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

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Old March 9 2009, 03:57 AM   #1
spoonunseptium
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What I always thought was funny with time limits...

This may not be absolutely "Tech," but I thought it related well enough.


In many episodes from all of the movies and all of the series, and specific tool of suspense is this:


"5 minutes until we crash!"

"But remodulating the blahdey-blah will take 7!"

"We don't have 7 minutes, get it done in 5!"


And, somehow, Star Engineer gets it done.


I was wondering- these people, modulating and repolarizing and whatever, are manipulating and re-programming computers - they're not punching giant slugs or eating apple pies. How can you make a computer do something faster in a crunch if it doesn't go that fast all the time? I know many of these instances in various episodes involve, I guess, reorganizing wires and microchips and lasering things, but I've never understood how they could make the process go any faster.

Unless, ofcourse, they make themselves think faster and move their fingers faster.

My favorite reaction to this is Scotty in TOS, who always tells Kirk that he can't make things go any faster.


And, the most practical solution to this is Data in The Naked Now, when he is the only one who can put the computer chips back where they go..because he's a computer and can do it faster than a human (It was one of those "14 minutes till we get hit by space evil!" "But that'll take 2 hours to do!" "We don't have 2 hours...get it done in 14 minutes!" things).


Anyway. Anyone got a justification as to how the engineers can get a computer to do something faster when it's not supposed to be able to?
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Old March 9 2009, 05:55 AM   #2
T'Ressa Dax
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

Overestimating thei time they need? But wait, that's only Scotty, La Forge denies doing it in Relics... I got nothing. Except just ignoring the problem...
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Old March 9 2009, 06:29 AM   #3
Myasishchev
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

I pray for the series where the captain asks the engineer to do something in a retardedly short amount of time, and the engineer just tells him to shut his stupid mouth, "I said five minutes because I meant five minutes."

Those who can think, do Science, those who can do, do Operations, those who can do neither, do Command.
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Old March 9 2009, 07:58 AM   #4
Timo
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

I thought they actually did a scene like that with Torres in VOY? Or perhaps I was just daydreaming.

Anyway, there's a perfectly good way of getting it done in 5 minutes if it necessarily takes 10: redefine "it". That is, only do part of what is being asked, and decide for yourself what is the relevant part. Whether you tell your CO what you left out or not is up to you. I like how Leland-T'Lynch sort of does both in "Skin of Evil": he takes his sweet time with the dilithium realignment, then tells he skipped all the diagnostics and our lives are on your conscience now, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Sir.

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Old March 9 2009, 08:43 AM   #5
JNG
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

Timo wrote: View Post
I thought they actually did a scene like that with Torres in VOY?
Indeed they did. A character defining moment for her, I'd say.

I guess sometimes they cut down on the time estimates by trying to use unorthodox methods instead of the expected ones.

This is a kind of false drama I don't much care for, though. Even if the unexpected happened and the engineer didn't get it done in time, it might be hard for the viewing audience to understand this as a relatable failure, just as I don't think many audience members are on the edges of their seats about what someone will reroute to save the day.
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Old March 9 2009, 09:20 AM   #6
Timo
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

It would also be interesting to see the captain call for a speed past the recommended limits, and get a warning from the engineer; then get a second warning, and ignore that; and, instead of reaching the destination in time, end up with a crippled ship floating in the middle of nowhere, perhaps with a few engineers dead next to an exploded key component. But no, exceeding design limitations carries no penalty.

I mean, exceeding written-down stuff is one thing. Exceeding things when the engineer says no should be another.

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Old March 9 2009, 10:20 AM   #7
Herkimer Jitty
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

Timo wrote: View Post
But no, exceeding design limitations carries no penalty.
That, I believe, is called Tim Taylor technology.
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Old March 10 2009, 08:01 AM   #8
JNG
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

Timo wrote: View Post
It would also be interesting to see the captain call for a speed past the recommended limits, and get a warning from the engineer; then get a second warning, and ignore that; and, instead of reaching the destination in time, end up with a crippled ship floating in the middle of nowhere, perhaps with a few engineers dead next to an exploded key component. But no, exceeding design limitations carries no penalty.

