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Trek Tech Pass me the quantum flux regulator, will you?

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Old December 4 2014, 11:07 AM   #1
garak1
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Warp Speed Scale Change

I was reading the Star Trek Encyclopedia the other day and I noted the description of the warp scale change from TOS to TNG. Apparently Gene Roddenberry stipulated that warp 10 was to be the absolute maximum for warp drive in TNG.

Has any timeframe ever been established for this change? It would seem reasonable that ships in the TOS movie era still travelled at TOS warp scale speeds. Therefore, I would assume that the change occurred after STVI but prior to TNGS1.

I can't recall this ever being properly mentioned in any canon or non-canon Star Trek material. Just curious if anyone else knows?
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Old December 4 2014, 11:56 AM   #2
Ithekro
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

It is assumed to be something that happened either with the improvements in the engines of USS Excelsior or the advent of the Ambassador-class.

We don't actually know if they were using the old TOS warp factor scale in the movies. It is assumed because TNG wasn't around until after Star Trek IV. Yet I don't think we ever saw them reach warp 10 in the movies. Even the BoP warping at the Sun was at Warp 9.9 or something.
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Old December 4 2014, 12:19 PM   #3
Timo
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

We do hear the humble Klingon Bird of Prey approach "warp ten" in the first time trip of ST4 (the return trip is at warp 8 or so), so the old scale obviously is in use at that point still... In the new scale, even warp 9.8 (the highest factor actually quoted before Kirk decides this is enough for engaging, well, whatever needs to be engaged for time travel) should be undoable except by the best of the best. ST5 or ST6 don't mention warp factors, though.

No onscreen source addresses, explains or mentions the warp scale change in any way. Similarly unaddressed goes the further change between TNG and the "All Good Things..." future where warp 10 ceases to be the theoretical maximum and warp 13 is heard to be in use.

Fandom sources often associate the change with the transwarp research conducted on and with the Excelsior, regardless of whether they choose to declare this project a success or a failure. The FASA role-playing game for example went with "splendid success", deciding that TNG warp factors were transwarp factors.

In completely noncanon terms, I like to think that warp factors are a natural phenomenon. Like Okuda and Sternbach postulate in their Tech Manuals, there are certain warp speeds that are easier on the engine than the speeds just below or above. Federation science would study this ill-understood phenomenon mainly by building faster and faster starships, there being no theoretical model to explain it.

Thus, back in TOS, the first few "easy speeds" would be labeled warp factors, and it would be noticed that they observe a pattern (say, the good old "speed = lightspeed times warp factor cubed times fudge factor" one, or then some other pattern altogether). This pattern would then be extrapolated for high speeds, even though 23rd century engines at such speeds would be struggling and straining so badly that the engineers could notice nothing in the way of "ease" there. Later on, better engines would be built, and they would start properly experiencing the "ease" of certain speeds - and scientists would notice that they had guessed wrong about the placement of the higher "easy speed" warp factors. Perhaps 1 through 6 would be more or less correct, but 7 through 9 would be exceedingly misplaced, and anything from 10 up would be completely fictional.

So the next model would feature the more correct pattern of 9 properly placed "easy" warp factors, and a guess that no "easy" speeds exist beyond these (because the next speeds suggested by the new pattern would be reachable by the newer engines and no "ease" would be observed there). Labeling infinity as "warp 10" would be a whimsical decision, a classic attempt at engineer humor.

However, that guess would again prove wrong some time after TNG, as even better engines would find more "easy speeds" higher up the scale. The first of these would become warp 10, and warp factors up to 13 at least would be established. And again the scientists would know very well that their best predictions must be incorrect in the long run - but they will do for the time being, and for the engine performance being.

Timo Saloniemi
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Old December 5 2014, 02:52 AM   #4
SicOne
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

I'm of the understanding that the old TOS and ENT era warp drive was light-speed squared (Warp 2 was 4x light-speed, Warp 3 was 9x, Warp 4 was 16x, etc) and the TNG and VOY and DS9 era was light-speed cubed (Warp 2 was 8x light-speed, Warp 3 was 27x, Warp 4 was 64x, etc), and that the change from squared to cubed was a result of warp engines learned in the Excelsior Transwarp Project. I'm also of the understanding that though transwarp failed to deliver the kind of near-instantaneous intergalactic travel that they thought they'd get, it still did vastly improve warp speeds as they went from squared to cubed, good enough to call it a modified Cochrane scale. Anything that promised faster than cubed warp speed was touted as "transwarp" in future stories.

The current Trek Lit era discusses a slipstream drive, as used by the Vesta-class ships and a few others, but this is a special kind of drive that appears more related to deflector-dish technology as opposed to enhanced warp drive. Someone who has read the recent Voyager books might want to chime in here on slipstream drive. I've only read a few of them.

