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Old 03-17-2020, 01:31 AM
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Warp Drive question (Star Trek)


In the Star Trek universe, does Warp drive follow an arithmetic curve (Warp 6 is six times as fast as Warp 1) or a geometric one (Warp 6 is ten times as fast as Warp 5)? It seems to vary with the needs of the episode, which is fine, I just wonder if this is codified anywhere.
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Old 03-17-2020, 01:35 AM
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I always thought it was exponential. As in, warp n is speed of light to the nth power. So warp 1 would just be speed of light. But that's just me; I don't have any documentation to back it up.

Much like "star dates," I think TOS just sort of made things up as they went along, and then TNG tried to retcon actual rules into the techno-babble.
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Old 03-17-2020, 01:57 AM
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That makes sense, although it makes me wonder why the trip to the Delta Quadrant is so arduous. Yeah, the Milky Way is quite large and they have to avoid the supermassive black hole in the middle of it, but "Warp 10 turns you into lizards" sounded pretty lazy to me.
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Old 03-17-2020, 02:22 AM
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In the original Star Trek Technical Manual - I have one around here somewhere - it's listed as being the cube of the number.

So Warp 1 is c.

Warp 1: c
Warp 2: 8c
Warp 3: 27c
...
Warp 9: 729c

It was recalibrated for NextGen because, simply put, 729 times the speed of light isn't really fast enough to get around like they need to do to make the show happen.
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Old 03-17-2020, 03:43 AM
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Some of their episodes could have been a LOT more interesting if they had used an Infinite Improbability Drive instead.
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Old 03-17-2020, 03:58 AM
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Also: What is impulse power? I always thought it was sub-light speed, but in some episodes it seems faster.
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Old 03-17-2020, 04:41 AM
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Also: What is impulse power? I always thought it was sub-light speed, but in some episodes it seems faster.
It is supposed to be sub-light, but it still does things it shouldn't if it's some sort of basic action-reaction drive. Like keep up with the warp drive when the saucer separates from the rest of the ship.

Why you would use impulse engines to power a lifeboat of that type in deep, deep space is beyond me. You coudn't outrun your enemies if you're trying to get away, and your rescue by friendlies is in no way guaranteed. Neither are you likely to find a habitable planet before your supplies run out and you're reduced to cannibalism and drinking your own urine.

On TNG, there was a tank of deuterium (IIRC) just aft of where the access pylon joined the secondary hull, with some sort of feed line running up to the impulse engines at the back of the saucer. This was apparently what fueled the things. What they'd use for fuel after saucer separation, I don't know.
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Old 03-17-2020, 06:09 AM
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On TNG, there was a tank of deuterium (IIRC) just aft of where the access pylon joined the secondary hull, with some sort of feed line running up to the impulse engines at the back of the saucer. This was apparently what fueled the things. What they'd use for fuel after saucer separation, I don't know.
They hook up a plot device.
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Old 03-17-2020, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Horatio Hellpop View Post
In the Star Trek universe, does Warp drive follow an arithmetic curve (Warp 6 is six times as fast as Warp 1) or a geometric one (Warp 6 is ten times as fast as Warp 5)? It seems to vary with the needs of the episode, which is fine, I just wonder if this is codified anywhere.
It's codified, of course. But not in TOS, and not in canon (ie, shown or described on screen in a TV episode or movie) for a good while. (The TNG-era recalculation, on the other hand, was mentioned on screen at least a few times in TNG and Voy, if only the part about Warp 10 being the physical limit. We do not talk about the episode that claimed to show them breaking that limit, and the consequences thereof.)
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Old 03-17-2020, 08:03 AM
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I just read this old link from Slate - Enterprise vs Millennium Falcon which goes into detail about warp speeds. Perhaps you will find it interesting!
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Old 03-17-2020, 08:12 AM
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Straczynski had the right idea in Babylon 5, when he said that the ships travel at the speed of plot. Either you create a consistent set of rules that your world's physics must follow, and insist that all writers must follow those rules and adjust their plots as needed to fit (rare enough in literature, and impossible in a TV show with 15 writers), or you don't give any detail at all and just assume that the details somehow match the story you're trying to tell. Assuming rigid rules, but then not rigidly enforcing them, like Star Trek did, is the worst of both worlds.
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Old 03-17-2020, 08:12 AM
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Straczynski had the right idea in Babylon 5, when he said that the ships travel at the speed of plot. Either you create a consistent set of rules that your world's physics must follow, and insist that all writers must follow those rules and adjust their plots as needed to fit (rare enough in literature, and impossible in a TV show with 15 writers), or you don't give any detail at all and just assume that the details somehow match the story you're trying to tell. Assuming rigid rules, but then not rigidly enforcing them, like Star Trek did, is the worst of both worlds.
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Old 03-17-2020, 08:13 AM
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In the original Star Trek Technical Manual - I have one around here somewhere - it's listed as being the cube of the number.

