# Barely-legible graphics canon?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Noddy, Aug 31, 2013.

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Mar 15, 2001
Yes, that's right. Kinetic energy equals mass times velocity squared. So something traveling at, say, a thousand times the velocity of the Chicxulub asteroid would only need one millionth of the mass to do an equal amount of damage.

Heck, we have plenty of everyday experience with the principle. A bullet has extremely little mass -- maybe 10-12 grams, the mass of a couple of nickels. If someone just threw it at you, it wouldn't do any damage. But since a gun fires it at very, very high speed, that gives it enough kinetic energy to be deadly. By the same token, if your car bumps into a tree at 2 MPH, it won't do any real harm, but if your car bumps into the same tree at 80 MPH -- 40 times the velocity and thus 1600 times the kinetic energy -- that would destroy the car and severely damage the tree, not to mention possibly killing the driver. The speed is a more important factor than the mass.

Yes. It's a matter of angles. The farther away you are when you change the asteroid's course, the smaller the angle you have to change it by to move it by the same amount when it crosses the planet's orbit. At a thousand times the distance, you'd only need to alter the angle by a thousandth as much to have the same effect. This is why NASA & JPL's planetary defense program is trying to identify all potentially hazardous asteroids ahead of time -- because we want to have plenty of advance warning in case we spot something on a collision course.

This is the huge problem with "The Paradise Syndrome." Given that they started two months in advance, it should've been easy to divert the asteroid. They didn't need to try to do it all in one big push; they could've tugged on it with a tractor beam a little bit more each day and gradually nudged it off course. The only possible rationalization is to assume it was an exceptionally massive asteroid, with too much momentum to allow its course to be changed in time. This is also the case with the moon in "Deja Q" -- it was just too big (and they had a lot less time).

But asteroids come in all sizes, and as I said, the faster you get it, the smaller it needs to be in order to devastate a planet. Think in terms of shooting someone with a sniper bullet vs. dropping a boulder on them from five stories up. The bullet is much easier to move into position, but it's just as effective.

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I guess Starfleet's taken out a lot of habitable worlds over the years with all the shuttle crashes they've had.

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i haven't the math to back it up, but I suspect that a whole lot more asteroid survives re-entry than shuttlecraft, regardless of velocity.

4. ### ShawnsterFleet CaptainFleet Captain

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The huge problem with Paradise Syndrome (I just finished a rewatch of TOS) is a big lack of basic understanding of celestial mechanics. The whole threat of the asteroid impact doesn't stand up to basic logic once you think about it.

At the start of the episode Spock states they must "warp out of orbit within thirty minutes" in order to rendezvous with the asteroid in time. Warp out at what speed? If you are 45 minutes late can't you just warp out faster and still make the rendezvous in time? Then, later, Spock states that their delay in leaving "made it imperative that we proceed at maximum warp speed for a period which exceeds the recommended safety margin" OK, again, maximum warp speed over a period of time. Right after the log entry, Scotty states they are traveling at Warp 9.

So, either the asteroid is traveling at speeds reaching Warp 9 (which, according to Lights of Zetar is impossible for a natural phenomenon) or this asteroid is several light years distant from the planet. If the asteroid is that far away, what's the big rush?

However, it's stated that, without Warp, it will take 59.23 days for the Enterprise and the asteroid to reach the planet. So, where did the Enterprise travel to at Warp 9? Just how close or how far away is this rock? Shouldn't 59 days still be enough time to alter the trajectory sufficiently?

Not to mention that the Enterprise, according to A Taste of Armageddon and General Order 24, has enough firepower to lay waste to several planetary cities. Surely this would be enough firepower to break the asteroid up into smaller, manageable pieces that would burn up upon entry.

5. ### serdogthehoundLieutenantRed Shirt

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According to Edward Muller's Antimatter Calculator (http://www.edwardmuller.com/right17.htm) the Chixulub asteroid energy was around 100,000,000 Megatons. According to this(http://www.1728.org/energy.htm) a 12,500 pound object(the size of a twin otter air craft) traveling at 250,000 Kilometers a second would hit with a force equal to 42,348 Megatons.

so while I don't think a shuttle could do that kind of damage (then again we don't know how much a shuttle weights I plugged in weight of a large light aircraft) and while the energy is clearly less it worth remembering that the shuttle would hit with a force equal to 1000 times the large nuclear bomb ever tested.

Put another way a gram object would hit with a force equal to 7 kilotons or it would take a 2 gram object to hit with the force of the hiroshima bomb

Just to put it perspective

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When you send your "explorers" armed with enough weaponry to destroy civilizations, don't be surprised when your neighbors misinterpret your intent.

But, since the Constitution-class seems to be the Federations front line defense, I never bought the "oh, don't mind us we're explorers" non-sense.

A soldier with a massive arsenal at his disposal.

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Everything else you said makes sense, but not this. If you break up an asteroid into smaller chunks, it doesn't make much difference, because you've still got the same amount of mass entering the atmosphere. Even if most of it does burn up, that's still a vast amount of thermal energy added to the atmosphere, and that could be just as devastating. Not to mention that even a few big surviving chunks hitting the planet could still cause global devastation.

The problem is that people tend to think of this in terms of material, the physical substance of the asteroid, when in fact it's the energy that's the real problem. It's the energy -- kinetic, potential, thermal, whatever -- that's delivered to the planet by the asteroid that does the damage. And that energy isn't going to cease to exist just because the material of the asteroid changes form.

So blowing up an asteroid is the worst possible way to deal with it -- unless you can detonate it asymmetrically and impart enough thrust to push the center of mass of the debris onto a different trajectory so it misses the planet altogether. Still, though, those chunks are still going to be there and pose a potential impact hazard on future orbits. As a rule, the best way to reduce the risk from space debris is not by creating more debris. There are smarter ways to divert an asteroid's trajectory while leaving it reasonably intact.

Another problem with your premise is that the surface of a planet is just a very, very thin film on the outside of it. A starship with the firepower to destroy cities, even to sterilize the surface of a planet, wouldn't cause any damage at all to the physical, geological structure of the planet itself, and thus wouldn't be able to do much damage to a large asteroid (and it would have to be very large if they couldn't divert it in 2 months). It's like the difference between the force required to erase grafitti from a stone wall and the force required to shatter the wall.

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9. ### serdogthehoundLieutenantRed Shirt

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Last edited: Sep 3, 2013

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^Of course, a space shuttle can't get up to even the tiniest fraction of the necessary velocity. At this point, no human technology is capable of achieving that. We're talking about a future where there are impulse drives that can propel ships up to high percentages of lightspeed.

(And there's a messed-up quote tag in those last two posts.)

11. ### jpv2000CaptainCaptain

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I feel much smarter after reading all this.