Why the lack of personal protection?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by flamewolf393, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    I must agree that the idea of hangar-sized pockets being eventually realized through Star Trek technology is pretty cute. Something for the 25th century, perhaps?

    Any physical armor in Trek would have to feature almost comparable levels of magic, really, as there are some pretty severe laws of physics to deal with. A high velocity bullet impacting on armor will pulp the wearer regardless of the strength of the armor, unless the kinetic energy (or the momentum, really) is somehow dissipated. And such dissipating would be extremely difficult, especially if the armor is lightweight and thus has very little inertia.

    Thankfully, Trek spacecraft propulsion already heavily relies on the ability to negate inertia and render the law of conservation of momentum irrelevant. But a vest of physical armor, or a bullet-stopping riot shield such as in ST5, would have to be hooked up to an inertia-damping doodad, or it would offer no protection at all even if it were utterly impenetrable. I wonder where those doodads were in the ST5 case...

    The ability to sew an inertia-negating gadget into an uniform would seem to negate the need for rocket boots and make it unnecessary for our heroes to stay attached to the ground in any given situation. So we probably have to believe that such gadgetry in 23rd and even 24th century is of somewhat low performance, and better performance comes only from excessive bulk.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  2. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    I'm in your ___, ___ing your ___
    Actually, the rocket boots are proof, both of sufficient miniaturization of power sources and of inertial control to make some sort of battle armor perfectly feasible. It's not as if those boots were strapped with a pair or fuel tanks, after all, but they nevertheless were able to generate enough thrust to propel three grown men straight upwards at about one and a half gees. That means either the boots have small fusion reactors and impulse engines built into them -- which is slightly absurd -- or they have an intake system that sucks in the outside air, superheats it and propels it downward to produce thrust. There's also the fact that the boots are self-balancing and don't even have to be pointed at the ground to provide lift, so there's almost certainly some sort of antigrav technology involved.

    So, assuming Kirk and Spock and McCoy combined weight about 200kg (Spock was on a diet and Bones had become emaciated from eating beans all month), and assuming Enterprise' grav plating was set to a standard 1G, you have a device that can sustain just under 2000 newtons of force for long periods of time and surge to 3000 in short bursts. That's a useful power output of about 3kW squeezed into a pair of high-tech goulashes and a belt.

    Don't really know the power capacity of Worf's communicator in "A fistful of Datas" but it couldn't have been THAT much greater than its 23rd century counterparts. That particular forcefield did everything you'd need it to do and more, the only limiting factor was the amount of time it could stay on. If you expand that communicator's power cell into a unit the size of, say, a wearable vest with field emitters integrated throughout, you could probably maintain that field for a good twenty minutes or so. OTOH, a purpose-built forcefield generator probably wouldn't run out of power until something hits it, in which case it should be able to pack enough juice to deflect at least a few dozen rounds of .30-6 or one direct hit from a phaser blast.
     
  3. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Agreed. The question now becomes, does the technology make battle armor unnecessary at a stroke, too?

    If inertia manipulation really is so easy, then any kinetic attack would be futile - or alternately the technology would make the attack unstoppable, by giving the incoming projectile the kinetic energy of a small moon at 99% lightspeed. Perhaps there is no point in a rat race, then (because it would never stop at a level allowing for wearable armor, but would immediately escalate to floating main battle tanks and beyond), and dabbling with kinetics is left for weirdoes like Chu'lak, while serious soldiers concentrate on forcefields and the various kinds of phase disruptors that can penetrate them.

    Here we face the odd issue of forcefields never being up as a default, though. There seems to be little reason for starships to fly with shields down, yet they always leave the raising of shields to the very last moment. Perhaps the power required to maintain a shield is not constant or even linear with time, then, but suffers from an effect that makes it imperative that shields be kept down for as long as possible?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  4. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    I'm in your ___, ___ing your ___
    I've been saying for years that that's basically what's happening with a photon torpedo. A matter-antimatter detonation isn't much better than a nuclear warhead in space, and starships shouldn't have much difficulty shrugging those off. But if you trigger a small forcefield that encloses a football-sized chunk of the hull and propels it forward at the speed of light, you can do quite a bit more damage than just a blast of heat and radiation (that will happen too, but not before a blast of molten metal goes careening through the ship, destroying everything in its math).

    So if you have a rifle that fires tiny photon torpedoes, a forcefield or ballistic protection is going to have pretty limited usefulness. But not everyone is going to have access to photonic bullets; and even if they do, a personnel shield could be expected to stop at least one or two shots before it overloads.

    More likely it's just a waste of energy. Realistically, there shouldn't be any reason why shields would "weaken" when they take a hit unless the extra load causes heating of the field elements and the coolant systems that service the shields have a finite heat capacity. IOW: "Shields at 90%" is another way of saying "heat sinks are up to 10% capacity." They actually used to do this in TOS, come to think of it; channeling too much power into the phasers or deflectors for too long caused the engines to overheat, resulting in damage. In this case, keeping the shields up all the time would keep the generators running hot for long periods of time and would cause them to wear out more often, forcing higher maintenance cycles and replacements and possibly compromising the integrity of the system itself. If you keep the shields up all the time, Scotty will start complaining about having to swap transducers three times a week that are supposed to last for months at a time and begging the Captain to lay off the shields for a while.
     
  5. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2012
    Location:
    USS Berlin
    I think it's a Federation policy that in first contact or diplomatic missions you'll approach the other side on the same "footing".
    If Starfleet personnel would conduct such encounters with some kind of body armor it would immediately cause skepticism and suspicions ("if you say you come in peace why are you wearing body armor?!?"). Looks like the phaser type 1 for self defense is the only thing other humanoid species will consider acceptable.