So Warp 1 is c.

Warp 1: c
Warp 2: 8c
Warp 3: 27c
...
Warp 9: 729c

It was recalibrated for NextGen because, simply put, 729 times the speed of light isn't really fast enough to get around like they need to do to make the show happen.
I'm glad the original producers gave it at least some thought, but they just never realized how YUGE space really is.

With the cubed power warp factor, at warp 1, it would take 16 years just to get to Vulcan (16 light years away). Even at warp 6 it would take 27 days!

In That Which Survives, to go a thousand light years (990.7, to be precise) would take 361.6 days (to be precise). Kirk, Sulu and McCoy, not to mention poor D'Amato, would be long, long dead.

And yet they had dialog that Romulans fought the Feds the first time without warp drive! Sometimes you really do have to "correct" the dialog in your head.




Does this contradict my posts in the Rod Serling thread? I would say not. My rule is, if you can correct an error with only a simple change (like just not saying how fast warp speeds are, and just leaving it an abstract number) then the episode isn't unredeemingly stupid.
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Old 03-17-2020, 12:51 PM
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...And yet they had dialog that Romulans fought the Feds the first time without warp drive! Sometimes you really do have to "correct" the dialog in your head....
I always fanwanked it that they used some other FTL drive, obsolete by Kirk's time, but not warp drive, as such.
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Old 03-17-2020, 01:12 PM
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In my head cannon, warp factors are a property of the engine (like gears in a manual transmission) rather than speeds, so we can gloss over any inconsistencies on speed or anything else.
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Old 03-17-2020, 01:15 PM
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I always fanwanked it that they used some other FTL drive, obsolete by Kirk's time, but not warp drive, as such.
There is other evidence for this. The Botany Bay is a lot further from Earth than it would be with sublight drive only. There are tons of other examples.

The space amoeba in The Immunity Syndrome must have had some kind of faster than light capability, otherwise it wasn't about to do anyone any harm even if it reproduced.
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Old 03-17-2020, 01:21 PM
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I always fanwanked it that they used some other FTL drive, obsolete by Kirk's time, but not warp drive, as such.
... Which Scotty classified as "simple impulse" that the Enterprise could easily outrun.

Neither the Romulan warbirds nor the Federation shuttlecraft (which had ion propulsion that could be fueled by draining phasers) should have been capable of deep-space missions.

If the impulse and ion engines could be powered by batteries, they must have been one helluva a lot bigger than D-size.
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Old 03-17-2020, 02:14 PM
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The other thing is that they'd have real-time videoconferences with someone back at Star Fleet Headquarters, or at some star base someplace. Did they ever try to explain the technology needed for that?
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Old 03-17-2020, 02:15 PM
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It was originally supposed to be like Mach, but for light speed. But it was tweaked at times, I think first with trans warp. But yeah they reformatted it for TNG so that 0 is 0, I think warp 1 is still light speed, and 10 is infinite.

