Mainly this is a thread about fuzzy treknology: some things that apparently exist but whose workings are not well understood. I've been thinking about some of the technical aspects of these things and have come up with some IMO plausible semi-canon explanations. (Semi-canon meaning an interpretation of treknology that doesn't exactly follow what's been established, but doesn't necessarily
violate it either).
Mostly this is for the background to a fan fiction or two that's still in development. As best I can tell any of these concepts can be applied to anything in the Trekiverse, though not necessarily to anything in the tech manual or backstage material.
First thing's first, some basics (more to come in later posts).
Subspace Field Theory
This is the Trekiverse "Theory of Everything." First and most fundamentally it maintains the equivalence not only of matter and energy, but of matter and space
. In other words all elementary particles are essentially condensations of the space time continuum in the same manner as a gravity well. Furthermore, each of the four fundamental forces are actually the SAME force applied by a different force carrier. The electric force, for example, is mediated by photons while the gravitational force is mediated by gravitons. In 2059 Zephram Cochrane demonstrated the relationship between gravitons and photons by proving the principal of gravitomagnetism, which four years later led him to the first practical applications of gravito-plsamadynamics (GPD), which can induce gravitational potentials in the same manner as an electromagnetic field.
Gravitational fields are similar to electric fields in that any gravitationally charged object will exert a force on another gravitationally charged object. Most normal matter contains a positive gravitational charge and is therefore repulsed by the presence of antigravitons. Any accelerating gravitational field will produce a subspace field, within which the speed of light will be slightly higher or lower than it is to an observer outside the field. This has the effect of changing the rest energy of any object inside the field (E=mc^2 where "c" now has a significantly higher value). Natural subspace fields do occur in the case of, say, planets or stars with high rotational periods, and these subspace fields interacting over distances can create regions of raised or lowered "space-energy density". The lower the background energy density of a region, the less energy is required to generate an artificial subspace field.
A warp field is an asymmetric subspace field such that the speed of light is not only higher within the field, but non-uniform; C gains a vector component and is therefore higher in one direction and lower in another. So take the traditional visualization of a gravitational field--a flat gridded plane with a dent in the surface, forming the familiar "gravity well." Flatten the bottom of the gravity well like, say, a pie tin or a coffee cup, and this is a subspace field. If you then tilt this flattened indentation--or worse, angle it so that half of it actually protrudes above the plane and the other half dips below it--then you have a warp field. This, basically, is what a warp field is: a gravity well with a constant forward gradient that dissipates very rapidly at a boundary layer. The "back" of the warp field is raised because of the presence of antigravitons and the "front" is lowered because of the presence of gravitons. This is a "subspace" field because, within the field, space is locally flat with respect to an observer inside the field. In other words, it is a region of space with slightly different laws of physics than the rest of the universe.
Warp fields make navigational deflectors unnecessary, since anything that encounters the leading edge of the warp field will be accelerated away from the ship anyway.
More to come later.