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Old October 30 2012, 03:52 PM   #97
Crazy Eddie
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

Timo wrote: View Post
It's really just a practical limit to how close something has to be before you can scan it.
But there goes realism out of the airlock already (explosively decompressing in a particularly unconvincing way). Nothing interesting in space is just light-minutes away.
Of course it is. You just happen to BE a few light minutes away when you notice it.

Remember, Star Trek is about exploration, not astronomy.

Surprises are categorically ruled out when you fly with a blindfold on and only take it off at the destination.
Actually, warping into a solar system and taking off the "blindfold" only to discover that, say, every planet in that solar system has been reduced to rubble is, IMO, a surprise. Or, in a more straightforward example, you drop out of warp in a solar system and the first thing you see is a giant amoeba eating the sun (and nobody's left to wonder why Starfleet's subspace telescopes didn't see that coming).

What's really interesting, though, is that 90% of Trek plots MOSTLY behave as if the sensors were STL anyway. The three greatest examples being "Best of Both Worlds" where Enterprise can't scan the fleet until after they've dropped out of warp, and also "The Arsenal of Freedom" where Enterprise doesn't scan the surface of Minos until AFTER it enters standard orbit (however, it is implied to have launched a probe there prior to warping into orbit). The most glaring example is, ironically, "The Battle," not because of the Picard Maneuver (although that is a major one) but because Enterprise fails to detect the Stargazer until it's about three minutes away under impulse power. In this last example, that practical sensor range depends a lot on what kind of speed impulse power actually implies. If it's the high relativistic velocities of the tech manual, Stargazer would have been about half an AU away when Wesley spotted it; if -- more likely -- those are relatively gentle orbital velocities (5 to 10 or 15km/s) then Wesley spotted it a few thousand kilometers away.

In either case, "something interesting" is happening close enough that the sensors don't need to be FTL at all; the distances involved are far too short to allow that.

No, it's between STL and FTL sensor devices. If I meant otherwise, I would have said as much.
Naah. You just happen to have an incorrect understanding of what you want.
Well then, the next time I have an opinion I'll ask YOU what it is since you clearly understand what I think better than I do.

In order to get the plot to the ship for the next episode, the plot has to travel between stars in a matter of days or weeks at the very most. That's the very basic starting point, FTL by definition already.
Yes, FTL propulsion. Nowhere in that is FTL sensor capability in any way necessary.

One needs to either define its capabilities or define its limitations, but leaving it undefined invites random asspulls when the writers run out of ideas.
There is no upside to defining a Trek gimmick's limitations down to the sort of accuracy you desire. These things are not supposed to be one-trick ponies...
But that's exactly what they become when you assign qualities to them for a specific plot purpose and then never use those qualities again. That's the reason the Picard Maneuver ceased to be a viable tactic after "The Battle": because subsequent writers forgot about it.

When those capabilities are defined ahead of time -- or even when additional writing slightly modifies those capabilities -- keeping track of them is a way of preventing "one-and-done" plot contrivances. Thus people shouldn't be grumbling themselves "Funny how the lifeform sensors only work when there isn't a squad of guys laying in ambush..." That one would already be covered (e.g. "Can't scan through walls from orbit" or "Can't tell the difference between animals and people.")

there is no story utility to a sensor that only presents infrared images or other such nonsense.
Of course there is: your sensors are limited, therefore you have to beam down to the surface with a tricorder and see for yourself. They already do this as a matter of course; the upshot here is that they really don't have any other choice, and beaming down is the ONLY way to find out what's there.
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