Mass, volume, and Warpdrive question.

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by UncleRice, Oct 1, 2011.

Joined:
Oct 1, 2011
Location:
The mountains of NE Washington
Ok, this looks like the right place for this question:
Does a ship's total mass affect Warp drive? Let's say I have a freighter and I load the hull full of stuffed teddy bears and my warp drive's maximum speed to Bajor is Warp 5. Let's say I then pack the hull full of Bajoran granite counter tops. Will I need bigger warp engines to go warp 5 to Bolarus? Will it consume more fuel? Do I only loose acceleration? If mass has no effect, what stops someone from warping a proton mass into a planet? Are Warp engines sizes strictly dependant on ship volume? Is the Warping of space and the forward movement of the ship separate functions?

I've gone to several sites looking for this answer, but it appears there is no canon answer, so what I am really looking for is what would make the most sense to you?

2. blssdwlfCommodoreCommodore

Joined:
Feb 26, 2010
In TOS, there isn't anything specific to mass or volume and warp speed. But, warp drive is affected by large masses/gravity. The times we see the Enterprise go to Warp inside a star system, her "actual" speed is alot slower than if she was flying between star systems. The effect is seen the greatest in "The Voyage Home" where at Warp 2, the Klingon BOP is no where near the speed of light as it breaks orbit. (So in TOS at least, warping into a planet would make the ship slower than light by the time she impacted.)

I haven't watched enough of TNG/DS9/Voy/ENT to give you a better answer other than in ENT one of the episodes it had hinted at a modified freighter with souped up engines was necessary to haul large cargo.

Joined:
Sep 4, 2008
Location:
A Long Time Ago...
This is purely conjecture as there is nothing seen/heard onscreen stating the ship does not reach lightspeed. If we were to rely on interpreting the visual effects then we would have to admit that most of the time we never saw ships going faster than light speed in all of Star Trek.

4. blssdwlfCommodoreCommodore

Joined:
Feb 26, 2010
It's not specifically VFX. When does Sulu announce the BOP is going FTL? After 2 minutes of dialogue while warping around in Earth's orbit? If the Enterprise in "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" or "Operation: Annihilate" is really hitting Warp 8+ they would've shot by the Sun from the Earth without any time for dialogue. Ditto with "The Voyage Home".

5. AlberteseCommodoreCommodore

Joined:
May 3, 2003
Location:
Portland, OR
I'm with blssdwlf. It have not been specifically stated as such, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty conclusive.

--Alex

6. Mr SilverCommodoreNewbie

Joined:
Jun 1, 2010
Location:
UK
I think overall mass would definitely play a factor in determining the maximum speeds of a starship, although I'm not certain that overall tonnage would play a part. I say that because Warp Speed isn't dependant on internal factors such as the crew or the cargo, it's more about the mass of the ship, the gravitational conditions and the stability of the projected warp field.

In Trek, the ships always drop out of warp when they enter various anomalous areas of space. This is usually followed by a line such as "We've hit a gravimetric distortion", etc. We can assume from that, that FTL speeds cannot be attained whilst within big scale gravitational variances. This might also be applied to a planetary level, more specifically the level of gravity on a planet. It might be impossible for all we know for a ship to create a warp field whilst inside the gravity field of certain planets.

7. ngc7293CommanderRed Shirt

Joined:
Apr 22, 2007
Location:
Michigan
If a BOP can make warp speed around a star, (a large gravity well) then it should be able to go to warp near a planet.

8. PatrickivanFleet CaptainNewbie

Joined:
Jul 16, 2006
I recall McCoy asking Spock if he factored in the added mass and weight of the water and whales in TVH... So there must be some issues with it as far as warp speed goes...

Joined:
Oct 1, 2011
Location:
The mountains of NE Washington
I think I've been over looking something. Things like aerodynamic drag and friction do not normally apply in space like they would in land, water, and air. If you apply 10 kilos of thrust to both a 1 ton and a 100 ton craft in space, they will both achieve the same speeds, it will just take longer for one of them. This would mean if someone were to try to warp a proton mass somewhere, they would find accelerating the proton mass impossible, even if putting a warp bubble around it iss possible.

