Ramming planets at warp velocity!

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Mars, Aug 23, 2012.

  1. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    In a novel I read, the Romulan War series, a certain tactic was used involving a Romulan bird of Prey ramming into a planet at warp velocity to change a class M planet into some other class through the release of all that energy into the planet. In the book the crew of the Romulan ship sacrificed their lives to destroy an M class planet in this way. But who's to say a starship employing such a tactic needs to be manned? One can develop warp missles that are launched from a planet or starship designed to impact with another planet at its maximum warp speed. But I really think this shouldn't be allowed, because once this cat is out of the bag it would be employed endlessly.

    Instead I would have a rule that if a warp bubble intersects a mass that is significantly greater than the starship that's generating it, the warp bubble should simply collapse and the starship stop. The ship simply resumes the velocity it had relative to the planet before it entered warp speed, conservation of momentum holding, so the ship would simply crash into the planet at a typical low sublight speed and perhaps make a crater in the planet's surface, that's it.

    What do you think?
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    The latter interpretation of warp collisions would make more dramatic sense, yes.

    Perhaps our only reason to believe that warp fields themselves would release major energies to "realspace" on impact, rather than harmlessly dissipate them to "subspace", comes from the TNG episode "New Ground" where a self-coherent, surf-like warp field (a "warp soliton") pushed physical objects along at FTL speeds but was said to shatter planets if allowed to impact with them. But that was apparently with much more energy than featured in the warp field of a mere starship or missile or similar object.

    We have also sometimes seen that while warp fields can be maintained close to massive objects (unlike in universes like Asimov's Foundation one or Niven's Known Space, where nearby mass makes the use of FTL engines impossible), warpships become slow as molasses near such objects. Warp ten in ST4:TVH looks like crawling when taking place near the Sun, for example - and warp within Earth's atmosphere in the same movie doesn't seem to amount to too many Mach numbers...

    So perhaps an attempt at ramming a planet would be thwarted by the ship losing all its warp energies already on approach, much like a Hägar the Horrible -style, man-hauled battering ram would be useless against a fortress situated on a high hill, the climbing of which would take all strength out of Hägar's men and all speed out of the ram.

    Ramming a fellow starship might of course be a bit more successful, then. But possibly two warp fields merging would result in an uncontrolled release of energies - yet not inward towards the "victim" ship, but in so many directions that the impact would just throw the two ships in different directions and out of warp. This even if the ramming happened at high speed differential, say, a ship at warp nine ramming a ship at warp six.

    The fact does remain that planets have not been warp-rammed, and ships at warp have not been rammed by ships at warp. Yet sublight ramming between ships seems to work fine, even when shields are in use - and Riker did attempt to ram a sublight Borg cube with his own starship at warp, suggesting that such a maneuver makes tactical sense somehow.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I had thought that the major damage came about by igniting the dilithium in the crust .
     
  4. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    If little ships could easily destroy a planet, the Federation would have a big problem on its hands, what about all those little ships with warp drives that are in private hands? What if someone takes a runabout and crashes it into a planet at its maximum warp speed? There may be all sorts of fanatics with some credits on hand capable of buying small starships to conduct these terrorist attacks on unsuspecting planets for various reasons.
     
  5. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    There are several examples from TOS ("Operation Annihilate!", "Tomorrow is Yesterday") and TFS ("The Voyage Home") where warp is dramatically slowed down as one approaches a large body such as a star or a planet. In TOS/TFS at least, by the time a high warp ship actually hits the surface of a planet it'd be traveling more like high supersonic speeds.

    As far as TNG and it's production goes, it could go either way as their warp rules appear to be different.
     
  6. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In Best of Both Worlds, Riker was about to kamikaze the Enterprise by Warp 9 ramming the Borg cube when Data came through.

    So there is precedent that a warp speed collision will mess whatever it hits up.
     
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well, not "whatever." A planet is different than a ship, considerably more mass, a powerful magnetic field, and class M planets are deep inside solar systems with any effects being close to a sun provide.

    Even the largest Borg cube is tiny compared to a planet.

    Starships have deflector systems to prevent even small particulates away from the ship. if the warp field was destructive in of itself, why not just let the particulates be destroyed by the field? This suggests that the field can't do any damage. The high speed impact of the Enterprise in BoBW would have damaged/destroyed the Borg cube. Given the distance separating the ship and the cube, the Enterprise probably wouldn't have achieved warp speed prior to striking the cube, it would have been traveling at "pre-flash" speeds.

    :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
  8. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    At this stage of TNG, Riker might not have completely given up on his quest to do the clever and unexpected. Perhaps ramming at warp does not give you the destructive energies of warp fields (there might be none) or of great momentum (at warp speed, your mass might be zero or less, and your momentum thus negligible) - but instead merely is so exotic that the Borg might not have an optimized defense up to counter such an unusual attack type?

