The fading sun casts a red hue over the forest, which has become a battlefield. Breathless, our trainer watches as his Clefairy delivers the knockout blow to the fierce, formidable Rhydon. Though powerful and strong, the feral beast is no match for the training and dedication of its opponent, nor the strategy of the trainer. The Rhydon falls to the ground, its exo-armor cracked and its eyes glazed, but without permanent injury.



With a long, shuddering breath of excitement, the trainer withdraws a device from his jacket, a spheroid no larger than a shooter marble. With an expert flick of his thumb, the ball instantaneously grows to fit his palm, now the size of a large baseball. Drawing his arm back, he thrusts forward, body moving in time with itself in a single, fluid movement that hurtles the ball towards its target. The Rhydon, no longer able to fight, can only watch as the ball strikes its midsection. The ball bounces back, halting in midair over a foot away, then splits on an unseen hinge, revealing complex circuitry and shining, reflective rectangles within. The Rhydon's contours begin to blur even as its form comes aglow with unknown, almost mystic energies. In the blink of an eye, the creature is nothing more than a mass of red light, flowing and undulating with a life all its own, a life that extinguishes as an unseen force grips it, drawing the light into the ball. The ball snaps closed, trapping the light as it drops to the ground.

The trainer watches with satisfaction as the diode on the front of the ball begins to blink. On and off, on and off, the light flashes for what seems an eternity, until at last the diode extinguishes, and the ball lies still. As the trainer approaches to collect his new capture, he can't help but wonder…

Just how the hell does the Pokéball do all that?

THE SCIENCE OF THE POKÉBALL

A pointless look at the possible scientific dynamics

Of one of the most befuddling imaginary tools of our time

Introduction

While working my meager job as a sales associate (that's "floor monkey" for those of you in the trade) at a major retail chain, I have quite a bit of time to muse and ponder. And, as a fanfiction author, thinking is paramount to my penniless livelihood. So, one day, as I thought back to any number of plotlines I had spinning through my head, I got to wondering; exactly how does a Pokémon wind up in the ball? We've all seen it happen, but what kind of technology is working behind the scenes? Then I got to wondering; what about all the other stuff it does? The mid-air stops, the way it returns to the trainer after disgorging its monster, or the sudden size changes.

It seems like quite a bit for one little ball to do, doesn't it? Well, with two whole semesters of college level Physics under my belt, to say nothing of my own natural wit and intelligence…well, at least I had the Physics, anyway…I decided to go where no one has gotten bored enough to go before.

The Control Apparatus

If someone were completely unfamiliar with a Pokéball, and had its properties and functions described to them, it's safe to assume that they would envision a ball laden heavily with controls, switches, toggles, and whatnot. So how is it that our miracle device is able to be operated with just a single button?

Well, anyone familiar with BadgeQuest (weekdays and weeknights on your local fanfiction network) knows how I've described the operation of the Pokéball:

Start at marble size. Tap and release the button once to expand the ball to its full size. Tap again to revert once more to its travel size. If one is to press and hold the control of the ball while it is in full size, the trainer will feel the control click beneath their finger, signaling that the ball is ready to release. From there, an on-board computer, coupled with targeting sensors kept within the ball, release the Pokémon at a specified altitude and distance from the trainer (usually between ten and twenty feet, and almost always at surface level, though Flying types are more often than not released a bit higher). Theoretically, a computer such as the Pokédex would be able to interface with the ball and reprogram the release settings, but trainers are best advised to leave their Pokéballs at factory settings.

Furthermore, the ball's control apparatus contains a simple, run-of-the-mill LED (that's light emitting diode for the technically unsavvy) to update trainers on their capture's progress. A flashing on a new capture indicates that the Pokémon within is still in an unable state, and may break loose. A cessation of the LED's flashing means that everything is A-OK.

All in all, a design that remains genius in its simplicity; elegant, brilliant, and (thankfully) easy to explain.

Tagging and Ownership

For those familiar with the Game Boy games, you know that every Pokémon possesses a serial number in addition to their identification number. The serial number, unlike the ID, differs between Pokémon of the same type, and only captured and trained monsters possess them. It is therefore safe to assume that the serial number is assigned immediately upon capture, and has something to do with the ball itself.

