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Old May 11 2013, 07:59 AM   #185
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Re: Starship Size Argument™ thread

anotherdemon wrote: View Post

You misunderstand. I meant that a simple shuttle having a warp accident and smashing into a planet would most likely devastate it. Accidents can wipe out planetary populations..., so it'd make sense for proper Starfleet vessels to have immense armament compared to what we see as militarily appropriate through the eyes of today.


The energy has to go somewhere. As it's not transmitted to the surrounding space when entering and exiting warp, it's a decent assumption that it's stored as KE as the vessel moves at warp. There's no mention of mass alteration and time dilation during warp, so we can probably assume that the mass of the vessel is the same.
At the risk of bringing science into Star Trek, not so fast.

"The" energy? What energy are you talking about?

If we restrict ourselves to the established physics of relativity, then the amount of energy needed to accelerate an object to faster-than-light speeds (continuously, starting from rest, along a "best attempt" trajectory) has to be infinite. That is to say, no matter how much fuel you consumed, you'd never get there.

Therefore, to avoid infinite fuel consumption, a warp drive must artificially reduce the inertial mass of the craft, from the point of view of the outside universe, in addition to acting in ways contrary to presently established physics. (By the way, in there is an argument for it causing the craft's inertial mass to vanish, but that's beside the point.)

In fact, reducing inertial mass is exactly what warp fields do, according to Star Trek canon. From TNG: Deja Q:

Deja Q wrote:
Q: Simple. Change the gravitational constant of the universe.
Q: Change the gravitational constant of the universe, thereby altering the mass of the asteroid.


LAFORGE: You know, this might work. We can't change the gravitational constant of the universe, but if we wrap a low level warp field around that moon, we could reduce its gravitational constant. Make it lighter so we can push it.


LAFORGE: Extending warp field forward.
PICARD [OC]: Engineering, is that the forward limit?
DATA: Yes, Captain. We are unable to encompass the entire moon.
PICARD [OC]: Do you recommend that we proceed?
Q: The two parts of the moon will have different inertial densities.
LAFORGE: Stand by, Captain. I can adjust the field symmetry to compensate.


DATA: Inertial mass of the moon is decreasing to approximately two point five million metric tonnes.
LAFORGE: It's working. We can move it. Firing impulse engines.
In other words, the kinetic energy of a ship moving at warp really can't be as huge as one might assume, if one were to extrapolate from known physics alone. For, if it were, it would be too huge for the warp drive to work at all. One function of the warp field must be to reduce the kinetic energy, by reducing the inertia of the craft, as it is perceived by the outside universe, especially as the lightspeed barrier itself is pierced.

I eagerly look forward to seeing how STiD deals with this next week.

Now, on the other hand, a ship traveling at a high sublight speed, but without a warp field, and smashing into a planet could certainly cause a catastrophe.
“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP” — Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

Last edited by CorporalCaptain; May 11 2013 at 08:31 AM. Reason: clarification
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