Saturday, February 03, 2007

Space, The Final Frontier...

A few musing on Star Trek before I head off to bed...

I've long felt that some of the established conceits of Star Trek have been right, perhaps, from a dramatic viewpoint, but wrong, wrong, wrong from a technical standpoint.

For example, the whole problem with starships doing anything at Warp speed other than transversing space.

How many times have the various Star Trek series (tv, movies, books, comics) presented us with ships battling each other at Warp speeds? Too many to really count, I imagine.

And that, I have a big problem with. What are the primary weapons being used? Phasers and photon torpedoes. Phasers are a light-based weapondry, so far as I'm aware, and photon torpedoes are actually physical torpedoes fired from the ships. How do these weapons even WORK while a ship is in Warp? Warp speed is faster than light, and I can't wrap my mind around the idea that phasers are faster than light... and the photon torpedoes shouldn't be capable of this, either, unless they're fitted with mini-warp drives.

And if they have mini-warp drives, then they have a warp core... which, if that's the case, could be a lot more devastating if a warp core breach could be initiated upon impact. So then, they would be warp torpedoes, which would make more sense, perhaps.

Even assuming weapondry that functions at relative speeds while in Warp, how can ships even manuever against each other? Even the slightest percentage change in course would take one ship so far away from its opponent that they'd be out of range for standard weapons fire. Let's say that the Enterprise is battling a Romulan vessel while under way at Warp speed, and the ships are travelling at Warp Six.

Warp speeds are calibrated so that Warp 1 is the speed of light, Warp 2 is the cube of that (or is it the square? I forget right now), Warp 3 is the cube or square of Warp 2, etc. Let's say it's the square, just for simplicity's sake.

So, Warp one is 9,460,730,472,580.8 km per year (the speed of light). That's 299,997.7953 km per second. So even at Warp 1, making a one degree course change would move the ship about 833 km off their original relative course, if I have the numbers figured right. (OK, I'm rounding down). At Warp 2, it'd be 693,889 km off course. At Warp 3, it'd be 481,481,944,321 km off course.

You can see how at Warp 6, it'd be so way off course, the Enterprise would have no way of engaging the Romulan ship!

To get an idea of what kind of distance we're talking about... Pluto's average distance from the sun is 5,906,380,000 kilometers. So at Warp 3, a one degree course variation would put the Enterprise (in one second) about 81 1/2 times the distance from Pluto to the Sun away from its original course.

This is, of course, assuming that I'm figuring the numbers right... and I suspect that I'm not, and that the differences would be even greater.

So let's just say that I'm convinced that ship-to-ship battles would have to take place at impulse (i.e., sublight) speeds in order for it to work... especially with biological lifeforms operating the controls (perhaps Data could operate the tactical station with the proper speeds to do this).

The next thing I want to talk about is the transporters. Transporters are the most powerful technology that exists in the Star Trek universe, and I figure they're the basis for a lot of other technology as well (such as the replicators and the holodecks).

If anyone put any thought into it at all, the transporters could be the ultimate medical miracle. It's been established that when someone is transported, they're converted into energy and their molecular pattern is stored in a pattern buffer. It's also been established (in one of the Next Gen episodes with Pulaski) that the pattern is even stored from the previous transport so long as a crewman is still assigned to the ship.

So, let's say that the Enterprise is in orbit on the Planet of Swedish Bombshell Masseuses, and Ensign Bobby gets a little too wild and crazy partying, and stumbles against a banquet table, sending a crystal bowl filled with bacon and onion dip onto the floor, where it shatters... and Ensign Bobby falls on it, and the razor-sharp shards of the crystal slice his hand off.

Now, in the Star Trek we've seen, medical personnel would show up to save Ensign Bobby's hand, and reattach it. But they shouldn't need to. In reality, LaForge (we'll say this is the Enterprise-D in this story, and Geordi's hanging with this party, since he doesn't have a current dream babe he's romancing on the holodeck who doesn't really exist except as a holodeck simulation) hits his comm badge, and says, "LaForge to Enterprise... please have Chief O'Brien beam up Ensign Bobby, but use his previous pattern for materialization."

In transporter room 3 (because they have so many transporter rooms, you know), O'Brien gets a lock on Bobby, overrides the re-integration to use the saved pattern, and when Bobby appears, he's none the worse for wear.

Of course, he doesn't have any memory of what's happened since he beamed down, but he also doesn't have to go through the memory of having his hand sliced off by sharp crystal.

No reason why they couldn't do this, unless it's established that some crew members have signed a "no stored pattern reintegration" request.

I figure the replicators have to work using transporter technology, too... and in conjunction with the deflector shields, which protect the Enterprise from meteoroids while traveling at Warp speeds.

See, I figure what the deflector is really doing, but they're not telling us, is generating a transporter field in front of the ship, and beaming any debris in space into the pattern buffer, where it's stored (since they don't need to reintegrate them as meteoroids, only the energy would really need to be saved) until Jean-Luc Picard is in his ready room, and decides he has a yen for Earl Grey tea, hot. Then, the replicators take enough energy from the energy buffer (as we'll call it) and uses the stored pattern of a cup of Earl Grey tea, hot, and materializes it for Jean-Luc.

Now, this may sound disgusting, but I figure that the same thing is in use for the Enterprise's toilets, as well as the used shower water (as well as any other waste to be disposed of)... it's converted to energy and saved in the energy buffer until something needs to be replicated.

I think the Holodecks have to use some transporter technology as well, at least when creating solid stuff to be interacted with, such as scenery and objects. I'd think this would be more energy efficient than creating solid holograms (which would be needed for simulated people and animals in order to control them properly).

That's probably enough Trek musings for the time being... I've had other thoughts relating to Star Trek I may get around to posting sometime, like about Voyager's Doctor, what rotten bastards the Vulcans were in the time of Enterprise (the NX one, not any of the NCC-1701's), the Klingons, and so on and so forth.



  1. I really enjoyed your thoughts on Star Trek. Although I'm a fan of the original series, I've never watched any of the later versions... still, I enjoyed your musings on the subject!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Craig!

  3. You probably know this, but they put transporters in Star Trek because it would have been too expensive for them to try to show the Enterprise taking off and landing from planets.

    I never thought of it before, that the Enterprise runs on matter/antimatter engines, and the transporters convert matter to energy without exposing it to antimatter. I guess that "beam" energy is somehow not useful for moving the ship.

    You're right that a very small difference in warp speed would put a huge distance between two starships immediately. But if anyone could get out of combat right away, where's the excitement? Someone asked the creator of "Babylon 5" how fast the spaceships could fly on that show. He said that the ships fly at the speed of drama. It takes as long or as short a time to get somewhere as they need to tell a good story. Star Trek ships fly at the speed of drama too.


  4. Some fans are making more episodes of the original series. They call it :Star Trek: New Voyages." Somebody took one of their episodes and made the Gold Key version of it:


  5. I knew about why Roddenberry created the transporters, yes... I'm a Trekkie from way back, and in my "wayward youth," I bought every Star Trek book that was ever written, including "The Making of Star Trek" (I've repurchased some of those books since then, having gotten rid of my original collection from a long time ago).

    I'd also heard about the "New Voyages" stuff... in fact, I heard that George Takei appeared in one of them as Sulu!

  6. The one with George Takei as Sulu is not complete yet--they plan to release it next Spring.

    They have a completed episode with Walter Koenig as Sulu available for download.

  7. I mean Walter Koenig as Checkov.


Please keep your comments relevant, I delete all spam! Thanks.