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erastus25 February 18 2009 03:03 AM

Theory about the Warp Drive "scale" switchover
As many of you know, the warp drive scale was recalculated at some point between TOS and TNG so that warp 10 is now infinite velocity. In other words, starships can't exceed warp 10 like the Enterprise does in That Which Survives.

In The Search for Spock the new Excelsior class ship is said to have "trans-warp" drive which is significantly faster than the old warp drives of the Enterprise. Is it possible that the new trans-warp technology became the standard and was eventually called simply warp drive? And as a result the Federation changed how they define warp speeds? Any evidence in universe or out of universe point either way?

Of course, this assumes that the E-D passing warp 10 in season 1 TNG was an error of some kind.

Daneel February 18 2009 05:53 AM

Re: Theory about the Warp Drive "scale" switchover
Perhaps... but then what was the trans-warp we saw in the later series (most notably Voyager, as it was made clear that the Borg use trans-warp conduits to travel)?

I don't think they ever said anything about the Excelsior's trans-warp drive after TSFS, and I believe the Encyclopedia theorizes that it was just an experiment that ended in failure (which is perhaps not canon, but a reasonable assumption).

Your theory has merit, but the obvious real-world explanation is that the writers on TOS never really gave much thought to the actual speed of each warp factor or what the absolute limit was. They probably didn't foresee that a time would come when a bunch of nerds would obsessively pick apart such matters. ;) The TNG-and on writers apparently did, so they settled on a new warp scale that was clearly different from the old one and had Warp 10 as infinite speed.

Of course, that brings us back to the original question, which is why, in the fictional Trek universe, did Starfleet switch to this warp scale (or rather, switch back, since the TNG-era warp scale was used on Enterprise)? Who knows? We may never get an answer, but then again, I didn't really expect to get an answer on the "Klingon forehead" issue either. Maybe it's as simple as Kirk and co. using a system that is akin to kilometers/hour while everyone else was using something akin to miles/hour (you know Kirk, the renegade -- he always has to be a little different...).

Timo February 18 2009 08:21 AM

Re: Theory about the Warp Drive "scale" switchover

...but then what was the trans-warp we saw in the later series?
We could well argue that "transwarp" always means "better than current warp". Thus, when Starfleet adopted the technology tested on the Excelsior, the next rainbow became the new transwarp. And since the Borg drive clearly is better than the TNG era warp, it's transwarp by definition.


...or rather, switch back, since the TNG-era warp scale was used on Enterprise...
Uh, no, it wasn't, not really. We never got any ENT references to "warp 10 is infinite speed", and we never got any specific references to which warp factor would match which speed.

Not that canon material would allow us to establish the TOS or TNG equations, respectively - both are pure fan material, not supported by the shows and sometimes grossly contradicted by them. But even if we assume that the TOS scale was v=c*wf^3 and the TNG scale was as portrayed in the TNG Tech Manual, all the evidence in ENT is equally compatible with both of those scales. After all, the scales do not differ much from each other on low warp factors, and Archer's ship only ever reached warp 5 plus a few decimals.

IMHO, the similarity of the two scales on the lower figures is a good clue as to what happened. Scientists in the ENT and TOS eras were only familiar with low warp factors, since their machines could do no better. And they thought that those followed a simple pattern where it was power-optimal to fly at warp factors that were the cubic root of the speed. It was an elegant equation, so it made for a good natural law.

Yet after TOS, ships became faster, and it was found that the optimal power curve didn't obey the cubic law at higher warp factors - indeed, any TOS warp factor past 5 no longer fell on a power minimum at all, and thus wasn't a "true" warp factor. The power curve shown in TNG was discovered to be the true one, at least up to the new warp 9.

Of course, in TNG, ships struggled to get past the new warp 9. So it would only be natural to assume that after TNG, ships got better and the scientists once again discovered that the warp curve behaved differently from what they expected at high speeds. There were new power minima there, so by the time of "All Good Things..." the engineers would once again believe in warp factors past nine but below infinite speed.

Timo Saloniemi

Bosch571 February 18 2009 02:39 PM

Re: Theory about the Warp Drive "scale" switchover

Timo wrote: (Post 2626377)


...or rather, switch back, since the TNG-era warp scale was used on Enterprise...
Uh, no, it wasn't, not really. We never got any ENT references to "warp 10 is infinite speed", and we never got any specific references to which warp factor would match which speed.

Not entirely correct, We got the "Neptune and back in six minutes" quote from Archer who clearly used it to point out the speed of the Enterprise a ship designed with a top speed of warp 5. We can calculate the now speed because we know the distance to Neptune, it turns out that it takes a warp factor between 4.5 to 4.7 (if we take the proposed TOS scale) to make the trip in six minutes, depending on the relative position of the planets in the solar system.

We also have Archers quote of going 30,000,000 kilometers per second, which also translates to 4.5 on the TOS scale.

Although this may not be conclusive it at least shows that the writers used the proposed TOS scale to calculate their speeds in ENT and in doing so kinda validates the scale (at least for ENT and unless you want to argue that starfleet changes the scale between ENT and for TOS too).

Alidar Jarok February 18 2009 09:19 PM

Re: Theory about the Warp Drive "scale" switchover
Yeah, I believe it was the writers' intentions to use the TOS scale (TOS scale from what, I can't remember, though). Of course, then they managed to go to Qo'onos is 5 days, so plot always takes priority ;)

Daneel February 19 2009 03:32 AM

Re: Theory about the Warp Drive "scale" switchover
It's true, they never said on-screen what warp scale they were using on Enterprise. I suppose it could have been the TOS one. I was basing my comment on statements made by Andre Bormanis around the time of Enterprise's premiere. He said (I think this was in Star Trek: The Magazine) that they were planning to use the TNG warp scale for the prequel series. Why that is, I'm not certain; I guess it's because it was the one used in the majority of the shows in the franchise -- it was the one fans and writers were most familiar with, and it had clearly defined speeds and limitations.

But I don't know... maybe the scale used in Enterprise was completely different from the ones in both TOS and TNG. Perhaps the warp scale was reevaluated and redefined every century or so (this might also explain how the E-D goes to Warp 13 in the alternate future of "All Good Things...")

Still, good theories all around. Let the great debate continue!

erastus25 February 19 2009 07:31 AM

Re: Theory about the Warp Drive "scale" switchover
*Sigh* One suspects that warp speed scales will make sense about the same time that stardates do.

Timo February 19 2009 07:52 AM

Re: Theory about the Warp Drive "scale" switchover
On the "Neptune and back in six minutes" thing, there's too much uncertainty to tell whether it matches the TOS or the TNG scale for low warp factors.

Assuming they started from Earth, the distance is somewhere around (4.5 billion klicks plus to minus 150 million klicks) times two, that is, 8.7 to 9.3 billion klicks. This in six times sixty seconds is about 24 to 26 million km/s, or 81 to 86 times lightspeed. And 85 c is just around warp 4 in both the supposed TOS equation and the TNG Tech Manual graph. 30 million km/s would be 100 c, which again hovers between warp 4 and 5 in both scales.

It might be fun to think that TPTB in charge of "Broken Bow" or ENT in general used the TOS scale (even though TOS never used the TOS scale!), but it's just as probable that they used the TNG scale which would have been readily available to them in tabulated form in the Encyclopedia, without the need for any hands-on math.

Timo Saloniemi

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