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Old October 22 2012, 11:29 AM   #76
Timo
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

The Picard Maneuver thing could always be explained to be a special tactic only applicable in situations where the opponent's FTL sensors have been damaged.

Since our heroes in all the Trek eras emphasize that "natural phenomena" do not travel at warp speed (apparently, lifeforms don't count), any FTL sensing would be unnatural and "active" and could be observed. It is customary in Trek for individual systems such as transporters or weapons or communications to unpredictably go down in battle while the rest of the ship continues to work. So, there would be every dramatic and logical precedent to Picard realizing that the Ferengi had just lost their FTL sensors and could be surprised by a warp maneuver, provided he made a surprising and extreme maneuver and didn't needlessly alert the Ferengi first that their sensors weren't telling them the whole truth.

Outside this special case of Battle of Maxia, the Ferengi probably are adept at sensing at high FTL speeds. After all, their ships are among the fastest in the neighborhood, and would require navigation aids to match.

Picard's faked log spoke of mistaking a sensor cluster for a weapons bank. Perhaps that's actually what happened? Perhaps the real Picard, once forced to fight, knocked out the Ferengi FTL sensors when attempting to humanely silence their weapons?

Romulan and Klingon space, which happens to be on the other side of the Federation from Cardassia
Does it? Klingons once had a border quarrel with Cardassia, at the Betreka Nebula ("Way of the Warrior").

And while there are no direct references to Romulans sharing a border with Cardassia (just to Romulans operating at the "Cardassian border", which might be their border against neutral space, in "Improbable Cause"), there are indications of ongoing Cardassian/Romulan intrigue (say, Terok Nor featuring Romulan components in "Dax" - technological aid or espionage?). And "Birthright" has Worf take a ride in a small and thus supposedly slowish craft from DS9 all the way to Romulan borderlands, suggesting spatial proximity. So the three villain realms might actually be within easy travel of each other, with only sparsely populated parts of the UFP in between at most, and we'd be none the wiser about the ability of the UFP sensor systems to monitor intrusions into "UFP proper".

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Old October 23 2012, 04:53 AM   #77
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

Over the past few days I've become increasingly aware that the quality of writing -- and coherence in technological development overall -- would improve dramatically in Star Trek if we simply did away with the concept of FTL sensors. You can't see where you're going at warp, and nobody can see you (though they can see where you're going, following the bright flash that follows you through space). You can't tell what's happening on a planet a lightyear away (though you can see what was happening there a year ago if you have a big enough telescope). You can't track the enemy's fleet from a distance and you can't monitor his transmissions. If you want to know what's going on, you have to send someone over there to find out.

In the end, FTL sensors have effectively become plot holes we've been instructed to accept as canon. Given the choice, I'd rather explain them away as artistic liscense and imagine that "IN REALITY" there's a certain amount of delay going on -- that somewhere in the two and a half seconds between Picard asking Data "Any lifesigns?" and Data answering "None detected, Sir," Picard actually stepped out of the room, got himself a cup of tea and dictated his log entry for the day, only to return to that same spot ten minutes later and have Data report "Sensors have scanned the planet for lifesigns. None detected, Sir." I already do this whenever Worf hails anybody (and never waits more than two seconds to announce "No response"), so it makes sense that there's a similar amount of cinematic time dilation going on with the sensors.
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Old October 23 2012, 01:50 PM   #78
Timo
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

In the end, FTL sensors have effectively become plot holes
In the end? Don't you mean in the beginning?

TOS never bothered with an impression that things would be happening in the vastness of "realistic" space. It would have been odd and distancing if the ships didn't behave like their WWII counterparts, with radar, radio and whatnot. Kirk's folks were quite aware of what was happening around them in real time, and the very few cases of communications delay (chiefly "Balance of Terror") were more like bureaucratic delays at the other end than physical limitations. If anything, the attempt to introduce delays-due-distance was a desperate one, detrimental to both drama and consistency.

If every ship were in effect cloaked while at warp, we'd be in an even worse jam trying to explain why wars aren't conducted by surgically destroying the opponent's defenseless homeworld during Day 1, Hour 1.

