Monday, November 16, 2015

Star Trek: Next Inconsistency: From Warp Drive to Stun Setting

"Space, the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before"

     Now, everybody knows that I may be on of the biggest Trekkies attending the College of Charleston, but this does not mean I am not capable of finding certain inconsistencies with both the plot and physics of the newer Star Trek movies. Again, I promised Dr. Fragile I would restrain my plot concerns in this post, so instead, I will be explaining two technologies necessary for the plot of the movie: Warp Drive, and the Stun setting on the standard issue Phaser.

"Lieutenant Commander Data, set a course for Earth, Warp 8!"

     In literally any Trek production, the use of Warp Drive is used in some context. In this feature film, Warp Drive is used many times to travel across great distances over short periods of time. This is necessary if one wants to traverse the galaxy or be able to escape from enemy ships. But what is it? In order for the Enterprise and other Federation ships to be able to travel across our galaxy in such a short time, they must do one of two things: travel faster than the speed of light (Insert laugh here for breaking laws of physics), or use Warp Drive to shrink the distance being traveled.

     Yes, you read that correctly. Warp Drive allows the Enterprise and her crew to contract the space-time continuum in front of it and then expand the area behind it, simultaneously "moving" the ship to its final destination. by creating a large gravity well and an even larger amount of "negative energy", one could theoretically expand the area behind the ship, thus pushing the ship along. Below is a video detailing the exact theory first introduced by Mexican Physicist Miquel Alcubierre.

     Now there are many problems with this theory, the biggest being the safety of the ship. This is where a certain Starfleet officer, Chief Engineer Lieutenant Geordi LaForge (NextGen), does a very good job explaining how the ship protects herself while traveling at Warp Speed.

     The Enterprise uses matter-antimatter reactions, which produce high energy plasma, commonly referred to as "electro-plasma", with its own magnetic field. This special plasma reacts with the ships "warp coils", casting a warp "bubble" around the ship. This Warp bubble allows the ship to be unaffected by the drag of the space time continuum and permits the safety of all on board. Below are illustrations of said Warp bubble provided by HowItsMade.

"Set phasers to Stun"

     Another technology needed in any Trek production is a phaser, which has 2 main settings: Stun or Kill. Each setting has varying degrees, but I want to focus on the Stun setting specifically. Being it much easier to develop a laser based technology to kill, but significantly more challenging to develop a system that solely stuns the victim.

     When used effectively in this latest Star trek reboot, the Stun setting will render any life form unable to move, usually due to unconsciousness. More severe Stun settings are needed to work on different organisms, but the science behind the Stun setting is the more interesting aspect to study.

     Phaser technology was developed as a way to direct pure energy from a handheld device. It was to have multiple uses from breaking objects into smaller pieces, and also to be used against possible adversaries in self-defense for Starfleet officers. The handheld Phaser would generate a varying amount of energy from chemical reactions inside the device, and would then harness the energy into one, coherent beam. This is similar to a very high powered laser.

     As far as the Stun setting goes, it is similar to stun guns used already in today's world. By producing a large enough charge, one can induce a severe enough pain to cause temporary paralysis or unconsciousness. The main difference between today's stun guns and tomorrows phasers are the ability to shoot said energy in a laser-like beam without the energy dissipating and hurting those around the intended target.  Unfortunately, the trek community accepts this technology pretty widely, and so there are no visual examples I am able to provide with this example.

"Live Long and Prosper"

I would like to dedicate this post to the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991) for not only being an exceptional sci-fi writer, but also an amazing man who always put others before him. I would also like to dedicate this post to the one and only Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015), who inspired generations to pursue the truth through logic and understanding, and followed his advice to the letter. Rest in peace gentlemen.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, even if you are only a grudging fan of the J.J. Abrams reboot of the series.