As well as realizing that Warp 9.999997234 sounds utterly ridiculous. Warp 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, etc, roll off the tongue much better than Warp 9.9999997234.
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Old December 5 2014, 05:14 AM   #5
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

No - TOS warp speeds were never clearly defined on screen. Nominally, they were Warp Factor cubed - i.e. Warp was light speed, Warp 2 was 8x light speed, Warp 3 was 27x light speed and so on.

In fact, the on screen evidence is extremely inconsistent as the ship's speed was often defined purely by the need of the story. The Enterprise was apparently capable of going thousands of times the speed of light!
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Old December 5 2014, 08:51 PM   #6
Ronald Held
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

It is usually the speed of the plot but you could invoke the Cochrane factor.
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Old December 5 2014, 09:13 PM   #7
T'Girl
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

SicOne wrote: View Post
I'm of the understanding that the old TOS and ENT era warp drive ...
Both of which might have used a different warp scale from each other, seem unlikely that in a centuries time Kirk's ship could cruise at only one warp factor above Archer's ship.

And alternate old Beverly's medical ship could do warp 14, so there is possibly a different warp scale being used in that future.



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Old December 5 2014, 09:35 PM   #8
Wereghost
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

The NuEnterprise's trip to Vulcan appears to take place at an effective speed of about one million lights. That would be pretty consistent with some of the more fanciful trips from TOS and the movies.

Some time ago I imagined a warp scale that represented effective multiples of light speed in increasing factors of ten (well, why not?). This would have warp 1 being 10^0 lights (ie 1 light) and warp 5 being 10^4 lights, or 10,000 lights, or a little over one light-year per hour. NuTrek speed would be about warp 7, and if you're doing a warp 9 burst then hold on to your hats, 'cause it's about 3 light-years per second! (This might be fast enough for the trips depicted in Star Treks V and VI.)
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Old December 5 2014, 10:27 PM   #9
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

Personally I like the (completely non-canon) idea that you would move faster through different regions of space while doing the same warp factor. W/F 5 being 500 x SOL in some places, and 1000 x SOL in another places.

"Warp highways."

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Last edited by T'Girl; December 6 2014 at 08:38 PM.
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Old December 5 2014, 11:38 PM   #10
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

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Old December 6 2014, 12:04 AM   #11
Timo
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

I'd argue there's no need to assume that either ST:TFF or TAS "Magics of Megas-Tu" actually took our heroes all the way to the center of the galaxy. I mean, that's not even a place a starship could visit in theory! In the former movie, a madman ordered the ship to fly in the direction of the center, but Kirk said this wouldn't work because of an obstacle; the obstacle could have been quite proximal to Earth. In the latter episode, our heroes were to observe the core, and this could and probably should take place at a distance - the larger, the better, really. Neither outing includes dialogue indicating they would be at the core, or anywhere near it.

As for nuTrek speeds, we have moved from "speed of plot" to "speed of cut". In both the movies so far, travel has involved both events and lack thereof, and the latter have been mercilessly cut - so mercilessly that we can't really tell how much was cut.

Earth to Vulcan - minutes or hours? Both are possible, the latter is more likely, considering the amount of stuff in need of cutting, such as Kirk, well, sleeping. It could really be days, even.

Earth to the edge of Klingon space and back? In one direction, long enough for Kirk to come back to his senses (so probably weeks...). Yet in the other, short enough that Carol Marcus barely has time to reach the bridge (hopefully remembering to use those lightning-fast turbolifts rather than running the whole way). Of course, Kirk would be highly motivated to move much faster on the return trip.

And therein lies the catch: high warp is really different from medium or low warp. Take a realistic ocean adventure: a ship in a hurry might be 20-50% faster than a ship not in a hurry, and would need to take suicidal risks to reach such speeds. Then take Trek and its supposedly exponential warp scales: a ship in a hurry might well be 10,000% faster than a ship cruising idly...

That's what we always have to mind when studying Trek speeds: fast is not just faster than slow, but astronomically faster. And, just as with a steamship trying to boost speed by 20% with the engineer sitting on the safety valve, it comes with immense risks. In TOS already, it was made clear that warp six was fine, warp seven was the textbook way to hurry, and warp eight required you to have your last will and testament properly signed - yet the starship could easily do warp fifteen. Our heroes took the risks, and won their gambles. Many a skipper not being filmed for posterity probably perished trying to exceed warp eight with that warp 15 -capable hardware, though.

"Warp highways."
The massive problem with that is that our heroes never mentioned such things, nor acted as if those would make any difference. It would be much like Stargate SG-1 having all the adventures they did, but never bothering to show or even casually mention the actual stargates!

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Old December 6 2014, 09:05 PM   #12
T'Girl
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

Timo wrote: View Post
Merry Christmas wrote: View Post
"Warp highways."
The massive problem with that is that our heroes never mentioned such things, nor acted as if those would make any difference.
But if you think about it, they do show it. The most obvious example would be in the episode That Which Survives, where the Enterprise was fully expected to be able to travel nearly a thousand light years in a reasonable period of time.