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Old October 23 2012, 03:48 PM   #79
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

Timo wrote: View Post
In the end, FTL sensors have effectively become plot holes
In the end? Don't you mean in the beginning?
Heh...

If anything, the attempt to introduce delays-due-distance was a desperate one, detrimental to both drama and consistency.
Consistency, yes, if only because they didn't stick with it. But not the drama, not by a longshot. "We don't know how to handle this situation and Starfleet's response won't get back to us for another twelve hours" is a pretty effective plot device, putting extra pressure on Kirk to make a correct decision without being able to pass the buck to his superiors. That extra layer of responsibility adds a bit of flavor to the story premise that IMO has been missing from Star Trek.

If every ship were in effect cloaked while at warp, we'd be in an even worse jam trying to explain why wars aren't conducted by surgically destroying the opponent's defenseless homeworld during Day 1, Hour 1.
Actually, it would require only two things to be established in canon:

1) War is expensive, especially in space. So space wars are fought for possesion of planets, not for possession of space. Only a few planets in the galaxy are valuable enough to justify the expense of a major war, and very few of those planets are the homeworlds of anyone who matters (Bajor being a very famous exception). You never fight a war over a planet you don't intend to keep, so you never invade your enemy's homeworld unless you're prepared to conquer it.

2) Destroying a planet -- or just the surface thereof -- requires a massive fleet, especially if you're assaulting a world that has modern defenses (forcefields for the cities, ground-based emplacements, etc). So if you're fighting someone else for possession of a valuable planet, it is ALWAYS more efficient to focus your resources on the contested prize than waste ships and lives throwing them right at your opponent's fortifications.

Some of these will have exceptions. The Romulans, for example, might choose to preemptively annihilate (or at least conquer/occupy) the home world of some young upstart rather than risk being in competition with them for the mineral worlds later in life. And certain resources might be easier to extract once the surface of the planet along with its population and urban centers have been reduced to molten slag. These would be specific episodes and historical events, though, not descriptions of space war in general, which is still too expensive and too expansive to be conducted over anything but very specific objectives.
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Old October 24 2012, 01:16 AM   #80
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

Of course, that is thinking like rational humans. The Klingons would take advantage of that Day 1 Hour 1. Heck, they went and wiped out the Tribble homeworld. The harmless Tribbles! Just imagine if Captain Archer insulted Kang's cousin twice removed... Earth would've been wiped out just to satisfy some honor ritual

Having FTL sensors is vital to keep things in check in Star Trek just to have some viable defense perimeter, IMO.
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Old October 24 2012, 01:23 AM   #81
TheRoyalFamily
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

Timo wrote: View Post

Romulan and Klingon space, which happens to be on the other side of the Federation from Cardassia
Does it? Klingons once had a border quarrel with Cardassia, at the Betreka Nebula ("Way of the Warrior").

And while there are no direct references to Romulans sharing a border with Cardassia (just to Romulans operating at the "Cardassian border", which might be their border against neutral space, in "Improbable Cause"), there are indications of ongoing Cardassian/Romulan intrigue (say, Terok Nor featuring Romulan components in "Dax" - technological aid or espionage?). And "Birthright" has Worf take a ride in a small and thus supposedly slowish craft from DS9 all the way to Romulan borderlands, suggesting spatial proximity. So the three villain realms might actually be within easy travel of each other, with only sparsely populated parts of the UFP in between at most, and we'd be none the wiser about the ability of the UFP sensor systems to monitor intrusions into "UFP proper".
This site has a very thorough analysis on the size of the Federation, and concludes that, while Cardassia and Romulan/Klingon space are on opposite sides of the Federation, they aren't really that far away. Also, the Romulans and Cardassians are about as close as they can get without being right next to each other.

It is also important to note that space is big. It is probably really easy to cross Federation space, no matter who you are, because even if you can be easily seen, someone has to be looking at you for something to happen. Starfleet has a lot of observation resources at its borders with its more historically hostile neighbors, but not likely too much pointed inward.

