"Ion" sounds technical

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Metryq, Mar 2, 2013.

  1. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    "Spock's Brain" is probably the most MST3K worthy episode in TOS. So nit-picking it is gratuitous. However, I ran across a passage in THE STARFLIGHT HANDBOOK (Eugene Mallove & Gregory Matloff, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1989) that seemed relevant.

    During the opening tease, Scotty is gushing over an ion-propelled ship. "They could teach us a thing or two!" Meanwhile the Enterprise flashes between the stars at multiples of the speed of light. I guess "ion" sounded technical to the writer.

    Later in the episode, Scotty again remarks on "ion power"—

    Ooh! Do it again!

    In a similar vein, in the BUCK ROGERS episode "Buck's Duel to the Death," our hero must confront a gangster called the Traybor who uses electricity as a secret weapon—casting bolts like Zeus. Apparently, no one in the 25th century uses olde fashioned electricity anymore, so it's up to Buck to deal with this problem...

    Again, we have a writer who is unfamiliar with any physics. Electrical charge is one of the most fundamental aspects of all matter. So even if New Chicago is powered by an antimatter plant, electricity (and ions!) still comes into the picture somewhere.
     
  2. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    According to the de Forest Research memo from June 13, 1968, ion propulsion was an improvement over the script's original (and, apparently, nonsense) term, "neutron conversion propulsion."

    (The memo does mention that "High velocity ion propulsion would be revolutionary")
     
  3. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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  4. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Don't forget in "The Menagerie" that an Ion Engine Powered shuttlecraft kept pace with the Enterprise at warp speed until the shuttle ran out of gas. :) Perhaps their definition of "ion power" is not the same as ours?
     
  5. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "Ion power" sounds sciencey. Like "parsec."
     
  6. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Another possible explanation might be that what was being discussed was not a Hall effect thruster.

    To be impressive to the TOS era, perhaps it is I.O.N.

    Inertia-O-something...something
     
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I vote for "ion" to be a acronym.


    :)
     
  8. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Like TIE?

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    In the STAR WARS movies (at least the original trilogy) no one calls the Imperial fighters "twin ion engine" fighters. They say "T.I.E. fighters," which lets them off the hook. It is only in the "making of" and fan books that "twin ion engine" comes out. Science fiction can get away with any techno-babble, so long as it does not misuse established terminology—such as having an FTL starship engineer gush over a very slow, low thrust engine, or repeatedly use the term "galaxy" in place of "solar system," as in LOST IN SPACE. (Or having Uhura pick up AM broadcasts from orbit in "A Piece of the Action.")

    Attempting to rationalize "ion" as an acronym in the case of "Spock's Brain" is attempting to hold back the tide with a fork. The episode is a complete train wreck—perhaps a funny train wreck, depending on one's sense of humor.

    "The Doomsday Machine" used a non-committal bit of techno-babble by giving the DM a "total conversion drive." And "Obsession" gave The Creature gravity propulsion. (Tom van Flandern's Meta Model, partly derived from LeSage's corpuscular gravity, puts gravity on the order of 20 billion times faster than light.) One should really be wondering why an entity of that sort has a taste for hemoglobin...

    The point is, an ion engine is not some aspect of the universe that may be wrongly interpreted by contemporary physics. It is an established bit of engineering. Having sci-fi characters punch a hole through an armored steel wall with hand-thrown tennis balls would be equally ridiculous.
     
  10. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah--but it's just trying to work with the material. ;)
     
  11. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    "Spock's Brain" is given at least the feeling of credibility and substance by its Fred Steiner score. You just have to ignore certain problematic aspects of the episode and roll with it, the way you'd ignore the guys performing Japanese puppet theater and focus on the puppets. That's how you get your money's worth. :)
     
  12. Metryq

    Metryq Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    But at least it's understood that those are puppets. Science-less science fiction would confuse the viewers into thinking they were watching LOST IN SPACE.

    Again, STAR TREK features many things beyond known physics, but there is usually some foundation for believing in the exotic technology. For example, concepts accepted by mainstream physics include tachyons, hyperspace and wormholes, all of which might explain the Enterprise's FTL "warp drive."

    However, ion propulsion is a known quantity. Would anyone still accept it if Scotty had been gushing over a starship powered by water wheels? (Or a brewery, as in JJ TREK.) The writers could make it sound technical by saying "hydro power." I suppose if someone could reach relativistic speeds with water wheels, then Scotty would be right to say, "They could teach us a thing or two."
     
  13. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    True. OTOH they had "turbo-lasers," a hybrid of two things that sounded pretty high-tech in the '70s, not so much today.
     
  14. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    I thought turbo lasers were a Classic Galactica thing, in the Vipers. Was it said in Star Wars too?
     
  15. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Commodore Commodore

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    ..at least we were treated to TOS' only ice covered planet! Very cool/interesting stuff!

    Then there's the reference to Stratos as "cloud city" in "The Cloud Minders."

    Hmmm....cloud cites (with orange-hued skies to boot!) and ice planets in the same season....sounds VERY familiar...

    George Lucas must have watched a lot of season 3 and recalled that when writing The Empire Strikes Back!
     
  16. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    An officer on the Death Star tells Vader the Rebel ships are so small, "they're evading our turbo-lasers." That's when Vader decides they'll have to go out and destroy them ship by ship.

    BSG did have the "turbo" button on their control sticks, and they had lasers, but it was Star Wars that rolled them into one.

    For those who weren't around: Back in the '70s Energy Crisis and Gas Crunch days, turbocharging was marketed as an almost miraculous way to get high performance out of smaller, more efficient automobile engines, and cars so equipped let you know with can't-miss "TURBO" decals and badges. It wears engines out faster, of course, but people didn't know that yet.
     
  17. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It was also around that time that "turbo" became an advertising buzzword to suggest "fast" or "powerful," and was attached to products that had nothing to do with turbines or turbochargers. I mean, Turbo Shave?
     
  18. BoredShipCapt'n

    BoredShipCapt'n Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Like "astro-" in the sixties and "laser" in the eighties. My grandparents had a Magnavox hi-fi set called "Astro-Sonic," and Swire Magnetics used to market a line of audiocassettes nonsensically called "Laser."
     
  19. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    Another big thing in those days was to add "2000" to a product name because it sounded futuristic. That went away by the '90s if I recall. :)
     
  20. Redfern

    Redfern Commodore Commodore

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    At least "Best Brains" had the foresight to title its signature comedy series "Mystery Science Theater 3000".

    Sincerely,

    Bill