Joined:
Dec 23, 2004
Location:
Ulster
I thought that was to compensate for their time-warp calculations, not simply warp travel.

11. blssdwlfCommodoreCommodore

Joined:
Feb 26, 2010
Yep it was for the time warp.

From "The Voyage Home":
SPOCK: Not with this equipment. I have had to program some of the variables from memory.
KIRK: What are some of the variables?
SPOCK: Availability of fuel components, mass of the vessel through a time continuum, and the probable location of humpback whales, in this case, the Pacific basin.
KIRK: You've programmed that from memory?
SPOCK: I have.

Engaging warp drive next to a high gravity body doesn't appear to be a problem in TOS, IMHO. They just won't be going very fast until they get some distance.

Joined:
Mar 15, 2001
Well, mass = warping of spacetime. The more mass or energy density you have in a given region, the more space is warped. So it stands to reason that a warp drive would have to create some form of virtual mass or hyperdense energy to achieve its effects. And the amount of virtual mass you'd need to generate to achieve a functional warp drive would be so huge that the total mass of the ship or its cargo would be insignificant in comparison. Or to put it another way, the effect of the ship's mass on the geometry of spacetime would be insignificant next to the effect that the warp drive has on it.

I don't understand the question. The mass of a proton is on the order of a trillionth of a trillionth of a gram. It's insignificant. Assuming that by "warp into a planet" you mean "propel into an impact with a planet via warp drive," then what difference would it make? The Earth gets bombarded by protons all the time -- hydrogen nuclei from the solar wind.

Nope. The ship isn't actually moving at all. It's in a bubble of space that's having its topological relationship with surrounding space modified in a way that's equivalent to forward movement at FTL speed. So the warping is the "movement."

I don't know why you'd think that. A proton mass is extremely tiny and easy to accelerate. Heck, the oxygen molecules you draw in and expel by the billions with every breath contain 16 protons each, not to mention 16 slightly more massive neutrons each. And the nitrogen molecules have 14 protons (and 14 neutrons) each, and the carbon dioxide molecules have 22 protons (and 22 neutrons) each. So you're accelerating countless protons with your own muscles as you read this.

And as I said, warp drive isn't a form of thrust. The ship isn't accelerated at all; it's standing still in a piece of the universe that's being relocated.

^I don't know why you'd think warp drive would be slower near a massive body. There's nothing in canon to suggest that. And in fan reference materials, the general idea I've seen in the past is rather the opposite -- that warp drive is effectively faster in regions where space is more curved by mass and energy than in regions where space is more flat and empty. (See the Introduction to Navigation booklet in the 1980 Star Trek Maps for the primary explication of this idea. But some of the discussion in the Sternbach-Okuda tech manuals about how effective warp speed varies with spatial conditions seems to be along similar lines.) As for the differences in apparent "speed" you're describing, that's just artistic license and can't be taken literally.

Approaching it from a real-physics standpoint, it might be more difficult to create a warp bubble in the first place if there's too much mass or energy nearby; at the very least, you'd have to recalibrate the engines to compensate for the effects of that mass/energy on the local spacetime metric. But I don't see any reason why it would make your ship "slower."

13. blssdwlfCommodoreCommodore

Joined:
Feb 26, 2010
Granted the warp itself isn't a form of thrust, the ship is using thrust to accelerate and maneuver in TOS. Ditto again in "The Voyage Home" with the BOP.

Actually there is evidence in canon. Your next statement below makes that very clear since you're calling it "artistic license" to discount it.

