# What did "mark" mean on Star Trek?

Okay, now why is everyone firing at Will? Is it the saxophone?

Trombone.

I meant Will Clinton…

Every real-world system of navigation includes both relative coordinates based on the current orientation of the vehicle, and absolute coordinates that have fixed values for everywhere your vehicle could possibly navigate to. And while the math to convert between the two is usually a bit much to be done in one’s head, it’s completely understood, and trivial to program a computer to do quickly and easily.

My favourite set of coordinates for Galactic navigation is the Galactic XYZ system. This uses a three dimensional grid, centred on Sol, and uses an X-axis that appears to be identical to the Star Trek prime meridian. The Y axis is at right angles to this line, and the Z-axis is parallel to the axis of rotation of the galaxy.

There is also a spherical version of this galactic coordinate set, which sounds very similar to the one used in Star Trek, but this sounds a bit to Earth-centric to me.

BTW Earth is sector 001 in the Federation, hehehe.

How do they deal with the fact that the location where a star system appears to be from one frame of reference is a completely different position once they’ve used their faster-than-light “warp drive” to get to that position. Realistically, they’d have to have four coordinates (in addition to the three ordinal spatial dimensions, they’d also have to give it a temporal position) as well as a universally agreed upon fixed frame of reference lest all of this warping about and temporal anomalies get them desynchonized.

Anyway, all of this calling out locations in spherical coordinates is very confusing and prone to error once someone crosses the horizontal or vertical plane, which you’ll would assume would happen frequently with how close the ships always are to each other in every encounter. You would think they would use quaternion algebra to make the transformations easier to manage, but then that assumes that Starfleet Academy even teaches math beyond the level of plane geometry and that the ship’s computer isn’t actually managing everything and letting the crew just babble on for its own entertainment, and I think we all know the truth about that.

Stranger

Shoot, I always thought they were talking about me.

Well yes. There are at least three alternate timelines in the Star Trek universe. You would need three spacial coordinates, a temporal coordinate. and some indication of which timeline you were in. FTL travel carries with it the possibility - some might say the inevitability - of time travel, and with it the possibility of paradox and alternate timelines. They’d need something like a Time Variance Authority to map all this out.

They might just have better computers than ours by then, that can take varying positions of stars/planets and time issues, due to relativity, “warping” etc. into account.

I like the “Google Maps” approach someone mentioned upthread, where all the crew needs to “figure out” is the name of the destination:

"Computer, set a course for P’Jem."
“I can do that, but you’re aware that all that’s there is an ancient Vulcan monastery?”
“Computer…”
“All right. You’re the Captain… who wants to visit a tiny, boring rock.”
“Just set the course.”
“Oh, I did that twenty seconds ago. Do you want me to show my work? Granted, it would be hours of explanations and four-dimensional charts.”
“No, just… make that little chime noise when we get there.”

Now I want there to be a guy named Mark on the bridge, who’s only role is to say, “What?” every time someone reads out coordinates.