I kind of wanted to ask, if there are any math people, what you would call that kind of scale, with two origins, one at 0 and one at infinity. Or more generally, any scale that uses something besides zero as origin, uses infinity or other special numbers, or more than one origin.
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Old 03-17-2020, 02:28 PM
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The other thing is that they'd have real-time videoconferences with someone back at Star Fleet Headquarters, or at some star base someplace. Did they ever try to explain the technology needed for that?
They use subspace radio, which is faster than light. (And often faster than even the fastest warp drive.)
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Old 03-17-2020, 02:36 PM
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And yet they had dialog that Romulans fought the Feds the first time without warp drive! Sometimes you really do have to "correct" the dialog in your head.
And that was even retconned in Enterprise where the Romulans and the Coalition of Planets (pre-Federation, that was even a retcon) both had warp drive.
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Old 03-17-2020, 02:47 PM
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They use subspace radio, which is faster than light. (And often faster than even the fastest warp drive.)
There is one TOS episode where Kirk is far enough away from Star Fleet that he must act before he receives permission.
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Old 03-17-2020, 02:57 PM
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They use subspace radio, which is faster than light. (And often faster than even the fastest warp drive.)
There were a few episodes where they talked about sending a message to starfleet, but by the time starfleet would respond the crisis would be over. So - every now and then - the delay in subspace was needed.
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Old 03-17-2020, 03:03 PM
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There were a few episodes where they talked about sending a message to starfleet, but by the time starfleet would respond the crisis would be over. So - every now and then - the delay in subspace was needed.
I fan wanked that by subspace requiring repeater beacons, which were not available in all areas.
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Old 03-17-2020, 03:04 PM
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But yeah they reformatted it for TNG so that 0 is 0, I think warp 1 is still light speed, and 10 is infinite.
And then had Captain Riker go to Warp 13 in All Good Things.
And then there is the idiotic concept of solar sailing on that DS9 episode...
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Old 03-17-2020, 03:13 PM
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It was originally supposed to be like Mach, but for light speed. But it was tweaked at times, I think first with trans warp. But yeah they reformatted it for TNG so that 0 is 0, I think warp 1 is still light speed, and 10 is infinite.

I kind of wanted to ask, if there are any math people, what you would call that kind of scale, with two origins, one at 0 and one at infinity. Or more generally, any scale that uses something besides zero as origin, uses infinity or other special numbers, or more than one origin.
Well now in game theory there arise "surreal numbers" like ω, ω∑ω, ωω, etc., or you might ponder topological models such as the Alexandroff long line, but anyway in real life the speed of light is already "infinitely fast", and in Star Trek they go faster than warp 10 practically all the time (just last week they used some Borg tech to shave some time off their hyperspace trip)

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Old 03-17-2020, 03:23 PM
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And then had Captain Riker go to Warp 13 in All Good Things.
And then there is the idiotic concept of solar sailing on that DS9 episode...
Riker was always a loose cannon who didn't obey Star Fleet regulations.

The DS9 solar sail I had managed not to think about. Thanks a lot!
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Old 03-17-2020, 03:33 PM
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Well now in game theory there arise "surreal numbers" like ω, ω∑ω, ωω, etc.,
I didn't realize that there was an emoji for Troi's Starfleet uniform!
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Old 03-17-2020, 03:48 PM
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Here is some info.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warp_d...arp_velocities
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Old 03-17-2020, 05:13 PM
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There is one TOS episode where Kirk is far enough away from Star Fleet that he must act before he receives permission.
The rest of the time he did it just for the hell of it
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Old 03-17-2020, 06:10 PM
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The rest of the time he did it just for the hell of it
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Old 03-17-2020, 07:11 PM
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There is one TOS episode where Kirk is far enough away from Star Fleet that he must act before he receives permission.
That was the whole point of the ship's five-year mission: To get it far enough away from Earth so Kirk would have to make important decisions on his own.

