Federation Law of restricting cloaking device

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Brainsucker, Sep 7, 2012.

  1. TheRoyalFamily

    TheRoyalFamily Commodore Commodore

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    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 :rommie:).
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    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...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.

    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.

    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!"
     
  4. TheRoyalFamily

    TheRoyalFamily Commodore Commodore

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    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.
     
  5. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    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.
     
  6. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    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.
     
  7. TheRoyalFamily

    TheRoyalFamily Commodore Commodore

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    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:rommie:).
     
  8. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.

    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.
     
  9. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    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.
     
  10. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  11. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    The thing is, about 74.5% of Trek plots would simply be gone if our heroes couldn't see what was happening around them in real time. No deviating from course to examine an odd reading, a shipwreck, a planet that didn't exist two days ago. No way to track a fugitive. No chance to stop an invader. And no way to contact home base for interesting new assignments (unless one postulated a system that can be used for realtime communications but not for realtime sensing, which would exhaust the salt deposits of Utah).

    Nearly everything about Trek's futuro-tech is "dependent on plot needs" anyway, including warp drive, Starfleet regulations, Federation political and economical structure, interstellar alliances and animosities, and the biology of the heroes and villains. There's no inherent downside to that. All it takes is a bit of bookkeeping.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  12. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No, the same plots would exist, they would just have to be established with a bit of forethought instead of a random "sensors are picking up a planet that wasn't there two days ago." A really great example of this is "The Corbomite Maneuver" where the destruction of the Marker Buoy has a brief interlude several minutes long during which Kirk is able to go below, grab a sandwich and chat with McCoy before the Fesarius actually catches up with them. Had this been, say, a Voyager episode, Fesarius would have right on top of them after 15 seconds of dramatic music.

    In such cases, starships would either have to rely more on long range probes (whose subspace signals can travel faster than light) or writers would have to take care to build the passage of time into the script itself instead of compressing the entire event into a single scene (much like the "Hail them." "No Response" thing). The time it takes for your science officer to receive back the scanning pulse is time that could be spent on strategizing, looking up records, or even -- GASP -- character development!

    OTOH, those stories may not require instant cognition anyway, they would merely require reducing the size of the Trek universe so that "We're the only ship in the area" really just means "there's another ship in a neighboring system, but they're too far away to help."

    The inherent downside is that the story elements themselves become unimportant window dressing to what is essentially a sci-fi morality play (e.g. Gangster Planet, Black and White guys, Yangs vs. Kohms, etc). If the background and scenery matters at all, it needs to be set it stone first and not shifted around all the time for writers' convenience. If it DOESN'T matter, then there's no real point to having each episode take place on the same ship with the same characters in the same fictional universe; Star Trek becomes a fancier space-based "The Outer Limits."

    If you're going to have a consistent setting over a number of years, the most commonly recurring plot devices need to be set in stone. Not just for the audience, but for the writers; in later years in TNG they ran into situations where even the writers couldn't remember how half their technology worked and wound up either contradicting earlier stories or pulling technobabble out of thin air to serve as temporary plot devices.
     
  13. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    In TOS, I'm not seeing what the problem is. Even with FTL sensors, they are range limited so a starship still would need to get close to the "story" to get a reading.

    TNG and onwards I think still had a range limit although they threw a whole lot more technobabble filler in there. <shrugs>
     
  14. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    ...Decades.

    You can't have any sort of starship TV adventures with STL sensors. It just won't work.

    The distinction you seem to desire is clearly not between STL and FTL sensors, it's between insanely fast FTL and ridiculously fast FTL. And that distinction, while dramatically possibly quite significant (say, giving Kirk time to grab that sandwich), is in absolutely no way related to "forethought" or "pre-establishing". In all situations, the plot dictates whether Kirk be eating sandwich or barely having time to blink; the facts will wrap themselves around that necessity.

    That isn't so even in historical fiction: if drama so requires, it is always possible to insert a faster than usual horse messenger, a ship that bravely sails during the winter under unusual calm, a mercenary who fights on credit for an unusually long while, or a castle that wasn't really quite there. The background becomes the more interesting when its dramatic role gets highlighted by an exception. Or when it gets deliberately exaggerated and stretched, such as every incident in a Wild West town being decided on the intervention of the local cavalry when the show is about the cavalry.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  15. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    * Buzz * Wrong. We would have accepted "minutes" or "hours" or possibly even "days." It's really just a practical limit to how close something has to be before you can scan it.