So, if you will allow me a bit more theory; the ball is assigned an identification number long before it ever leaves the factory, implanted with a microchip fitted somewhere within the containment net. When the Pokémon is drawn into the ball for the first time, the microchip undergoes a similar transformation, merging permanently with the transitory state of the monster. From this point on, it essentially becomes part of the monster's physiology, much as a pacemaker for those of faulty heart. The chip contains an ID code that can be read by any compatible device. Silph, among other production companies, may include equipment in their Pokéballs designed to detect and identify Pokémon that have already been captured and disallow re-capturing, thus preventing accidental theft. Organizations such as Team Rocket would possess their own Pokéballs sans the anti-theft devices, of course.

Growth Potential

But what of the ball's strangest secondary ability, the ability to both grow and shrink so quickly and silently? Well, rest assured, I've thought of that, too. After several bouts with science-fiction-heavy matter conversion theories, shrinking technology, and plain old magic, I figured that simple would be better than complicated. So, the best explanation I could come up with was this:

The Pokéball isn't a true "ball" per se, but rather a complex and carefully constructed series of flexible sliding panels built into one another. Each curved segment is constructed of a malleable, durable plastic, fitted to its counterparts with a sliding ball joint. Upon command, tiny magnetic drivers hidden along the tracks of the ball joints would force the segments to retract or expand on command. This would account for the silence of the mechanism, as well as the fluidity of movement. Of course, given the smooth nature of the ball's appearance, the number of these panels would be staggering, most likely well into the thousands. Given this, it's no wonder the balls cost so much!

You'll Get A Charge Out of This

But everything I've explained so far, and the whopper I haven't even covered yet, would still require some (more likely, A LOT OF) power. I'll go out on another limb and guess that the Pokéball's power source isn't nuclear, or Ash would be having problems bigger than Team Rocket on his hands: cancer, impotence and sterility cannot be "blasted off" like his other nemeses. Likewise, a micro-fusion generator would be convenient, but unlikely, even in the technologically rich world of Pokémon. Barring a quick re-charge from Pikachu, I concluded that the balls utilize some kind of rechargeable battery. That isn't so hard to believe, but then a new question arises; when and where does a trainer recharge his Pokéballs?

For the answer to this doozy, I looked to none other than our dear friend, Nurse Joy. Each time a trainer visits the Pokécenter, they fork over their precious cargo of Pokémon to the center's bubblegum-topped titan of medicine. Apparently, you need a veterinary degree in the Pokémon world to put a tray of balls onto a machine and press a button. Go figure. It is that very machine, however, that revitalizes not only the Pokémon, but their capture spheres as well! While bombarding the critters with regenerative radiation, the machine could also be giving the ball's battery a much-needed recharge.

But of course, even with regular recharge, is it feasible to think that the ball could keep the Pokémon within in its transubstantiated state? A good theory may be that a Pokémon's physical make-up is easily susceptible to the matter-altering properties of the Pokéball technology. So, if one can believe that, then it isn't so hard to think that it wouldn't take much energy to maintain such a state. For a crude analogy, think of a computer in standby mode.

The Big One

All right, you've been patient while I explained all of the piddly-crap. Now we get on to the big kahuna of questions; just how does a ten-foot-tall monster end up in a ball with a two inch radius? I'll tell you, I went through a lot of brain cells on this one, and managed to come up with two answers. One of them was wrong, and the other could be right. I'll run you through the incorrect one first, just to take you along my lines of thought…plus, it's still cool, even though it's wrong.

Nice Try

Matter…all matter…is composed of electrons, protons, and neutrons. Duh. You know this. Why am I telling you this? Well, I like stating the obvious. From the mighty solids, to the elusive gasses, to the wishy-washy liquids-even gelatin!-they all wind up the same if you go down far enough. What you need to understand, however, is that while you're surrounded by matter, you never realize that the universe is mostly empty.