I mean, exceeding written-down stuff is one thing. Exceeding things when the engineer says no should be another.

Timo Saloniemi
There was that pretty good conversation Dax and Kira had in "Paradise" where they tried to "rope" the unmanned, warping runabout with a tractor beam. Dax specifies that if those who built the ship had a "good day," they'd be all right, and if not... Even though we know we won't lose our heroes to something so trivial, it's somewhat effective that at least they commented on it.

I admit to pleasure at recent episodes of Battlestar Galactica where this expectation was subverted; not only is their ship falling apart, but this is partially due to the original builders having cut corners!
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Old March 10 2009, 02:17 PM   #9
Delta1
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

spoonunseptium wrote: View Post
How can you make a computer do something faster in a crunch if it doesn't go that fast all the time?... Anyone got a justification as to how the engineers can get a computer to do something faster when it's not supposed to be able to?
Kill all unnecessary daemons/services/TSRs, tweak the voltage, and increase the clock rate. The same things people do to make their computers go faster here on Earth.
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Old March 10 2009, 05:21 PM   #10
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

It's a multi-core/multi-processor setup in Trek, in addition to killing all other apps currently running they spread the process across more processors... there is an FTL component to TNG computers maybe they can ramp up that speed somehow too.

As for other engineering "overclocks" I too would like to see an episode dealing with the aftermath of an "overclock" going wrong. Dead crewmembers, crippled ship, possible enviromental damage (if near a planet) and of course the original situation is still unresolved. Do they dare try again, or do they wait for help? TUNE IN NEXT WEEK (cue theme music)
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Old March 12 2009, 02:26 AM   #11
Christopher
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

Myasishchev wrote: View Post
I pray for the series where the captain asks the engineer to do something in a retardedly short amount of time, and the engineer just tells him to shut his stupid mouth, "I said five minutes because I meant five minutes."
As Timo said, one of the very first VGR episodes gave B'Elanna a scene very much like that, although more polite. From "State of Flux":
JANEWAY: How long will it take to set this up?
TORRES: We, er, we should be able to make an attempt by tomorrow.
JANEWAY: I want it ready by the end of the day.
TORRES: No, Captain. When I say tomorrow, I mean tomorrow. I don't exaggerate. Tomorrow is the best I can do.
JANEWAY: Understood, Lieutenant.

As for how a process is accelerated, I assume it's not a single task for a computer, but multiple operations that have to be performed by members of the crew. So they're pushing themselves to work faster: to enter the commands faster, move from one task to another faster, maybe bring in off-duty personnel so there are more people working simultaneously on different parts of a problem so you get the whole thing done faster.
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Old March 12 2009, 05:00 AM   #12
Myasishchev
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

^Now, now, I don't see anything in there about Torres telling Janeway to shut up.

But yes, that's good. Score one for VOY.
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Old March 12 2009, 08:19 AM   #13
Timo
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

As for how a process is accelerated, I assume it's not a single task for a computer, but multiple operations that have to be performed by members of the crew.
Or multiple operations that have to be performed by members of the computer.

It's not as if the entire giant cylinder in the starship's innards is one single processor dedicated to one single task. No doubt the computer is flexibly subsectioned into thousands if not trillions of (software) subunits that perform different tasks. Hastening a given task would then simply involve dedicating more of the partitions to that task, at the detriment of other things.

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Old March 12 2009, 03:33 PM   #14
Christopher
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

Myasishchev wrote: View Post
^Now, now, I don't see anything in there about Torres telling Janeway to shut up.
Which is why I said it was "more polite."
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Old March 12 2009, 10:59 PM   #15
hofner
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Re: What I always thought was funny with time limits...

One example in Real Life (TM) of having to rush a process in an emergency is Apollo 13. IIRC, it ordinarily takes a couple hours or so to power up the LEM but on Apollo 13 they had to do it in a big rush because the command module had about 15 minutes of power left. I can just see Haise or Lovell telling Houston it can't be done and to shut the f*ck up.

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