Structural Integrity of Starships?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by YARN, Jun 9, 2011.

  1. YARN

    YARN Fleet Captain

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    When you look at deck plans of starships they don't appear that they would be very sound, structurally. The decks appear to be very thin, as do the walls.

    If, for example, one built a full-size 1:1 1701 model for an ultimate Trek museum, it seems to me that you would need multiple supports to keep the thing from falling apart. Even if you built it from the best materials, the neck would not support the primary hull, and the nacelles struts would bend and buckle.

    Granted starships are live in space and have magic force fields holding everything together, but it seems that when a ship encountered a catastrophic loss of power the torsional stress from any significant change velocity (rotating or moving in a random direction) would tear the thing apart.
     
  2. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I see your point about the ship collapsing under it's own weight and sagging nacelles. Yeah, if it was sitting on the Earth! (i don't accept ST09).

    But it doesn't have to support weight in the conventional Earth 1G sense. We know the Enterprise stays in space all the time. Similarly, I suppose if the ISS was placed on Earth, it might not be able to hold itself together either.

    Now warp field stresses and subspace whatnot are a whole 'nother thing. Hence the SIF and IDF.
    Plus the decks and bulkheads may seem thin if they were our equivalent steel or titanium or aluminum. But with the tritanium and duranium composites along with the unobtanium, maybe thin is sufficient.
     
  3. Herkimer Jitty

    Herkimer Jitty Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    THE NECK WULD SNAP RITE OF IF U HIT IT WITH A FEW TORPEDOS!!!!111ELEVENTYONE
     
  4. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    My problem with most trek deckplans is similar. Nearly all of the volume of the ships tend to be habitable space. There should be a higher percentage taken up by structure and mechanics.
     
  5. Unicron

    Unicron Continuity Spackle Moderator

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    Such as basements, breweries and bowling alleys? ;) :D
     
  6. SicOne

    SicOne Commodore Commodore

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    Oh, and arboretums; don't forget arboretums!
     
  7. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    To be sure, it would be pretty futile to install a few I-beams to withstand 3G stresses if the ship is expected to routinely operate under 2000G stress from the impulse engines. The I-beams would only be of assistance in an incredibly unlikely set of circumstances where the main structural support (the magic field) fails but the ship is under ridiculously minimal stress.

    Having structural supports inside a starship is a bit akin to making the surfaces of a kite out of solid plywood in case the balsa cross-beams happen to snap... Or installing chicken wire netting inside a rubber balloon to prevent it from collapsing in case of puncture. Those things might still fly, with extreme penalty, but nothing practical would really be gained from the reinforcing.

    Really, it would be fun to see starships that leave ashore such excesses as outer hulls. If the field magic fails, mere matter won't stop death under any realistic circumstances, so why haul it along?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  8. YARN

    YARN Fleet Captain

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    We've seen starships lose power on many occasions, drifting in space. Magic force fields may be "factual" in the Trek universe, but catastrophic power losses are also known empirical facts of the Trek 'verse, so YES it would be a good idea to build a sturdy kite/balloon, considering that if the balloon bursts you are in the vacuum of space.

    Moreover, when your ship is without power and is drifting in space, the 2000 G stress of full impulse power is a relative non-issue. One would hope, however, that one's craft at least had a good enough frame to fire control thrusters to stop a spin and stabilize the ship.

    Even without the stress of a 1G environment, it's hard to imagine the ship holding together very well in case of catastrophic power loss. Heck, anyone who has ever built a model of the 1701 has encountered the "sagging nacelles" challenge. A little torsional stress, and it seems to me that things would start coming apart at the seams.
     
  9. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    If we're accepting the existence of magic force fields in Trek, why not magic materials that make up the ship since TOS didn't mention anything about SIFs?
     
  10. Santaman

    Santaman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I assume that even a Galaxy or D'Deridex can be parked at will on Earth and not collapse under its own weight, the materials they use are far stronger then anything we can dream of, as for impulse and warp acceleration, yep, you need yer forcefield magic, else you and your ship will turn into incredibly strong metal splinters mixed with a meaty red paste.. :vulcan:
     
  11. YARN

    YARN Fleet Captain

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    One question is then, HOW magic are these materials? I can't imagine building a 1701 from the strongest materials we know that would not be "gravitationally challenged." Heck, even tiny models of the 1701 often have nacelle bending/drooping problems when displayed.

    Another question, supposing that the design is so inherently weak that we have to invoke magic materials in addition to magic force fields, isn't this in and of itself proof that these ships lack a desirable structural integrity. At the point that we have to suppose that it is made of unobtainium and held together by impossibylon fields, hasn't something gone wrong?
     
  12. Santaman

    Santaman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^^ As for models, the TMP refit model doesn't seem to suffer from nacelle droopage, also was strong enough to withstand the occasional head butt from the guy who painted it. ;)
     
  13. Mister_Atoz

    Mister_Atoz Commander Red Shirt

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    I agree with Yarn, I don't have a strong understanding of engineering/physics but I'd like to think somehow these ships survive these stresses without magic fields. Do we know for certain there would be extreme stresses at warp? since technically its the space warping around the vessel?
     