    A ship in the process of powering up a warp field to values associated with warp nine speeds might be a "slippery" target to Borg tractor beams. Or a warp field at such a stage of activation could chew up the space around it, not with incredible destructive force but still to some degree, helping Riker penetrate deeper before his antimatter blew. Or the warp flash itself might do some damage to targets in the very immediate vicinity (as in, touching your ship) somehow.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    In the Invasion novel series, it was thought that ramming Voyager into an artificial moon wouldn't be enough. Maybe a narrow punch out. Even the Death Star beam--even if powerful enough--would just punch a hole or make one spot on earth uber-hot.

    You need to put something in a planets core and build up pressure from within.
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    ...Or use fancy materials that trigger a destructive cascade reaction within the planet when subjected to enough initial heat or pressure from the impact. Like dilithium in the planet in the ENT Romulan War novels, or (in a reverse of that, sort of) a suitably "catalyzing" exotic substance aboard the ramming ship in the novel Great Starship Race by Diane Carey.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    A planet that reactive probably would have exploded from natural causes long ago. You wouldn't need a starship to trigger it, a simple asteroid impact will do. Of course that leaves open the question of how such a planet would form in the first place since planets are formed from accreted impactors or asteroids and meteors.
     
  12. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    It's quite plausible for a dilithium-rich world to require a subspace field for the trigger or catalyst, considering what we know of this magical substance. Few natural phenomena would exist that could create such a field. So, warp ramming makes for a plausible tactic in this special case.

    The storyline from The Great Starship Race is slightly more difficult to swallow, as the ship doing the ramming is carrying at most a few tons of the substance, unlikely to make a difference even if it were pure antimatter (the Dreadnought missile from the VOY episode indeed had a ton of that, and wasn't supposed to make entire planets disappear). But the supposed result isn't Alderaan-type disintegration anyway: instead, the attack is going to result in an explosion a few miles below the crust that will open a super-volcano of sorts, spewing hot cobalt vapor to burn and poison the surface of the world. A bit less ambitious, a tad more realistic for a WMD based on warp ramming.

    Except that warp isn't actually needed in this case to create the destruction. Warp is only needed to deliver the "warhead" through possible defenses, whereas a high sublight speed would supposedly already cater for the called-for penetration of crust. So, a bit of additional realism there, for something this fantastic anyway.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. Jimmy_C

    Jimmy_C Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Warp drives take energy to operate. So whatever energy is used to generate the subspace field would be dissipated into the environment by the conversation of energy. The total destructive energy has an upper bound of whatever store of antimatter is aboard (ignoring chemical explosives and nuclear fusion or fission devices such as the impulse engines). The lower bound is a kiloton to gigaton nuclear explosion (the impulse engines exploding, from The Doomsday Machine). They probably have enough destructive energy to blow away the entire atmosphere (as per Obsession).
     
  14. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    Consider though that warp drive is Pseudo motion, an object moving at sublight speed just under the speed of light might actually have more kinetic energy than a ship moving at warp. I think the ship should have no more energy than the amount of antimatter it consumed to reach that particular warp velocity. So if the ship just sits in orbit and breaches its antimatter containment, it would release just as much energy as if it collided with the planet at warp.
     
  15. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    In the Philip K. Dick short story The Variable Man, Earth is at war with the Centaurian Empire (which in the story completely circles our solar system). Earth scientists invent a missile that will fly toward Centaurus at FTL speeds, and then drop out of FTL inside the star. Due to the method of FTL, dropping out of FTL speeds means that the object has nearly infinite mass at relativistic speeds, which would cause the sun to implode.

    It's not "warp", but it is FTL. When traveling at near FTL speeds, according to relativity the object will have nearly infinite mass. That would be the cause of any damage. Warp bubbles work differently, though, in that the mass of the object at warp is actually decreased.
     
  16. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    I think we should try to maintain conservation of energy, if it takes a certain amount of energy to achieve that warp velocity, then no more than that amount of energy will be released upon impact with a planet, so it makes no difference whether the ship explodes on the surface due to a breach of its antimatter containment or if it impacts on the surface at maximum warp velocity, and any antimatter left unused would then react with the ship's matter hull and with the planet's matter surface to achieve a total conversion of mass to energy, that would be a big explosion, a matter/antimatter explosion is 100 times more powerful per unit mass than a thermonuclear bomb.
     
  17. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    A fun story, I remember. A pity relativistic mass doesn't actually work that way.
     
  18. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    Well, I don't want to ruin the ending for anyone who hasn't read it.
     
  19. yenny

    yenny Captain Captain

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    A explosion force of 368,838,360,000,000,000 tons of TNT will result when a 198,000 ton starship traveling at warp one crashes into a planet.
     
  20. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    If the starship derives its energy from its store of antimatter, it doesn't matter how fast the ship is moving when it hits a planet, just so long as it hits the planet with sufficient force to rupture its antimatter containment system. There is no free energy derived from going to warp, some antimatter is consumed to achieve warp speed so there is less antimatter and more warp energy, but the two balance each other out.

    According to predictions based on relativistic equations, objects going faster at FTL speeds have actually less energy than those going just above the speed of light. An object as rest has the same kinetic energy as an object traveling at infinite speed. Warp drive is just a way of dividing up that FTL speed. Warp 10 is the equivalent of an object at rest energy-wise.