Why can't Latinum be replicated?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by The Borg Queen, Oct 17, 2012.

  1. The Borg Queen

    The Borg Queen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    What there any specific reason (other than "because of the plot!") why Latinum isn't able to be replicated?
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Actually, nobody even went as far as saying "latinum can't be replicated".

    For all we know, it can, just like hundred-dollar bills can be printed. But money is money: it has value because people agree that it does. Today, worthless pieces of paper have value because we agree that they do. The agreement would be thrown into confusion if everybody replicated these pieces of paper, so we insert codes into the as such worthless material to prevent this. The Ferengi probably insert codes into their as such worthless latinum, too. And replicating a code doesn't add to your possessions, because codes are unique and supposedly will be checked against a database. A hundred bills (or latinum bricks) with identical codes are only worth one bill (or brick), plus a few years in jail...

    Today, we don't check even bills worth a thousand dollars against a code database as a matter of routine, because that's way too difficult to do; we trust that the other anti-copying measures work. But in Trek, checking against a database would be trivially easy.

    Of course, not all coding need be database-reliant. Quark has been known to check the value of the small latinum strips by biting. Perhaps programming an authentic taste into the strips takes a lot of replicator resources (many people complain that replicator food doesn't taste as good as "real" food), and only an idiot would thus replicate a strip of latinum when it costs 153 strips to get the taste right.

    The bigger units such as slips and bricks could of course retain the taste coding, but would also have more complicated things in them, just like bills are more complexly coded than coins today. The idea is never to outright prevent copying - it is merely to make copying more expensive than the acquisition of the real deal.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    Alternately, it's possible that it can't be replicated. Just as Timo points out above, many food-stuffs are difficult to replicate properly, so it's not at all a stretch to assume that certain other materials are difficult to generate this way also.

    We've seen pure latinum in "Who Mourns For Morn" and it looked like silver paint fresh from the jar. Assuming it's a metal, then the fact that it's a liquid would suggest it's some sort of mercury amalgam, possibly with a noble metal like platinum. I don't know how well those two could combine, but evidently the Ferengi (or somebody) developed the right secret sauce to make it work. From the same episode, we see that the "gold pressed" nature of gold-pressed latinum is that the silvery liquid is somehow suspended inside the gold bricks. Quark is able to fairly easily break one of these bricks in half with his hands which suggests that either he is waaaay stronger than he looks (doubtful given the number of scraps we see him in where he doesn't get the upper hand) or that the gold is manufactured in such a way that the structure is a much more porous volume which is later infused with the liquid latinum. When Morn regurgitates a little spitful of the stuff for Quark, the amount is valued at an astonishingly high figure (like 100 bricks IIRC) which suggests that a little goes a long way and that the gold vessels are mainly there to provide a convenient and attractive means of handling the latinum.

    I posit that the process for creating latinum itself is tricky and the resultant material is not entirely stable. As a result, maybe it can't be re-materialized in it's alloyed form. Do we ever see gold-pressed latinum transported? (We very well might have... just I can't think of a time doesn't mean it didn't happen.) If not then perhaps it's just a matter of that. If you can't rematerialize it, then you can't replicate it. If, OTOH, it transports fine, then my idea is out of the water.

    In any case, all we can do is speculate, since it was never said on screen one way or the other.

    --Alex
     
  4. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Hmm... Supposedly the Cardassians in "Emissary" were transporting their winnings to their ship, even though they also transported Odo who masqueraded as the bag containing the winnings. But we weren't exactly told that the winnings were GPL, or that the Cardassians used a transporter. We just know that their ship was shown undocked and at a distance from the station...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  5. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well probably the very nature of latinum not being able to be replicated is what makes it valuable. If it was easily reproduced, it wouldn't make a viable currency to say the least.

    It's implied throughout DS9 you can't replicate it, but never flat out said. If you could replicate it that regurgitated latinum that Quark got so excited about wouldn't be anything important for example. The novels flat out state it can't be.

