshot or a car backfiring. The gust of air has also knocked stuff over at least once.
  • In Good Omens, when the Hellhound transforms into a small terrier as per his master's wishes, the narration makes reference to the sound caused by air rushing into the vacuum it had previously occupied.
  • The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything by John D. MacDonald. The narrator describes the air as feeling thicker and harder to breathe, and being slightly resistant to movement. Semi-justified by the time-stopping gadget not literally stopping time, but slowing it down to where one second of slow time, subjectively perceived, equals one three-hundredth of a second in normal time.
  • In Stephen King's IT, every time Pennywise teleports away it's mentioned that there's a cracking noise as the air rushes to fill the suddenly empty space.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica: It is subtle, but when ships perform FTL jumps, they cause a small, localised vaccuum around them. When air is present (inta-atmos jumps, leaking from space stations, etc.), it is seen getting sucked out alongside the jump. It should be noted that the FTL "bubble" around the ship sucks any matter, not just air. This was shown on several occasions, first when Galactica jumped just above the surface of New Caprica, causing huge gusts of wind as more air filled the newly-created vacuum, then when Boomer's jump away from Galactica tore the ailing ship's hull and later when a group of Raptors jumping from the unused landing bay caused the whole bay to rip like paper.
  • Similar to the Flash, Stephanie Powell from No Ordinary Family has a plasma shield which protects her from the friction of the air, and other similar issues.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "One Little Ship", a spaceship with Dax, O'Brien and Bashir has been shrunk to the size of a small toy. At one point O'Brien suggests beaming out of the ship, but Bashir says he would suffocate, as his miniature-sizes lungs wouldn't be able to process regular-sized air molecules. However, the air molecules inside the ship have shrunk with it, as the three are still able to breath inside. They are able to use the shrunken air to temporarily breath outside the ship too.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Teleporting causes a distinct thunderclap as air rushes in to fill the now empty space.

    Web Original