    More importantly, if your ship travels considerably faster than your scanning pulse, it is nearly always more efficient to warp over to an area of interest and scan at close range anyway.

    Really? Because just off the top of my head I can think of at least three that DO.

    No, it's between STL and FTL sensor devices. If I meant otherwise, I would have said as much.

    Which has to be established ahead of time as an addition to the scenery. Nowhere in historical fiction do you see a messenger on a horse breaking the sound barrier just so the General can get a faster reply from his Lieutenant on the other side of town (so the rider leaves and returns in the same scene). You see that a lot in satire -- Monty Python, for example -- but not historical fiction.

    Yes, a pre-established exception that is part of the setting. What we're basically discussing is the captain of a 17th century ship who possesses a telescope that can see through walls, read body heat, detect objects on the bottom of the ocean or do whatever else the Captain wants it to do. You can either make it a gimmick that the Captain has this telescope that does practically everything (a la the Sonic Screwdriver) or you scale it back and make it a "more powerful than usual telescope."

    Star Trek stories insert too many arbitrary limitations on sensor devices to take the former approach. Your sensors can scan through deflector shields, but they can't scan through magnetic fields; your sensors can track individual biosigns and tell them apart, but they can't get a transporter lock in the rain; your sensors can tell the difference between vulcans and Romulans in season 3, but can't do it in season 4.

    These are problems you have when you never make up your mind what a scenery element actually does. One needs to either define its capabilities or define its limitations, but leaving it undefined invites random asspulls when the writers run out of ideas.
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    But there goes realism out of the airlock already (explosively decompressing in a particularly unconvincing way). Nothing interesting in space is just light-minutes away.

    Not unless you already decided at the start of the mission to concentrate your attention on that specific thing. But that is exactly what results in 74.5% of the plots becoming flat out impossible. Surprises are categorically ruled out when you fly with a blindfold on and only take it off at the destination.

    Naah. You just happen to have an incorrect understanding of what you want.

    In order to get the plot to the ship for the next episode, the plot has to travel between stars in a matter of days or weeks at the very most. That's the very basic starting point, FTL by definition already.

    There is no upside to defining a Trek gimmick's limitations down to the sort of accuracy you desire. These things are not supposed to be one-trick ponies: there is no story utility to a sensor that only presents infrared images or other such nonsense. So, given the dramatically required levels of overall versatility, slapping a specific limitation on minor things such as speed or range would be just odd.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Of course it is. You just happen to BE a few light minutes away when you notice it.

    Remember, Star Trek is about exploration, not astronomy.

    Actually, warping into a solar system and taking off the "blindfold" only to discover that, say, every planet in that solar system has been reduced to rubble is, IMO, a surprise. Or, in a more straightforward example, you drop out of warp in a solar system and the first thing you see is a giant amoeba eating the sun (and nobody's left to wonder why Starfleet's subspace telescopes didn't see that coming).

    What's really interesting, though, is that 90% of Trek plots MOSTLY behave as if the sensors were STL anyway. The three greatest examples being "Best of Both Worlds" where Enterprise can't scan the fleet until after they've dropped out of warp, and also "The Arsenal of Freedom" where Enterprise doesn't scan the surface of Minos until AFTER it enters standard orbit (however, it is implied to have launched a probe there prior to warping into orbit). The most glaring example is, ironically, "The Battle," not because of the Picard Maneuver (although that is a major one) but because Enterprise fails to detect the Stargazer until it's about three minutes away under impulse power. In this last example, that practical sensor range depends a lot on what kind of speed impulse power actually implies. If it's the high relativistic velocities of the tech manual, Stargazer would have been about half an AU away when Wesley spotted it; if -- more likely -- those are relatively gentle orbital velocities (5 to 10 or 15km/s) then Wesley spotted it a few thousand kilometers away.

    In either case, "something interesting" is happening close enough that the sensors don't need to be FTL at all; the distances involved are far too short to allow that.

    Well then, the next time I have an opinion I'll ask YOU what it is since you clearly understand what I think better than I do.:rolleyes:

    Yes, FTL propulsion. Nowhere in that is FTL sensor capability in any way necessary.

    But that's exactly what they become when you assign qualities to them for a specific plot purpose and then never use those qualities again. That's the reason the Picard Maneuver ceased to be a viable tactic after "The Battle": because subsequent writers forgot about it.