Which he did most of the time, except when the plot required otherwise. On those occasions, he was always able to communicate with Star Fleet with absolutely no time lag.
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Old 03-17-2020, 07:30 PM
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It is supposed to be sub-light, but it still does things it shouldn't if it's some sort of basic action-reaction drive. Like keep up with the warp drive when the saucer separates from the rest of the ship.
There did mention some sort of warp momentum that could be maintained.

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Why you would use impulse engines to power a lifeboat of that type in deep, deep space is beyond me. You coudn't outrun your enemies if you're trying to get away, and your rescue by friendlies is in no way guaranteed. Neither are you likely to find a habitable planet before your supplies run out and you're reduced to cannibalism and drinking your own urine.
Yes, it wouldn't be so much of a lifeboat, but the stardrive section would drop off the saucer and go into attack mode. So it would typically be leaving the saucer in a safe place.
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Old 03-17-2020, 07:53 PM
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Yes, it wouldn't be so much of a lifeboat, but the stardrive section would drop off the saucer and go into attack mode. So it would typically be leaving the saucer in a safe place.
Absolute rubbish. The ship's main armament is on the saucer section, making the whole idea of a "battle configuration" ludicrous.

You know what I'd do if I were a hostile? I'd either ignore the rest of the ship altogether or just blast it out of space, and then take off after the saucer, which has absolutely no chance of getting away on impulse power. Then I'd take everyone on board as captives to sell in the Galaxy's many slave markets before blowing it to smithereens (or just plain kill everyone and be done with it).

I'd like to see a scene where Riker or Geordie or Worf is on the "battle bridge" and saying in total bewilderment "Hey ... they're not going to fight; they're taking off after the saucer! Can they DO that?!?"

After bringing children on board the Federation's flagship, this was by far the dumbest idea that ever found its way into the series.
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Old 03-17-2020, 08:43 PM
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the ships travel at the speed of plot
Never heard that before, that's hilarious and so true.

I was a huge fan growing up and I recently started rewatching the TOS episodes on Netflix, after not having seen them for 30 years. Big mistake. I'm almost through Season 1. It's great for nostalgia, but very painful to watch as an adult. Better to have remembered them as they existed in my memory, not as they really were.

On warp speed: as a fan and book reader, I was always under the impression the speed was an exponential curve. I now understand someone just clearly ret-conned that after someone else pointed out the massive inconsistencies between TOS episodes.

Great example - in the S1 episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday", (where they end up back at Earth in the 1960's after encountering a "black star"), they need to slingshot around our Sun to get back to their own time. Between their warp drive and the sun's pull Sulu says they're going Warp 8 on the way to the sun and then after the slingshot and back toward earth, he says they're "off the charts". WTF? That whole trip should not even be an eye blink.

Not to mention that time starts to go backward after Warp 8!!! Seriously - you just f-ing discovered time travel too?!?!?
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Old 03-17-2020, 09:06 PM
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@ChronosGreat example - in the S1 episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday", (where they end up back at Earth in the 1960's after encountering a "black star"), they need to slingshot around our Sun to get back to their own time. Between their warp drive and the sun's pull Sulu says they're going Warp 8 on the way to the sun and then after the slingshot and back toward earth, he says they're "off the charts". WTF? That whole trip should not even be an eye blink.

Not to mention that time starts to go backward after Warp 8!!! Seriously - you just f-ing discovered time travel too?!?!?
They discovered that in S1 E4 "The Naked Time." Time started running backward when they mixed matter and anti-matter cold.

In re the Sun: you're assuming they flew in a straight line. Obviously, they had to spiral in toward the Sun for it to take as long as it did. Messenger did the same thing as it headed for Mercury.
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Old 03-17-2020, 09:21 PM
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You know what I'd do if I were a hostile? I'd either ignore the rest of the ship altogether or just blast it out of space, and then take off after the saucer, which has absolutely no chance of getting away on impulse power. Then I'd take everyone on board as captives to sell in the Galaxy's many slave markets before blowing it to smithereens (or just plain kill everyone and be done with it).
The Star Trek universe as re-imagined by Iain Banks. I'm hoping to see Vulcans retooled as blood-thirsty cannibals and Tribbles as the dominant intellectual life form of the Federation. That'll probably be in the next season of Discovery, actually.