Once again, I can hear your impatient sighs. What does space have to do with this, you ask? Everything. The only problem is, I'm thinking of a different space; not the kind that Starfleet captains search for nookie in, but rather the space within the atom. If you take a look at a diagram of an atom, you'll notice that quite a bit of it is empty space. Even though 98% of the diagrams you're shown in class are incorrect (go ahead, ask your Chemistry teacher), they do illustrate that there is a lot of empty nothingness in between the nucleus and orbiting electrons.

Hang on. I have a point, I swear. And yes, it does have something to do with Pokémon.

Next, we must take a look at the subatomic structure of a Pokémon. Now, when developing this theory, I concentrated mostly on the visual effect of a Pokémon being recalled rather than captured. You know the drill; a beam of red light shoots out, striking the Pokémon. The 'mon is then converted to energy and withdrawn back into the ball. Well, here's the kicker; what if it isn't energy?

I theorized that a Pokémon's atomic structure possessed a dual nature; it was both very stable and very unstable at the same time. It clearly doesn't' take much to convert it into the pseudo-energy you see briefly before recall and after release. My guess is that the Pokéball emits a stream of concentrated electrons, bombarding the 'mon with subatomic particles. This particle bath excites the 'mon's own subatomic structure, breaking it down into base components. The stability of the Pokémon's structure can first be seen here; the subatomic particles remain grouped together. In addition, once they are free of the particle bath, the 'mon's particles snap back to their original form, suggesting some kind of molecular pattern memory.

Confounding, isn't it?

Now, the focusing mirrors visible inside of the ball may not be focusing mirrors at all, but rather electron or magnetic plates; something to keep the subatomic particles jumping and jiving inside of the ball, and so close together that even a creature of Snorlax's size can fit in a baseball.

So to summarize;

Electron beam

Zap

Pokémon particles start dancing

Particles dance so close as to occupy wasted space normally found

within the atom

Ride back along electron beam into ball

Plates inside keep particles dancing

Big thing gets small

Really small

Travel size, even

Why This Doesn't Work

There are two reasons.

The first is the conflicting charges of the subatomic particles. It isn't within the nature of protons and electrons to remain apart when in such close of proximity to one another. Even kinetically charged, they would want to form molecules. That's why we have the universe. Plus, "molecular pattern memory" doesn't exist. It's just stupid. Tell your friends.

The second reason is a bit more obvious; mass.

Even when kinetically charged, something has mass. Even in the weightlessness of space, objects have mass. You have mass. Your Aunt Bertha…you know the one, she ate the entire cheesecake at the last family reunion…she has a lot of mass. And no amount of kinetic energy, or electron bombardment, or scientific mumbo-jumbo is going to take that away. So let's assume that somehow, despite everything in the above two paragraphs, Ash is able to get his Snorlax to fit inside of a Pokéball. The poor chump isn't going to be able to lift the thing, because Snorlax's titanic butt (in an environment with standard gravity) is going to weigh just as much inside that ball as outside. In other words, ain't no way Ash is throwing him into battle.

The Right Theory?

And so, as with so many other situations, we turn to our departed friend, Mr. Gene Roddenberry, for the answers. Star Trek's transporter utilizes a cascading energy wave to deconstruct William Shatner and friends at the subatomic level, sending them from one place to the other as collected strips of energy. So, it would appear, can Professor Oak. In fact, the Pokéball seems to be nothing more than a crude, hand-held transporter.

Subject A, a lovely Pichu, is residing within the ball, suspended in a state of pure energy. Said energy is being kept in check with what we (correctly?) assumed to be focusing mirrors on the interior of the ball. When the command is given, the ball releases the energy, which, upon leaving the containment sphere, is run through the process of re-matter-izing. Thus, you have a system of transport that is clean, efficient, mass-free, and can be used on the global scale using Bill's fantastic transporting network.

More Questions Than Answers

Of course, this explanation leaves much to be desired. Why don't people use the transport network if it's safe for Pokémon? What kind of process converts matter into pure energy and back again using such small equipment and such little power? How is the pattern stored? Does a Pokémon age while in energy form? Do they require nourishment? What color are Brock's eyes?

Sadly, I am unable to answer any of these particular queries. The best I can do is leave you this parting tidbit, which I hope will bring you some comfort as you lie awake at night, struggling desperately for the answers I could not give you;

I never said I was smart.