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Old June 20 2013, 12:17 AM   #72
Christopher
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Re: Has anyone else noticed the major plot flaw in TWOK?

solariabsg25 wrote: View Post
As to visually seeing the explosion of Ceti Alpha VI at fifteen light-years out, why would they? Do starship main viewers reach that far? What exactly does the "visual range" mentioned in all Treks mean?
It means that the writers are trapped by Earthbound thinking, the unquestioned assumption that horizons exist. Asking how far your view "reaches" in space doesn't make any sense. If you're in a dark, clear enough area at night and look in the right part of the sky, then you can see the Andromeda Galaxy, 3 million light-years away, with the naked eye. Our best telescopes can see all the way to the edge of the observable universe, 13.8 billion light-years away. It's not a question of how far your vision reaches, just a question of how bright the thing you're looking at is and how sensitive your detector is. We can see a galaxy 3 million ly away with the naked eye because it's big and bright enough, but our best telescopes are still discovering red dwarfs less than 10 ly away because they're really, really dim.

So "visual range" would have to mean the resolution limit of whatever cameras/telescopes you're using. It probably refers to sufficient proximity to make out detail, as opposed to simply seeing a speck of light and getting spectroscopic data from it, say.


Also, how much of a "flash" did the explosion generate?
Anything powerful enough to destroy a planet would have to involve a hell of a lot of energy. The gravitational binding energy of the Earth, the amount of energy you'd need to pump into it to blow it to pieces, is equivalent to the Sun's total energy output for one week. A week is about 10,000 minutes, so if we assume that Ceti Alpha VI was comparable in mass to the Earth (since it and Ceti Alpha V could be so easily confused) and that it took, say, 10 minutes for the planet to fully disintegrate, then the energy involved would be about 1000 times the intensity of Sol's light. This would be nearly as bright as the star Alpha Ceti itself.

Not to mention that as the debris and dust spread out, it would create an observable debris disk, or -- depending on the angle of the orbital plane relative to the ship -- occult the star and cause a dimming of its light. The effect of the dust cloud might also affect the spectrum of the star's light passing through it or reflected off it. And the dust and debris itself would radiate in infrared, creating a detectable signature. These are the kinds of things that let us detect protoplanetary nebulae and debris disks around distant stars.


It also works the other way, where the crew see an explosion in real-time from a distance where the light should have taken hours to reach them, and this isn't just due to the viewscreens, as events have been witnessed in a similar way by just looking out the window (from Ten-Forward for example).
The technical term for that is "mistake." Which is kind of the point -- that TWOK is loaded with them. As indeed is most SF film and TV, because its writers think that SF allows a level of sloppy research that would rarely be considered acceptable in any other medium. (I've never seen a story set in Paris that assumed it was in Antarctica, its people spoke a made-up language, and the Eiffel Tower was a thousand miles high. People writing in other genres generally do at least a modicum of research rather than just pulling random nonsense out of a hat.)
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