There is really no point in looking for continuity or even basic logic in Star Trek. This is, after all, a series in which the characters routinely submit to being energetically decomposed to component atoms and replaced by a simulacrum at the other end, often being projected onto the surface of a planet whose atmospheric composition, radiation environment, and other essential aspects of environmental safety have not been quantitatively assessed. And it is clear that "Computer" is capable of running the entire ship and performing all major exploratory and analysis functions essentially independent of the crew who appear to be on the ship simply to give "Computer" some drama for entertainment.

As for the warp drive and speeds, I'll just note that some episode of ST:TNG introduced the concept that operating the warp drive at speeds above a certain threshold was causing serious, irreparable damage to the fabric of spacetime, which was subsequently forgotten faster than Murphy Brown's infant child once it posed some issue with plotting.

Douglas Adams at least based his novels on consistent physics, even if it was absurdist made-up physics about Infinite Improbability Drives and the strange mathematics of bistro waiters. None of this mucking about with warp drives and subspace.

Stranger
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Old 03-17-2020, 09:26 PM
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Holy shit, it really did take the collapse of civilization to get you posting again.
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Old 03-17-2020, 09:56 PM
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Holy shit, it really did take the collapse of civilization to get you posting again.
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Old 03-17-2020, 10:26 PM
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@ terentii
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Time started running backward when they mixed matter and anti-matter cold.
Yes, there's lots of that "holy shit" stuff now that I rewatch, but I never thought to question originally. I just happened to watch "Tomorrow is Yesterday" a few days ago.

As far as the direct line vs spiral route - given they're going "off the charts" on the way back to earth, based on Jonathan Chance's post (which I have no reason to question), that would make the straight line trip back max .6 seconds [7 minutes at SOL = 420 seconds, 420 / 729 times SOL) = .6]. So the +30 seconds of screen time it took them would be a very large spiral route!

[As a side note: I've never understood why in some episodes the ships phasers fire like a laser beam, but in others they are like photon torpedoes? Was there ever a ret-conn explanation for that?]
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Old 03-17-2020, 10:41 PM
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As for the warp drive and speeds, I'll just note that some episode of ST:TNG introduced the concept that operating the warp drive at speeds above a certain threshold was causing serious, irreparable damage to the fabric of spacetime, which was subsequently forgotten faster than Murphy Brown's infant child once it posed some issue with plotting.
Hey, that was just one more example of good old Star Trek "message plot" where a point about some issue of social relevance to our time is analogized in the Trek universe and delivered by the Enterprise crew with their usual exquisite subtlety.
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Old 03-17-2020, 10:48 PM
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The Star Trek universe as re-imagined by Iain Banks. I'm hoping to see Vulcans retooled as blood-thirsty cannibals and Tribbles as the dominant intellectual life form of the Federation. That'll probably be in the next season of Discovery, actually.

There is really no point in looking for continuity or even basic logic in Star Trek. This is, after all, a series in which the characters routinely submit to being energetically decomposed to component atoms and replaced by a simulacrum at the other end, often being projected onto the surface of a planet whose atmospheric composition, radiation environment, and other essential aspects of environmental safety have not been quantitatively assessed. And it is clear that "Computer" is capable of running the entire ship and performing all major exploratory and analysis functions essentially independent of the crew who appear to be on the ship simply to give "Computer" some drama for entertainment.

As for the warp drive and speeds, I'll just note that some episode of ST:TNG introduced the concept that operating the warp drive at speeds above a certain threshold was causing serious, irreparable damage to the fabric of spacetime, which was subsequently forgotten faster than Murphy Brown's infant child once it posed some issue with plotting.