For what it's worth, this also more-or-less matches to the map in Star Trek Online, which seems to be a lot more under-the-control of CBS than your other typical non-canon sources.

There is a canon map (the one in O'Brian's classroom on DS9) that shows that indeed Cardassia and Romulus (and Qo'nos) are indeed on opposite sides of the Federation; however, they are far too far apart to be quickly reachable without some other stuff we don't canonically know about (like subspace "lanes" where your warp relative to outside observers might be faster than what your ship can do - which would explain a lot of Trek ).
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Old October 24 2012, 08:29 AM   #82
Timo
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

Actually, that DS9 map comes with a scale, sort of: it shows both Bajor and Cardassia, and the distance between them is roughly known in terms of travel times at least. In scale with that, the Romulan bird symbol isn't too far away from Cardassia.

It should be noted, though, that the map does not exactly show Romulus. It just shows the Romulan symbol, at a distance that would amount to about a hundred lightyears if we accept Bajor and Cardassia as being 5.25 ly apart as intended by the makers of that map (see p. 3 of the DS9 Tech Manual). Perhaps it indicates the current position of Romulan forward headquarters?

Similarly, the map does not feature Earth. But we could assume Earth to lie in the middle of the map, with Dominion conquests now reaching "beneath" it towards the right of the map and bordering on Romulan space just like the plotlines indicate. This is how the map was interpreted for Star Charts and for ST Dimension both.

In any case, that map is an example of the "small Federation" trend prevalent in the making of DS9. The trend would indeed allow Romulans to quickly hop to Cardassia even if basically the entire bulk of the Federation lay between them. That bulk would just happen to be a compact little sphere a couple of hundred ly across at most, with Picard's "8000 ly" claim from ST:FC then referencing some fairly irrelevant outermost holdings.

Even traveling through the very heart of the Federation might be doable without cloaks, as we often see our heroes encounter intruders rather close to Earth. But enter cloaks, and a Romulan or Klingon conquest fleet has every dramatic excuse for nonchalantly penetrating the Federation while heading for some other victim.

The anti-cloak systems indicated to be in place by "Face of the Enemy" may be highly local, available at the hottest potential border-crossing sites only. After all, Romulans continue to frequent space outside their Star Empire after that episode...

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Old October 24 2012, 05:36 PM   #83
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

blssdwlf wrote: View Post
Of course, that is thinking like rational humans. The Klingons would take advantage of that Day 1 Hour 1.
Doubtful. Individual Klingon warlords may be irrational hotheads, but you don't get to become Chancellor of the high council by throwing yourself into stupid fights you can't win. There's also the fact that slagging your enemy's homeworld probably takes more firepower than any one empire actually possesses, once you take defenses into account.

Heck, they went and wiped out the Tribble homeworld. The harmless Tribbles!
There are no words in the Klingon language to describe just how much they HATE tribbles. That one campaign alone probably required decades of systematic asteroid bombardment, not to mention the warriors needed to hunt the little bastards across the galaxy to the last one.

Having FTL sensors is vital to keep things in check in Star Trek just to have some viable defense perimeter, IMO.
But even then it's just a deus ex machina, since you now have to explain why your FTL sensor is powerful enough to scan an enemy fleet fifty lightyears away but not powerful enough to scan his homeworld for weaknesses, or why the alien ship that just snuck up on you wasn't visible 3 sectors away, or why you're unable to instantly locate the shuttlecraft that just escaped from you, or why that starship you've been searching for isn't already visible despite you being in the neighboring solar system. You build a bad rule, you have to start building exceptions to those rules until the rule itself stops making sense.

