Thread: Enterprise Pic
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Old January 19 2008, 01:13 AM   #309
Cary L. Brown
Rear Admiral
Location: Austin, Texas
Re: Enterprise Pic

BorgusFrat said:
Jackson_Roykirk said:
...but JBElliot, what's wrong with welding? It's the most effective and modern way we have today of joining two metals together, and I would think it would continue to be in practice (in some form) 240 years from now.
Dude, no offense, but seriously -- if you really and truly think that something as "today" as welding will survive into the 23rd century as a means of constructing starships made out of who-knows-what advanced materials and that such a construction method would hold fast during something as fantastical as "warp flight" that's hundreds of times the speed of light, well . . . I just think you need to open your mind more to the "creative" aspects of science fiction.
Dude, if you think that the basics of material science is somehow going to be totally rewritten... not just ADDED TO, but all the existing known facts thrown out... you're living in Sci-fi land rather than reality.

All basic materials fall into one of three general categories. Polymers (long strings of organic molecules)... aka "Plastics." Ceramics (ionic/crystaline materials, including all glass materials, all electronic medium, etc). And metallics (materials that have low electron affinities, and thus create a "sea" of loose electrons in the material matrix... providing malleability, strength, conductivity, and opacity at the same time).

There are also "composites" which are simply non-homogenous mixtures of the various subcomponents. An example would be structural concrete, which is a composite of steel bars (called "rebar") for tensile strength, combined with a mixed ceramic structure called "concrete" for compressive strength.

Now, it's fair to assume that in three centuries, some new breakthroughs in material science may occur, and we may ADD to this in some fashion. But as far as materials that exist in nature, EVERYTHING useful for mechanical construction falls into one of those three categories. (Wood, for example, is a porous composite which consists primarily of a polymer known as cellulose. Human bone consists of organic materials made with a high concentration of natural polymers, along with calcium-based natural ceramic structures.)

Now, you can either say that they'll totally abandon the use of naturally-available materials in the future (HIGHLY UNLIKELY) or they'll add to it in some fashion (which is reasonable... but says nothing about abandoning metallics as primary construction materials) or that, for the most part, these people live and work in the same universe, with the same basic laws of nature, which we live in. In which case, it's entirely unreasonable to assume that metallics would be abandoned.

It's also entirely inconsistent with what we've seen in ALL the variations of Star Trek which have ever been shown. The show, whether you like it or not, assumes metallic construction techniques make up the majority of the load-bearing structures we've seen. Call it "modern biases towards current techniques and materials" if you really want to... it's well-established in Trek that this is what's done.

Now, if you're talking about metal... there are really four ways to join metals together. You can use fasteners (rivets, clamps, bolts, etc). You can solder (ie, use a dissimilar metal to joint two metal objects). You can weld (cause two metal objects made of the same basic material to "merge" into what is, effectively, a single metallic mass). Or you can bond (ie, use an adhesive).

Can you think of any others?

Now, soldering is an EASY process, but it's not good for load-bearing applications (it gets used in electrical work, or in plumbing work quite frequently, because it requires relatively low temperatures and makes for a fairly quick and easy joint).

Bonding is OK... it's very effective for isolating one material from another, and some bonding agents are very effective with metallics. But I've never seen a bonded joint that's stronger than a true contiguous metal region would be.

Fastening is what we do most often. Aircraft aren't welded together, they're rivetted for the most part. And this is a very effective method... also quite easy to fix, if you happen to "pop" a rivet or two. Threaded fasteners are less reliable but are easier to reuse and make for easier maintenance. Clamps and other approaches are also used, but less frequently.

SO... welding. Welding, in theory, gives an interface between two metallic parts which is indistinguishable from the basic material on either side of the weld. You're not gluing two plates together... you're turning two plates into one plate.

It's very tough to do that in real life, because of certain recrystalization effects you get around the high-temp weld joints. Yet, you CAN make a weld joint that is totally indistinguisable from the surrounding metal. For small parts, for instance, you can put it through a series of heat-treatments which cause all metallic crystaline structures to regrow, essentialy becoming totally uniform. This is done, for instance, on jet aircraft turbine blades (though the ideal is to make a blade from a single piece...
and ideally from a single uninterrupted metallic crystal!)

SO... welding is VERY unlikely to go away, as I see it, and I expect metals to remain the standard building material for the foreseeable future.

However, I do expect to see vast improvements in HOW we do welding, as well as further refinement in the metallurgical sciences... to optimize the metallic behavior of whatever you're working with.