    When those capabilities are defined ahead of time -- or even when additional writing slightly modifies those capabilities -- keeping track of them is a way of preventing "one-and-done" plot contrivances. Thus people shouldn't be grumbling themselves "Funny how the lifeform sensors only work when there isn't a squad of guys laying in ambush..." That one would already be covered (e.g. "Can't scan through walls from orbit" or "Can't tell the difference between animals and people.")

    Of course there is: your sensors are limited, therefore you have to beam down to the surface with a tricorder and see for yourself. They already do this as a matter of course; the upshot here is that they really don't have any other choice, and beaming down is the ONLY way to find out what's there.
     
  18. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Upon watching "The Battle" again, I think I had mistook the Picard Maneuver as an FTL trick against LS sensors. But the dialogue makes it sound more like a limitation on how the FTL sensors work on the Ferengi ships and E-D. A "maximum warp speed" hop seems to be required to trick the sensors. Of course that doesn't address the obvious points of either firing on both images or shoot the closest one ;)
    DATA: You performed what Starfleet textbooks now refer to as the Picard Maneuver.
    PICARD: Well, I did what any good helmsman would have done. I dropped into high warp, stopped right off the enemy vessel's bow and fired with everything I had.
    RIKER: And blowing into maximum warp speed, you appeared for an instant to be in two places at once.
    PICARD: And our attacker fired on the wrong one.
     
  19. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Based on the dialog in that same episode: a vessel traveling at warp "seems to disappear." And picard describes it as "what any good helmsman would have done."

    The operative trick in the Picard Maneuver is to momentarily avoid detection with a short-distance warp hop, giving you just enough time to get into firing position and the bad guys insufficient time to obtain a new firing solution. We can derive from this that a starship's sensors cannot really track a vessel moving at FTL velocity; the ship instantly outruns its own reflection (whatever EM signature the sensors are using to image it) and for all intents and purposes doesn't have a real location in time and space until it stops.

    So even if the Ferengi had realized what was happening, there'd be a moment where they have to release the weapons lock on the first image and get the computer to treat the second image as a new target, lock on and fire. Stargazer drops out of warp with only a single target and can more quickly get a firing solution, giving it the initiative. All of this, again, depends on the sensors not being able to track a ship moving faster than light, and more importantly, being dependent on radiation that moves at light speed.
     
  20. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Well, let's see. Did the Ferengi have FTL sensors? Yes, it must have in order for them to lie in wait at a moon, spot the Stargazer traveling by at Warp 2 and then catch up and attack it.
    PICARD: We were traveling at warp two through the Maxia Zeta star system when this unidentified starship suddenly appeared and fired on us, point-blank range.

    RIKER: Where did it come from?

    PICARD: It must have been lying in some deep moon crater. First attack damaged the shields. In the confusion, they hit us a second time.
    And what was required of the Picard Maneuver?
    1. High Warp
    2. The Enemy choosing the wrong target to fire at.
    3. Possibly some kind of timing for a sensor bearing "return arc".
    PICARD: I improvised. With the enemy vessel coming in for the kill, I ordered a sensor bearing, and when it went into the return arc

    DATA: You performed what Starfleet textbooks now refer to as the Picard Maneuver.

    PICARD: Well, I did what any good helmsman would have done. I dropped into high warp, stopped right off the enemy vessel's bow and fired with everything I had.

    RIKER: And blowing into maximum warp speed, you appeared for an instant to be in two places at once.

    PICARD: And our attacker fired on the wrong one.
    How does "seem to disappear" fit into this?

    It would still have to be at "high warp" and "appear at two places at one time". The main viewer clearly showed it in action and that "seem to disappear" could be the instant the ship hopped into high warp, possible timed with a sensor pulse return to then "suddenly appear" again in a different spot. The enemy ship could still be running FTL sensors but a high warp hop could've occurred between FTL sensor readings leading to a "seeming disappearance". The main viewer does show that the E-D had no problem tracking the hop though. So that would leave crew error in targeting the wrong ship, not necessarily a timing problem in re-targeting ships.
    DATA: I have computed a possibility, Commander. Since even deep space contains trace gases, sir, a vessel in the Picard maneuver might seem to disappear, but our sensors could locate any sudden compression of those gases.

    All, IMHO, of course :)