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, friction, or your body superheating due to both.
  • If you are teleporting somewhere, it's important to arrive in an empty space where you won't be intersecting any solid objects. However, you don't have to worry about intersecting the air molecules that are probably swarming through your empty space, which should result in nasty pressure-related damage or at worst going splitter-splat.note 
  • You can carry antimatter around in the open, without worrying about it annihilating the air molecules — you only have to make sure it doesn't touch any solid or liquid objects.
  • 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.)

Related:
  • 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.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Okuyasu Nijimura has a play around with this trope, due to his Stand's ability to erase anything and let the remaining sides clamp back together. As such, he can use short-distance teleports by cutting the air in front of him. Likewise, he can rid of Stray Cat's air bombs as well.

    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.
    • Kitty Pryde can't breathe while phasing through solid objects.
  • The various speedsters known 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.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • Harry Potter has disapparation, in which there is a noise caused by the created vacuum, often compared to a car backfiring. The sound of apparating (i.e. where you end up) is a much quieter pop.
  • Generally but not always consistently averted in Perry Rhodan. Teleporters tend to cause an audible displacement of air when materializing (or leave a quickly-collapsing vacuum bubble behind on departure, for that matter), and antimatter not being safe to expose to even just a regular matter atmosphere under normal conditions has been a plot point in the past, most notably when dealing with visitors from an antimatter universe (who in fact needed to keep their ships' shields up at just about all times even in space to avoid damage from stray particles of cosmic dust). On the other hand, time standing still generally seems to have no effect on the local atmosphere even under fairly extreme time flow differentials, like the 1:72000 ratio originally seen in an early arc dealing with the series' first-ever attackers from an an entirely different universe...

    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.
  • Speaking of which, The Flash (1990) has the hero be immune to this problem, but his costume does have to be made of experimental super-material which can resist being burnt away and/or shredded.
  • 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-sized 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 breathe inside. They are able to use the shrunken air to temporarily breathe outside the ship too.
  • In the first episode of the Doctor Who story "The Space Museum", the characters become incorporeal due to a TARDIS glitch, and cannot interact with objects or be seen. No-one has any problem talking and breathing, though.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Teleporting causes a distinct thunderclap as air rushes in to fill the now empty space.
  • Trinity has the Upeo Wa Macho, psychic teleporters who refer to teleportation as jumping or 'banging' since their power works by translating their bodies into subquantum particles that they shift into the fifth dimension, allowing the nearby air to rush in and make a thunderclap. Their arrival causes the same issue in reverse. One of the top tier powers allows the jumper to teleport everything within a spherical radius (typically around a few hundred meters or so) to another location. It is advised that the jumper only performs this ability in a vacuum as the air displacement can cause massive damage to the surroundings, change weather patterns, and kill unprotected humans as the shockwave propagates through them.

    Web Comics 
  • Grrl Power has a character with a Force Field. It does not permit air to permeate, causing the character to become dizzy after a few minutes of continuous use. Sound (which involves the transfer of vibrations, rather than of physical air molecules) seems to get through just fine.

    Web Original