    I always thought Quark's biting the latinum was testing either it's density much like we did with gold(maybe gold with latinum in it has it's own unique density?) or the sound his teeth make against it(since Quark says GPL makes a unique sound).
     
  6. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    My thought was this: Latinum is a base substance that nearly all non-Starfleet replicators use to manufacture hard (non-edible) goods. The replicator takes a quantity of latinum, rearranges its molecules and converts it into the desired product. By its very nature, it is a substance that contains sufficient quantities of the ten most common elements/isotopes found in non-food products, and in such density and arrangements that even a small amount of it can be converted into a comparatively large amount of material.

    Food and drink are not expensive in the Trekiverse, but things like computer chips and devices are implicitly so, due to their scarcity and the need to repair things by hand instead of simply throwing them out and replicating new ones.
     
  7. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Yet mere electrons do, even though they are trivially reproduced. It's all in the content rather than in the medium!

    We know that some things are more difficult to replicate than others, and that sometimes people don't go to the effort of creating perfect replicas even when such things would matter (say, Romulans creating fake gore in "Data's Day") - but OTOH we never hear that something would be completely impossible to replicate. It just isn't worth the effort, apparently, if something can also be obtained by mining or other "conventional" processing and this is cheaper or quicker than replication from thin air.

    If replication difficulty indeed comes in degrees, then it doesn't matter that latinum can be replicated - it suffices that it's suitably difficult to replicate, and any effort at producing it out of cheaper materials or pure energy or whatever will end up costing more than the end product is worth.

    On the other hand, people will apparently readily pay for food (or, rather, the experience of having food), but expect their computer chips to come for free...

    And our Starfleet heroes at least consider all technology to be throwaway, up to and including entire starships!

    Probably we're seeing "subsidies" in action: things considered necessary for good life or national security are replicated free of price even if their replication is of the costlier sort, and the price tag comes from the labor involved in the later stages of assembly or serving.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  8. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Nobody appears to be PAYING for food, though. Even quark's bar is equipped with a replicator that is evidently hooked up to the station's supply grid; he has MANY times suggested that his liquor supply is pre-fab, shipped in from various suppliers around the galaxy, which means he -- as a Ferengi -- almost certainly paid for them and he -- again, being a Ferengi -- expects to be paid FOR them.

    Interestingly, the same thing seems to happen on the Enterprise: Scotty finds synthehol insufferable, but the only way to get a non-syntheholic drink is to raid Guinan's liquor cabinet.

    OTOH, circuitry and hardware are only "free" to the extent that Starfleet's requisition process seems to be pretty straightforward. We have almost never seen officers pulling working components and/or tools out of a replicator. Even the infamous self-sealing stem bolts, for example, are occasionally seen stockpiled by the case, but despite their apparently high industrial value, nobody ever bothers replicating them (just storing them in huge quantities because they have too many).

    Laddy, don't you think you should... rephrase that?:mad:
     
  9. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    How often in movies and television shows set on modern day do you see characters paying for things?

    :)
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Basically every time when the meal is part of the dating process, I guess. Especially if the date doesn't go well, and the paying becomes a chore.

    DS9 has plenty of Replimat scenes that would qualify on one level or another...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I would think that Latinum cannot be replicated, or if it could, be more expensive than the amount created.
     
  12. Tyberius

    Tyberius Commander Red Shirt

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    Perhaps Latinum is used not because it is expensive, but because it is a fixed amount. Regardless of whether you replicate it, or mine it or compound it or whatever, it has a fixed cost that varies very little.

    So regardless of the input method, X amount of energy/work produces Y amount of Latinum.
     
  13. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If it takes five bars of Latinum (energy and materials), to produce a single bar of Lainum with the replicator, it wouldn't make much sense.

    Of course today it take 1.6 cents to make a penny.

    :)
     
  14. The Borg Queen

    The Borg Queen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Does it matter?
    I always figured the Gold was structured like a sponge with the Latinum soaked up in it.

    I wonder if Latinum is similar to Bio-mimetic Fluid, but without any actual practical applications?
     