Every incident of "speed of plot" could simply be an example of the ship traveling at different rates of speed while employing the same warp factor.

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Old December 6 2014, 10:25 PM   #13
Ronald Held
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

Warp highways or use of the Cochrane factor would work in general. Maybe early on in warp drive development the highways were an easy method of maintaining higher warp factors. Later on they might not have made a big difference.
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Old December 8 2014, 12:14 PM   #14
garak1
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

I'd argue there's no need to assume that either ST:TFF or TAS "Magics of Megas-Tu" actually took our heroes all the way to the center of the galaxy. I mean, that's not even a place a starship could visit in theory! In the former movie, a madman ordered the ship to fly in the direction of the center, but Kirk said this wouldn't work because of an obstacle; the obstacle could have been quite proximal to Earth. In the latter episode, our heroes were to observe the core, and this could and probably should take place at a distance - the larger, the better, really. Neither outing includes dialogue indicating they would be at the core, or anywhere near it.
The whole 'centre of the galaxy' plot in STV always bothered me. Very cool premise, yet glaringly inconsistent with subsequent Trek cartography. Even by the time of STV in ST development it was a little shaky.

The only rational explanation I can offer matches that of Timo's, that Sybok headed in the general direction of the centre of the galaxy.

Thus, back in TOS, the first few "easy speeds" would be labeled warp factors, and it would be noticed that they observe a pattern (say, the good old "speed = lightspeed times warp factor cubed times fudge factor" one, or then some other pattern altogether). This pattern would then be extrapolated for high speeds, even though 23rd century engines at such speeds would be struggling and straining so badly that the engineers could notice nothing in the way of "ease" there. Later on, better engines would be built, and they would start properly experiencing the "ease" of certain speeds - and scientists would notice that they had guessed wrong about the placement of the higher "easy speed" warp factors. Perhaps 1 through 6 would be more or less correct, but 7 through 9 would be exceedingly misplaced, and anything from 10 up would be completely fictional.
Interesting perspective. Effectively you're saying that the 'shift' in warp speeds from TOS to TNG is limited to the higher warp factors. I tend to agree with this thinking.

It is assumed to be something that happened either with the improvements in the engines of USS Excelsior or the advent of the Ambassador-class.
These were my thoughts exactly. The launch of the Ambassador class would seem to be a natural time for the general warp drive upgrade. The Ambassador class would then effectively drive outer exploration, while the older classes of ships were upgraded to new warp drive.
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Old December 8 2014, 01:16 PM   #15
Timo
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Re: Warp Speed Scale Change

But if you think about it, they do show it. The most obvious example would be in the episode That Which Survives, where the Enterprise was fully expected to be able to travel nearly a thousand light years in a reasonable period of time.
Yet it's another example of our heroes never mentioning a shortcut and never going to any explicit effort to find and utilize one.

Then we have situations where our heroes must decide where to go, out of a selection of alternatives (say, Sisko hunting for the Maquis or Janeway trying to get home), and the different speeds available at different directions are never mentioned. This wouldn't be something you leave to your navigator or computer: the CO must know such factors in order to make command decisions.

The only rational explanation I can offer matches that of Timo's, that Sybok headed in the general direction of the centre of the galaxy.
Perhaps Sybok had been told by God that they would get a free ride to the center once they got past the Barrier - and this either in fact happened, or then was a lie and getting past the Barrier satisfied everybody's needs already.

Effectively you're saying that the 'shift' in warp speeds from TOS to TNG is limited to the higher warp factors.
More or less. Speeds up to warp six would be familiar to our heroes already, so if their rationale is the one given by Okuda (sudden drop in power requirements), our heroes should already have them down pat. But perhaps there was a bit of inaccuracy about TOS warp five or six already, and TOS engineers dismissed it when thinking that their "formula" must be correct in predicting somewhat different speeds for those factors.

At least three different "power consumption curves" would exist. The one in TOS would have essentially infinitely many "nice" peaks set in a simplistic pattern; the one in TNG would verify only nine of those, adjusting the high end, and establishing a peak-free curve from warp 9 on; and the one in "All Good Things..." would have that cluster of nine, then a second cluster higher up where the TNG engineers could not yet see. And perhaps finally some sort of a theoretical understanding that would hint at how further peak clusters would emerge at even higher speeds.

the older classes of ships were upgraded to new warp drive
One wonders if this would be possible. Intuitively, re-engining a propeller plane with jet engines would result in a visually different aircraft, with some similarities to purpose-built jets but not many. But intuition means zip, and we already know Kirk's good old warp coils could do extremely high speeds even when the rest of the ship was breaking up from around them. Perhaps upgrades to invisible internal components would be plenty enough?

We don't see ships with TOS movie style engines actually match the high speeds of TNG type vessels when the two appear in parallel. Mixed formations in "Redemption" or the DS9 war scenes are not quoted as traveling at high speed.

Timo Saloniemi
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