OTOH, the one problem with STL sensors is a potential strategic loophole that some enemy somewhere could exploit. Rather than tweek the rules to make this seem less possible, we'd probably be better off covering those loopholes with "I would love to see them try!"
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Old October 25 2012, 12:05 AM   #84
TheRoyalFamily
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

newtype_alpha wrote: View Post

Heck, they went and wiped out the Tribble homeworld. The harmless Tribbles!
There are no words in the Klingon language to describe just how much they HATE tribbles. That one campaign alone probably required decades of systematic asteroid bombardment, not to mention the warriors needed to hunt the little bastards across the galaxy to the last one.
While the Great Tribble Hunt is indeed worthy of song, it's more the Hunt than the destroying the Tribble homeworld. According to the TNG technical manual, a single photon torpedo can carry 1.5 kg of antimatter. Just a regular explosion with that would be almost 65 MT - Tsar Bomba was only 50 MT - but due to sci-fi magic the explosion can be more like 100 cubic meters of liquid antideuterium, which works out to be about 690 GT.

In one torpedo.

Plus, torpedoes can burrow through the surface of a planet, so going to the best depth to get the most damage.

Even disregarding the secondary source, the opening volley from the Tal Shiar/Obsidian Order fleet in "The Die Is Cast Pt.2" destroyed 30% of the surface of the planet they were attacking, and that wasn't a particularly large fleet by military standards (both organizations not being military, technically). Making an undefended planet uninhabitable seems almost trivial.
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Old October 25 2012, 12:40 AM   #85
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

While Tribbles might seem "furry" and "harmless" I would suggest that if you were living on a colony and an infestation of Tribbles got loose and ate every last bit of vegetation on the planet and you faced starvation then you wouldn't think they were so cute.
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Old October 25 2012, 12:42 AM   #86
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

TheRoyalFamily wrote: View Post
newtype_alpha wrote: View Post

Heck, they went and wiped out the Tribble homeworld. The harmless Tribbles!
There are no words in the Klingon language to describe just how much they HATE tribbles. That one campaign alone probably required decades of systematic asteroid bombardment, not to mention the warriors needed to hunt the little bastards across the galaxy to the last one.
While the Great Tribble Hunt is indeed worthy of song, it's more the Hunt than the destroying the Tribble homeworld. According to the TNG technical manual, a single photon torpedo can carry 1.5 kg of antimatter. Just a regular explosion with that would be almost 65 MT - Tsar Bomba was only 50 MT - but due to sci-fi magic the explosion can be more like 100 cubic meters of liquid antideuterium, which works out to be about 690 GT.

In one torpedo.

Plus, torpedoes can burrow through the surface of a planet, so going to the best depth to get the most damage.

Even disregarding the secondary source, the opening volley from the Tal Shiar/Obsidian Order fleet in "The Die Is Cast Pt.2" destroyed 30% of the surface of the planet they were attacking, and that wasn't a particularly large fleet by military standards (both organizations not being military, technically). Making an undefended planet uninhabitable seems almost trivial.
Of course, it has been suggested that despite the incredible release of energy, the actual "blast effect" of an antimatter warhead would not be nearly as great as a great deal of the energy released would be in the form of particles that would not interact with regular matter very well.
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Old October 25 2012, 02:11 AM   #87
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

Knight Templar wrote: View Post
While Tribbles might seem "furry" and "harmless" I would suggest that if you were living on a colony and an infestation of Tribbles got loose and ate every last bit of vegetation on the planet and you faced starvation then you wouldn't think they were so cute.
Klingons and Tribbles also seem to have a mutual genetic dislike for each other. Tribbles of course seem to get all riled up by Klingons. And even Worf hates them, and he wasn't really raised Klingon (unless they tell Tribble stories to scare their very young children).
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Old October 25 2012, 04:25 AM   #88
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

TheRoyalFamily wrote: View Post
newtype_alpha wrote: View Post

Heck, they went and wiped out the Tribble homeworld. The harmless Tribbles!
There are no words in the Klingon language to describe just how much they HATE tribbles. That one campaign alone probably required decades of systematic asteroid bombardment, not to mention the warriors needed to hunt the little bastards across the galaxy to the last one.
While the Great Tribble Hunt is indeed worthy of song, it's more the Hunt than the destroying the Tribble homeworld. According to the TNG technical manual, a single photon torpedo can carry 1.5 kg of antimatter. Just a regular explosion with that would be almost 65 MT - Tsar Bomba was only 50 MT - but due to sci-fi magic the explosion can be more like 100 cubic meters of liquid antideuterium, which works out to be about 690 GT.