Douglas Adams at least based his novels on consistent physics, even if it was absurdist made-up physics about Infinite Improbability Drives and the strange mathematics of bistro waiters. None of this mucking about with warp drives and subspace.

Stranger
Actually, it was not forgotten...
The rotating nacelles on Voyager-class ships eliminate (or reduce) the problem.
  #43  
Old 03-17-2020, 11:14 PM
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Riker was always a loose cannon who didn't obey Star Fleet regulations.

The DS9 solar sail I had managed not to think about. Thanks a lot!
Star Fleet regulations?!

Mark my words: there can be no peace

While Kirk lives!
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Old 03-18-2020, 01:49 AM
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[As a side note: I've never understood why in some episodes the ships phasers fire like a laser beam, but in others they are like photon torpedoes? Was there ever a ret-conn explanation for that?]
That was in "Balance of Terror," a very early episode (the 13th one aired, but it was filmed long before that). Apparently they hadn't tied the phasers down yet, but since it was a destroyer-vs-submarine duel, the idea was to simulate dropping depth charges or laying a mine field. Hence the scattered shots.

I guess at that point they hadn't decided to add photon torpedoes, which can have time or proximity fuses, to the arsenal.
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Old 03-18-2020, 03:09 AM
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Trek plotholes and missteps didn't bother me for a long time. Local TV ran ST from 8:30 to 9:30 PM during the TOS first season but juvenile hall cut the sets at 9:00 so I didn't see complete shows until they were in reruns years later. My cellmates and I speculated on outcomes, usually involving psycho-sexual-criminal twists. We should have been writers.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:48 AM
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@ terentii
Quote:
That was in "Balance of Terror," a very early episode (the 13th one aired, but it was filmed long before that). Apparently they hadn't tied the phasers down yet, but since it was a destroyer-vs-submarine duel, the idea was to simulate dropping depth charges or laying a mine field. Hence the scattered shots.

I guess at that point they hadn't decided to add photon torpedoes, which can have time or proximity fuses, to the arsenal.
Thanks, that makes sense. It worked perfectly in the episode, but it was just compared the later ones it made no sense.
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Old 03-18-2020, 06:31 AM
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...

As for the warp drive and speeds, I'll just note that some episode of ST:TNG introduced the concept that operating the warp drive at speeds above a certain threshold was causing serious, irreparable damage to the fabric of spacetime, which was subsequently forgotten faster than Murphy Brown's infant child once it posed some issue with plotting. ...
I believe it was addresses in the design of Voyager and why they had the nacells rotate, this cite below seems to indicate that Defiant has a 'environmentally friendly' warp drive too. Which if true is amazing that a purpose built war ship would take that into account, war is usually done as screw the environment mode. https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki...geometry_pylon

Last edited by kanicbird; 03-18-2020 at 06:32 AM.
  #48  
Old 03-18-2020, 10:00 AM
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Thanks, that makes sense. It worked perfectly in the episode, but it was just compared the later ones it made no sense.
Like asking why didn't the Enterprise just send down a shuttlecraft with heaters and rice wine to the stranded officers in "The Enemy Within". Because they either didn't know yet that starships had shuttles, or they hadn't budgeted for the model.

Or, more accurately, it would have ruined the tension. Which goes back to the discussion of the "I Shot an Arrow..." Twilight Zone episode: if your story has to be stupid to work, you should tell a different story.
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Old 03-18-2020, 10:48 PM
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They use subspace radio, which is faster than light. (And often faster than even the fastest warp drive.)
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Originally Posted by carnivorousplant View Post
There is one TOS episode where Kirk is far enough away from Star Fleet that he must act before he receives permission.
Are we sure that was due to some sort of subspace delay? Maybe it was a three-day weekend back on Earth and they knew no one would get back to them until Tuesday.
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Old 03-18-2020, 11:48 PM
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Are we sure that was due to some sort of subspace delay? Maybe it was a three-day weekend back on Earth and they knew no one would get back to them until Tuesday.
I see what you did there.
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