TNG - "Warp core" and subspace... even though it's just a reactor

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Gagarin, May 1, 2012.

  1. Gagarin

    Gagarin Commander Red Shirt

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    So from TNG on they call the matter/anti-matter reactor the warp core and even though it's supposed to be just generating power, there's more than an occasional reference to subspace effects happening at the reactor.

    Maybe in the 24th century, just like they use subspace to make the computers function at FTL speeds... could they use a subspace field to speed up the matter/anti-matter reactions, faster than the mechanism could normally do?
     
  2. DavidGutierrez

    DavidGutierrez Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    My understanding of the warp core is that when the matter and antimatter interact and annihilate one another, the effects of the annihilation reach subspace as well. Additionally, a by-product of the matter/antimatter reaction is tachyons (as shown in VOY "Fury"), which are a subspace particle.

    I will admit that my understanding of subspace mechanics and warp field theory is a little limited.
     
  3. Santaman

    Santaman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Its called warpcore because this particular reactor powers the warpdrive, same way as the big ass fusion reactors power the impulse engines and are called impulse reactor on occasion and the system called impulse drive, some old ships have fusion warpdrive systems and in that case the main fusion reactor would be called warpcore, its just a matter (ha!) what it is powering.
    Their function is to make a lot of plasma which is fed through the warpcoils which do all the magic.
     
  4. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    Ideally, the warp core provides power to the nacelles, which in turn creates the subspace fields (or warp envelope) the ship travels through. But the TNG Tech Manual also has subspace fields used while a ship is at impulse to reduce its mass for sublight travel.

    Quite a few systems aboard a starship utilize subspace technology, presumably even combadges.
     
  5. Verteron

    Verteron Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It seems to me that in 24thC fictional physics, a lot of high energy phenomena have subspace effects, even if there's no obvious subspace involvement from the point of view of real 20thC physics.

    Wormholes and other nifty spacetime disturbances are definitely linked to subspace.

    When Praxis exploded in ST:VI, a huge subspace shockwave reached Excelsior minutes after it occurred, clearly travelling at superluminal speeds and apparently interacting with the subspace systems on board the ship. I wonder if a 'natural' inert body such as a planet would have been affected - I suspect not. Likewise Excelsior may have been able to ride out the shockwave if they pulled the plug on all their subspace tech immediately - but this may be difficult to achieve and things may need time to spin down, so it may be better to leave the shields up and running.

    Subspace shockwaves are also emitted by Supernovae - at least the ones set off during the Q civil war - but the crew of Voyager didn't seem to find it unusual that something like a star exploding was producing a subspace effect.

    So anyway, my suggestion would be that most things that happen in normal space have coupled subspace effects. Higher energy processes have more of a subspace component than say, a lightbulb. Something like a Warp core on board a ship may general a subspace field just because it's a high energy reactor - not a useful subspace field that could be used to move the ship - but simply a result of large numbers of particle annihilations in a small area creating a high enough energy state to 'punch through' to the subspace domain.

    This is detectable to 24thC sensors, but not to us, and doesn't have much of an effect on anything else in the normal universe except things that also have exotic subspace properties - such as the tear created by the Son'a subspace weapon in Insurrection, that precipitated the ejection of the warp core, or indeed most of the other subspace-enabled tech on the ship.

    Just my two cents, anyway..
     
  6. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    I'd modify that with two things. One is that if there's a sufficiently large "energy density event" (a bit more than just a star blowing up), then the subspace effects become so intense that when they spill back to realspace, they have conventional physical consequences as well. Such events are rare in the "real world", which is why we today couldn't see them even if we lived in the Trek universe, and why subspace wasn't discovered by Galileo or Maxwell already but had to wait for Cochrane - but commonplace in the world of space battles and weird scientific experiments on high energies, which is why every now and then a subspace shockwave in Trek does pack a physical punch.