  14. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    Yes on extreme stresses. In TOS as the engines improved or were modified to go faster, a few times the Enterprise shot up to Warp 10 or higher, Scotty's main concern is that the Enterprise is not "structured" for that kind of super speed. In Voyager, when they pushed to Warp 9.9 the computer warned them of structural failure (not engine failure) and they had to back off their speed.

    Magical enough that the 1701 built with the strongest materials THEY know of is not "gravitationally challenged", even if being pulled in by a "black star" or flying through the atmosphere in "Tomorrow is Yesterday". It's so magical that Structural Integrity Fields were not used for the TOS or movie ship.

    Perhaps instead of glue, metal and bolts instead? :)

    Then the question is at what point did magic structural integrity fields need to be invoked? Apparently Magic Materials alone were just fine up until TNG and then the need for Magic Fields. It sounds like in Trek-verse that it's a size or mass problem. At some critical size or mass, the strength of the Magic Materials need to be supplemented by Magic Fields. That size or mass appears to be start with the Enterprise-D... (Edit) Or Magic Fields were added due to a change in construction technique and/or materials usage requiring more reinforcement...
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2011
  15. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If a sixteenth-century bridge builder could see this, what would he think?

    [​IMG]

    Remember, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic!
     
  16. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    He'd say, "hmmm, reminds me of the zhaozhou bridge built 1000 years ago". (around 600ad)
    [​IMG]
     
  17. YARN

    YARN Fleet Captain

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    I don't think the bridge examples ultimately work in favor of the plausibility of the Enterprise. These are objects that, if we built copies of them following the original design specs, would result (given proper building contractor) in structurally strong copies. They obey the laws of physics. Starships seem to be less worried with physics (which is OK for a TV show, but this is the TECH forum, so I am getting my reality geek on) and more worried with,

    1. Looking cool

    2. Laying out a large number of rooms as if the Enterprise were, primarily, a large apartment complex.

    3. Putting the basic fantasy devices in place to support the conceit that it is an actual real-world ship.

    The problem is, the thing appears to be designed to do everything but actually hold together, very much unlike a bridge.

    At any rate, I am not bashing the 1701, it's one of my favorite fantasy shapes (although I do find the internal schematics to even less concerned with structural integrity than it's delicate exterior form), but asking sincere questions here.

    Could you make a 1701 that would not simply fall apart under 1G?

    Suppose we used the strongest materials presently imaginable (Buckyballs or something).

    How many supports would you probably need to display a full-sized 1701 and where would they need to be placed.

    Supposing this full size model were placed in space, how much stress (turning, accelerating, etc.) could it endure in zero G without coming apart at the seams?

    What would break first when it did come apart? My guess would be the nacelles, but the design is so "thin" with simple rectilinear "decks" that the interior aspects of the ship would appear likely to deform under stress.
     
  18. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Interestingly, we have seen starships lose all power and not fall apart at once, even when pounded by enemy fire. We have seen starships lose all power and continue to maintain gravity and antimatter containment as well. So for all we know, "loss of all power" never means losing power to the magic fields. This might indicate that the fields have permanence of their own, independent of external power sources, or that they can do their magic while drawing very little outside power. Say, something stresses the ship at 4.7 exanewtonmeters each second, and the field ramps up to all of two watts to compensate...

    On the issue of warp stresses, I'd actually argue they are minuscule, normally almost impossible to observe, and do not grow directly proportionally to speed (or warp field strength or whatever) - which means that one can increase speed trillionfold before the ship begins to feel the stresses. That way, warp 8 can be "risky" while warp 14 is still "possible" even though suicidal in the sense that one of those minuscule fluctuations might finally be big enough to hurt the ship, statistically speaking - and warp 2097 or even warp infinite is still a theoretical possibility as long as you get the power from somewhere and you boost structural integrity to your pylons, not by infinite percent but merely by some manageable amount, and then pray that "statistical outliers" don't destroy you.

    In practice, the magic fields have to compensate with increasing frequency and accuracy if they are to keep up with the mounting amount of tiny tugs and jolts at warp 8+, and this manifests as a whine that rises in pitch until it overwhelms the whine coming from the Chief Engineer.

    If the stresses really were "supernormal" at warp 8 already, it would seem a bit implausible that the ship could go several warp factors faster with minimal consequences. But if warp 8 gives you constant jolts similar to bumping your car to a very flat cockroach on the highway (something a non-magical shock absorber can nicely manage), then it is plausible that warp infinite would only give you jolts similar to bumping onto a live rhino - and then we could argue that future magic shock absorbers can make cars rhino-proof, without having to argue they make them capable of crashing through mountains of solid lead.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  19. blssdwlf

    blssdwlf Commodore Commodore

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    If it were made with materials from Star Trek, then the ship would NOT come apart in any of the scenarios you mentioned.

    If it were made with materials from our known science, then the ship would conceivably come apart or at least get a bit broken when it tried to accelerate to 0.5c... assuming we could build an equivalent impulse drive :)

    Then again, if you were to take screen-only evidence, there is still plenty of volume in the TOS 1701 for structural support as it doesn't appear to fill up space completely with "rooms". It's only when you start using publications as the basis for the internals that you get into the issue of structural support, IMHO.
     
  20. YARN

    YARN Fleet Captain

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    We've covered this ground before, but we saw a Klingon K'Tinga lose gravity as the ship was rotating with no appreciable structural stress to be seen...
     

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