In one torpedo.
I don't buy that, though. For one thing, getting the matter and antimatter to fully annihilate instantly is going to be an interesting technical trick, you literally have to get every single particle and antiparticle to annihilate simultaneously, at the exact same instant, or else the energy release will interfere with the paths of its neighbors, irradiating and possibly ejecting them before they can find their anti-partner. Even more importantly, only electrons and positrons annihilate to produce x-rays; depending on the energy carried by those electrons, that could mean a blast of hard x-rays, which would filter through hundreds of miles of dense atmosphere irradiating everything without actually producing an explosion. There's also the fact that heavier particles will produce even more exotic products when they annihilate in addition to hard x-rays and some gamma rays.

In the end, if torpedoes were anywhere near as powerful as they're depicted, Trek combat would look very different than it does. The fact that deflector shields can shrug off torpedo strikes dozens at a time suggests that either ionizing radiation just isn't that dangerous in the Trekiverse (and therefore is easily mitigated for a planet with modern infrastructure) or photon torpedoes don't REALLY work that way.

Even disregarding the secondary source, the opening volley from the Tal Shiar/Obsidian Order fleet in "The Die Is Cast Pt.2" destroyed 30% of the surface of the planet they were attacking, and that wasn't a particularly large fleet by military standards (both organizations not being military, technically). Making an undefended planet uninhabitable seems almost trivial.
It's attacking a DEFENDED planet that's at issue here. It's a foregone conclusion that the Dominion could have intercepted the Rom-Dassian fleet any time they wanted to -- indeed, the entire attack was their idea in the first place -- and if they really wanted to defend their homeworld, the battle would have had a very different dynamic. The thing is, they didn't want to defend it, they wanted the Rom-Dassian fleet to get within firing range, probably close enough to the planet that the Jem'hadar could use its gravitational field to box them in and prevent them from escaping. They didn't want to REPEL that fleet, they wanted to SLAUGHTER it.

If we keep that in the canon, it's the exception that proves the rule: even in a world without FTL sensors, the only time you ever discover your enemy's homeworld totally undefended is when you're walking into an ambush.
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Old October 25 2012, 05:11 AM   #89
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

Well considering the fleet in "The Die Is Cast" arrived cloaked the use of FTL sensors for the defending planet is moot. The attacking fleet was already being fed false sensor info so FTL sensors or not would have made no difference.

So this example could instead show that even with FTL sensors, defending forces can feed it false information.

From a Trek POV, the FTL sensors just expands upon detection of FTL targets. They do have a limited range of a few light years for those carried on ships so its not like they know what is happening hundreds of LY away unless they had some giant stationary array. It's not as simplified as you'd like, but even our modern day radars are not cut and dry with the various RF bands and their effectiveness in specific ranges and weather conditions against specific materials.
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Old October 25 2012, 06:39 PM   #90
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Re: Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

The need to track an FTL target in realtime is the origin of the plot hole. It creates a reliance on sensor devices that are accepted as being omniscient, whose limitations depend entirely on the needs of plot or whatever random plot devices can be introduced to create those limitations.

As I've said many times, it would be better for everyone if treknology worked within a set of fixed limitations. "Can't beam with shields up" is a really good example, especially since it's applied more or less consistently to good dramatic purpose. "Can't fire while cloaked" is another one, although the reason for it has become obscured over the years and it is now a bit of an absurdity. The same standard could -- and actually should -- be extended to all technologies, with their limitations sketched out ahead of time.

Limiting sensors to STL velocity would require writers to use them more realistically, at least to the point that you cannot instantly know what's happening at a distance and you have to think about how close the other ship/planet/station would have to be for you to really know what's going on over there. It might also add a bit of a detective element to some stories; if you arrive at a colony and discover it's been destroyed by someone, you can warp a shuttle or probe out to the edge of the light cone and watch the attack with a telescope.
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