    The second is that in the Trek universe, the annihilation of matter and antimatter isn't just an event of high energy density, but also somehow much more likely to generate subspace effects than any other sort of explosion is. Thus, an intense space battle with photon torpedoes, such as at Narendra III, can tear a dramatic hole in subspace despite not being that energetic an event. And even routine operations of a warp core can have direct subspace consequences, long before the generated energies reach the warp coils or the impulse engines along the power chain.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  7. Herkimer Jitty

    Herkimer Jitty Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Everything in the Trek universe interacts with subspace.

    Even sweatpants.
     
  8. Verteron

    Verteron Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Ah, but can a subspace field can be used to reduce the apparent mass of a fatass on a treadmill?
     
  9. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    In answering your original question here, I personally don't subscribe to the theory that the computers operate at FTL. So by extension, I also don't believe that subspace fields could be used to enhance the effect of the matter/antimatter reaction.

    But that's my personal opinion, and I know that there have been many threads here debating whether or not 24th century tech can make computers work FTL.
     
  10. Verteron

    Verteron Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Unfortunately, the TNG Technical Manual disagrees with you, and is more-or-less part of canon (Roddenberry, Oduka and Sternbach all saying it's part of the TNG background material is good enough for me).
     
  11. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    True, it does disagree with me. Luckily, there's another thread going on right now in "General Trek" discussing what does and does not count.
     
  12. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    I wouldn't put too much weight on the manuals, personally - but Star Trek seems to take for granted that anything and everything can be pushed to FTL and/or to subspace and/or phased. It sounds rather unlikely that computing would be an exception to a general rule...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    Even if computing could be FTL, which I would begrudgingly accept, I am 100% absolutely unwilling to accept the idea that it is so fast that it effectively travels back in time. I don't care what futuristic tech you come up with, information is not going to arrive before it leaves.
     
  14. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    On the other hand, several Trek episodes are based on the existence and indeed relatively mundane application of time travel. And it's done with warp engines in many of the cases, supporting the possibility that 24th and perhaps even 23rd century UFP subspace technology can wave goodbye to causality in a non-chaotic manner.

    To keep this tech from being too disruptive to storytelling, we could introduce all sorts of non-intuitive physical rules akin to the Pauli exclusion principle or the Heisenberg uncertainty, the result of which is that a FTL computer can merely calculate really fast but cannot tell the future, at least not with any accuracy or across more than a few seconds.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  15. Verteron

    Verteron Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Superluminal travel in the Star Trek universe does not violate causality. Taking a trip to Alpha Centauri and back at Warp speed does not allow you to arrive before you leave, likewise pushing bits across your mainframe in a subspace field does not allow results to discerned before you start to compute them.

    It doesn't make sense given current day 20th century physics, you need to suspend disbelief for more than just warp drive, so where's the problem?

    To put things in to perspective, on a modern day microprocessor running at 3GHz, a signal travelling at the speed of light can travel a mere 10cm in one clock cycle. Electrons in metal wires travel a good deal slower than 'c'. The problems of coordinating a massive several-decks-high computer core that no doubt runs significantly faster than 3GHz would be pretty severe.

    This subspace computer thing is a nice handwavy dodge of these problems, IMHO.
     
  16. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    I was referencing threads that have popped up in the past where it was argued that the computers could send information back in time, and that evidence of this speed was that comm traffic would go straight to your commbadge before the speaker even said your name.

    Like I said, FTL/superuminal != time travel.
     
  17. Verteron

    Verteron Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Actually in current-day special relativity, FTL travel implies time travel in some frames of reference, always. It's a problem that is generally ignored completely in all but the hardest science fiction (such as the novel Exultant by Stephen Baxter).
     
  18. Tom

    Tom Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I had once wrote fan fiction story where I had a couple guys from MIT build a device that would generate neutrinos that would go so fast, they would go back in time. They were able to attach a carrier wave to it, and thus could make a Wi-Fi signal go back in time one day. The particales were in a magnetic field, so even as they went back in time they would also stay in the same location. So effectively while they could not go physically back in time they could send information back one day. By keep the device always running, they were able to see information on the internet from tommorow. Of course, this let them win the lottery and and help prevent some crimes etc..