I don't expect that a 23rd-century starship would be assembled using 20th-century resistance-welding hardware (which is what I THINK you're objecting to, isn't it?). But I still expect it to be made from metals and to have those metals be welded.

If the ship was constructed in the fashion we're seeing here, you'd basically have to send the entire starship through an annealing furnace to prevent stress-fractures throughout the hull.
That's like saying that sutures and thread will still be used to operate on people . . . but that's not what we saw, even in TOS, is it?
Well, you're arguing TECHNIQUE there, not materials science.

Basically, in TOS, you still cut people and still seal those cuts. But you use an organic adhesive ("anabolic protoplasm") as the "glue" rather than, as we sometimes do today, using cyanoacrylate glue (our most common contemporary surgical adhesives are based upon cyanoacrylates).

In the times of TOS, or even TNG, they still have to cut people open to get inside. They just have a somewhat "nicer" way of sealing the wound, that's all.
I respect your right to your opinion, and I anticipate some of the "well, welding is what we saw in the opening of DS9" or maybe "that's certainly what it looks like they're doing in this teaser pic", but just because something is the "most effective" and "modern" way of doing something today doesn't mean it will last into the future with such an unbelievably advanced society as depicted in TOS.
Why do you think that TOS is "unbelievably advanced?" That's a really odd thing to say. Other than the fact that they've found a few new technologies (FTL travel, controllable antimatter anihillation as a power source, matter teleportation, etc), which we could discover NEXT YEAR as far as any of us know... hell, we could have it now!

The culture and, overall, the science of TOS isn't "unbelievably advanced" at all. Nor, for that matter, was TNG's... although TNG did definitely set the "unbelievably smug about ourselves" quotient quite high. Part of what I liked about DS9 was that it basically played off of that smugness and, well... MOCKED it, or at least demonstrated how misplaced it had been.

It's only about 250 years ahead of where we are now, after all. We've learned a few things in the past 250 years, but none of the basics we knew back then have really gone away, have they? The major advances since then have been flight, computers, genetics, and the atom. But, contemporary smugness aside, people today aren't really any different than we were 250 years ago.
I mean, who says that starships are even really constructed of "metals" as we know them?
Well, Andrew Probert told me (and also has repeated this other places) that he's always assumed that HIS Enterprise (the 1701(r) from TMP) was skinned with a ceramic/polymer composite, and that it was essentially deposited in-place. Well, we have ceramic/polymer composites today... we make some auto bodies and even aircraft structures out of them (in common usage, think of "fiberglass bodies" on cars). This works... but a metal body on a car is far more likely to keep you alive in a crash, so despite the fact that glass-reinforced polymer composites are less expensive (if mass-produced) and much lighter for the same "design limit" strenghts, they haven't been used to replace metal body panels yet, and I don't expect that they ever fully will. A metal body panel absorbs energy through deformation... a fiberglass panel absorbs slightly more energy during initial deflection... but it then fractures, resulting in NO PROTECTION WHATSOEVER. Metal bodies are just safer. The same wreck in two similar cars, one with a fiberglass body and one with a metal body, both designed to carry the same operational loads, will result in an orders of magnitude higher likelihood of survival for the guy in the metal-body car.

Like it or not... a metal's ability (due to it's "sea of electrons" nature) to deform and stretch elastically makes it FAR more suitable for high-stress applications. SO, with all respect to Andrew, I disagree with his take.
It's always refreshing to come here and read the posts of people who think outside the box, but I just think you missed the boat on that one.
I don't like seeing modern-era welding hardware in use on a future starship any more than you do... which leads me to conclude that this entire scene is really intended to be figurative in nature rather than part of the film's plot. But I really don't think he "missed the boat."
As for the image, meh . . . I'd have to see more, but certain aspects of this (the clearly TMP-inspired bridge, the multiple phaser turrets, the bizarro font choice mixes, the Hulk-sized engines) make me go immediaely into a "wait and see before judging too harshly" mode. YMMV.
I'm in that same mode, definitely. I'm rather disappointed to see that this bit (obviously done far ahead of the "real" SFX work, I'm convinced) indicates an INTENT to use a design much different than what we're used to. But since SFX work normally isn't done 'til post-production... there's still a chance that what we're seeing isn't really what we'll see, too.

And even if it IS, it doesn't mean that the film won't be a good film. Just ... "not as good as it ought to be."
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