Joined:
Mar 15, 2001
Come on, you can't seriously take differences in visual effects as concrete evidence, given how many different, unrelated creative teams are responsible for their creation and how little systematic thought is put into them. Not to mention how many complete impossibilities are included for the sake of aesthetics, like roiling orange fireballs in the vacuum of space, ships that have bright key and fill lights in the depths of interstellar space, nebulae that are millions of times denser than real nebulae, ships that are shown to be only a few ship lengths apart when dialogue explicitly puts them thousands of kilometers apart, etc. It's impossible to take visual effects literally as concrete evidence of anything. To say warp drive is slower near planets just because the folks at ILM who did the shot of the BoP warping away from Earth made it move slowly across the screen -- I'm sorry, that's just not reasonable. It's only evidence of an inconsistency in how different artists choose to interpret the story, not of an in-universe inconsistency.

Joined:
Sep 4, 2008
Location:
A Long Time Ago...
^Yeah, I tried to tell him that earlier. What can you do?

16. blssdwlfCommodoreCommodore

Joined:
Feb 26, 2010
So you're basically cherry picking on what supports your argument and discarding the rest on the grounds that it doesn't fit your world view of Star Trek? Okay.

As I've pointed out before, in TOS, that's what we get. It's got less to do with the VFX and more to do with the time of dialogue.

"Roiling orange fireballs" might just be what a Romulan Plasma weapon looks like. Have you considered that?

"Lighting of ships in TOS" again, have you considered that in the Star Trek universe that's how bright it is?

"Ultra dense nebula" again, have you considered that in the Star Trek universe that phenomena exists? Anyway, not an FX issue.

"Ships shown a few lengths away when they are much farther away by dialogue" - that came with TNG and afterwards and I'm not pointing to TNG. The original TOS FX got that part right.

If you insist that TOS warp drive works in the way you think it works, can you support your argument with the evidence in the show?

We see that the BOP takes about 2 minutes of dialogue to go from the atmosphere to just about leaving orbit in "The Voyage Home" at "warp speed".

What other episodes of TOS would you point to that qualifies for "If we were to rely on interpreting the visual effects then we would have to admit that most of the time we never saw ships going faster than light speed in all of Star Trek"?

Last edited: Oct 2, 2011

Joined:
Sep 4, 2008
Location:
A Long Time Ago...
^Anytime we see the ships moving at warp speed and the camera is not "pacing" the ship.

18. blssdwlfCommodoreCommodore

Joined:
Feb 26, 2010
How do you know how fast the camera is traveling at when it is not "pacing" the Enterprise since you've got no reference point like a planet or starbase?

Last edited: Oct 2, 2011

Joined:
Oct 14, 2005
Location:
Austin, Texas
Man, everyone on this site is on-edge right now, aren't they? At least it's nice to see that someone besides me is taking artillery right now...

I have my own perspective on some of this. But it'll piss off the fans of Abram's flick, who'll label me a "hater" or something for bringing it up. Ah, well, who cares?

See, the ship's main viewer is not a window. It's a computer monitor.

Most of what we see on the main viewer is not real imagery, but rather computer-augmented representations. We can say much the same for what we see on our TV sets, especially during the TNG era.

We see brightly-lit ships in interstellar space. In reality, you'd be able to see almost nothing. But that wouldn't be very useful, so the image on the main viewscreen (and on our TV sets) is "augmented" to let us see something useful. It's not a "real" image, it's an ICON.

Similarly, in the TNG-era combat shots we see many cases where ships "millions of kilometers" aparts seem, on-screen, to be less than a kilometer apart.

Again, we're not seeing "reality," we're seeing computer-generated ICONS representing those ships, portrayed in a way which shows you what's going on far more easily than seeing distant, faint pinpricks of light.

Think of how modern naval "fleet command" boards are done. They may show the entire Pacific Ocean, or perhaps the Persian Gulf. They'll have little models of the ships in-theater, if we're talking about a classical map-board... or they may have pictographical icons which look like those ships, or they may have symbological icons, and often these can be switched between in real time.

The trick is not to see "reality" but to see the most-easilly interpreted representation of reality.

The stuff we see on-screen in Trek fits that bill far better than it fits any practical "realistic" model, doesn't it?

20. PatrickivanFleet CaptainNewbie

Joined:
Jul 16, 2006
Now you're just splitting hairs!