  15. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    I don't see why latinum would be especially valuable as a currency just because it supposedly can't be replicated. If latinum is not produced via replication, it's either being mined or manufactured. Either way, the value of latinum would be influenced by the quantity of latinum circulating. If latinum miners hit a rich deposit, for instance, then the value of the latinum circulating would go down just as if the same amount of latinum had been replicated and mixed into the circulating currency.

    Perhaps the Great Monetary Collapse that hit Fereginar back in the day was the result of too much fresh latinum being injected into the Ferengi economy. Perhaps this economic disaster spurred the Ferengi to tightly regulate the amount of GPL in the economy to prevent rampant inflation. Rather than making latinum special by claiming it is "unreplicable", it is merely another fiat currency with strict regulations on replication.
     
  16. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Something like diamonds then. Ten percent of the best mined diamond are allowed to enter the market and ninety percent are ground up for abrasives, used in electronics, optics, or stuck in a warehouse.

    Replicator latinum (if possible) might not have a detrimental effect on the value of "natural" latinum if the two could be told apart. It would be like the effect of synthetic diamonds on the diamond market, which is basically none. People want natural diamonds.

    Someone walks into Quark's bar with replicator latinum, and the scanner in the door frame screams bloody murder.

    :)
     
  17. TheRoyalFamily

    TheRoyalFamily Commodore Commodore

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    I've always been under the impression that you need matter, along with energy, to replicate stuff. With food and drink, that's easy - there's always a ready supply of organic materials to be recycled :p But for non-organic items, you would have to have a ready store of the base stuff. Thus, mining is still a thing that needs to be done. And, it seems the process works in reverse, too - you put your dirty dishes back in the replicator, and they disappear as magically as they appeared.

    Also, it seems the replicator can only create something to a certain level of complexity. The food is never quite right (it seems the complaint is a certain blandness, or sameness, which would make sense). If GPL is sufficiently complicated in internal structure for whatever reason, it would be impossible to get quite right with your typical replicator.

    But really, only the first thing really need apply. If you need latinum and gold supplies for replication of GPL, if it could be done, it wouldn't lose its value - you needed it in the first place. Heck, maybe GPL is made by replication in the first place - the replicator does the work of making the alloy, perhaps. In "Little Green Men", Quark says gold is fine as a payment for his tech, so obviously replicators aren't alchemy.
     
  18. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Might be, or then it might be that matter is a convenient thing to have but not a necessity. Synthesis of elements is mentioned in "Night Terrors", although that, too, might refer to synthesis of elements out of other elements, i.e. transmutation.

    Well, food is never quite right, regardless of how it is made. People just won't stop complaining merely because something is perfect.

    But just like some people gladly eat vile food, and others have no time to stop and ponder the nuances of taste, there'd probably be lots of folks who would have neither the patience nor the means to notice that GPL is "slightly off".

    ...Because in the Earth of 1947, everybody will accept gold!

    According to "Night Terrors", that's exactly what they are. Unless some other technology was behind the synthesis or transmutation of elements mentioned there.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  19. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    For some reason, I seem to recall a line in "Night Terrors" where they implied that there were some substances that they didn't have available on the Enterprise AT ALL and made no mention of their capacity to replicate them. I remember it because it raised eyebrows for me, even though I can't recall the exact scene.
     
  20. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    It was a plot point that they needed to offer something exotic and explosive to the aliens on the other side of the weird rift, and they had a variety of explosives on stock.

    But earlier in the episode, they speculated on creating the necessary rift-sealing explosion all on their own, without cooperation with the aliens - and that would have to have been more potent stuff than the materials they considered for the cooperation. On that, the dialogue went like this:

    So "reproducing complex elements" was a "conventional" means for our heroes. That is, they did transmutation on routine basis. But they still had explosives on stock, establishing that replication on as-needed basis was not the preferred Starfleet approach, perhaps exactly because replicators might go down in emergencies, perhaps simply because replicators work rather slowly in producing complex bulk.

    Timo Saloniemi
     

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