    And it ensures that every Starfleet vessel commander will do a proper amount of research of an alien culture before beaming personnel down to another planet.

    Might be a totally different thing with the Klingon Empire but if I recall from TOS "Friday's Child" correctly, the Klingon uniform, then, is not projectile-proof, either.

    The American Football uniforms seen in ST I, III and IV are of course a completely different matter as they serve only UFP internal security purposes.

    Bob
     
  6. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    This argument covers many bases, but not the one of encounter with relative primitives vs. the use of forcefield armor.

    After all, how could the primitives tell that the little box in Kirk's belt is in fact futuristic armor, capable of stopping their arrows, swords and cannonballs with ease?

    In combination, the explanations offered earlier in this thread can account for the total lack of anti-bullet, anti-shrapnel or even anti-arrow armor. Physical armor is very good (ST5 riot shields!) but cumbersome and does more diplomatic and operational damage than it is worth (speculation to account for the observed facts). Forcefield armor is feeble ("Slaver Weapon") and, while it can offer some protection from primitive weapons ("A Fistful of Datas"), is more appropriate as riot geat ("Homefront") and as a futuristic raincoat (anything from "Beyond the Farthest Star" to "Ambergris Element" or "Timescape") than as combat gear. Finally, hand armament is potent and can always be ramped up to destroy entire buildings or elements of landscape ("Frame of Mind", "Chain of Command" etc), so there's no point in trying to improve current physical or forcefield armor for combat purposes unless it can be improved thousandfold (speculation to account for the observed facts). For the range of low-level threats encountered in both modern combat and primitive ambushes (shrapnel, arrows), there exist some unobtrusive material solutions which we see in action ("Nor the Battle to the Strong"), but Starfleet prefers to resurrect the victims with modern medical technology rather than burden the troops with headgear or other obstructions.

    We can always argue "It shouldn't be this way! Their tech should be better!" but that wouldn't account for the observed facts. It's IMHO only realistic to assume that several lines of technology and doctrine have been completely dropped when they lost in the rat race against their counterparts - and personal protection was among the losers, just like infantry armor and swords completely disappeared at one point in the real world, and only one of them made a comeback later on.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  7. bluepicard27

    bluepicard27 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    lol, kinda reminds of the star wars family guy parady the stormtroopers getting killed by rocks,spears etc from ewoks and one of them shouts "this armors useless why do we even were it!" .though in the tos movies the security did have armour of some discription.
     
  8. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    I'm in your ___, ___ing your ___
    The only problem with that is Starfleet seems to suffer most of its casualties while dealing with people OTHER than Klingons/Romulans with modern shield-piercing weapons. We've seen redshirts taken down by spears, boomerangs, bullets, poison-dart flowers and explosive rocks; we've seen them cooked by radiation and beaten to death by apes. We've seen them thrown off of cliffs, electrocuted, impaled by shrapnel, accidentally beamed into deep space by their commanders... assuming you call these "combat deaths" that means Starfleet spends a lot more of its time engaging primitives or unpredictable elements than it does with people who would genuinely be able to penetrate their shields.

    There should be no race to account for; some sort of basic protective gear should by now be as fundamental as shoes. Given the miniaturization of Trek power sources, it SHOULD be part of a standard field kit: phaser, tricorder, shield belt. Doesn't matter that the shield belt won't stop disruptors, photon grenades or psionic blasts from godlike beings, if it'll at least stop a BULLET, then that's a layer of comfort when your away team beams down onto a planet inhabited entirely by machinegun-wielding gangsters.
     
  9. mupps

    mupps Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    It kind of say's something that the most practical piece of personal protection we have seen in Trekdom in the lsst 20 years was the Eyepro from Nemesis when they were driving the Argo buggy. (A vehicle I personally liked and could actually see a use for :p )
     
  10. mupps

    mupps Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    BTW just to go along with the BA stopping high velocity rounds, thats not BA's only role.

    A large % of casualties in combat come from low velocity fragmentation injuries, rock chips, spalling from metal of various sorts ect.
    Hell the found a decent amount of injuries in Afghanistan came from grass/plant debris getting into the eye, it's one of the reasons eyepro is mandatory out and about now.

    How about those awkward ankle length leather-like boots they wear even in an Ar-558 situation.
     
  11. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Kind of makes one wonder why the vehicle itself lacked protection... Would a windshield have been too much to ask? ;)

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  12. Herkimer Jitty

    Herkimer Jitty Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2008
    Location:
    Dayglow, New California Republic
    Yeah, the Argo's not all that bad, really. A windscreen would be nice, and the truck bed/gun setup isn't the most practical thing, but it's pretty solid.
     
  13. Dream

    Dream Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2001
    Location:
    Hotel Transylvania
    Starfleet isn't a military. Blah. Blah. :p

    Real reason. You can't have your actors constantly covered in padding or metal. Takes away from the drama and sense of danger.
     
  14. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    I'm in your ___, ___ing your ___
    ^ I call bullshit on this one, and always have, ever since I heard somebody (Braga, I think) use that one in a DVD commentary.

    Seems to me, having your main character catch one in the chest and get thrown across the room by a phaser blast is ALOT more dramatic than having him take cover behind a piece of plywood from his enemy's inexplicably poor marksmanship. Even moreso, if you remove cover altogether (or even allow phaser fire to slice right through it) and leave him to stumble, crawl, leap and roll for the door on the other side of the room as a bad guy with a disruptor rifle furiously lays into him. It would look a lot like getting hit with a fire hose: your shields might hold off disruptor fire for a solid hour, but that doesn't mean the shot won't clothesline you or smash into your ankles causing for a dramatically satisfying faceplant. And maybe your shields aren't that resilient, or that predictable; maybe you have NO IDEA when they're going to overheat and fail and the next shot that hits you might just slice you in half.

    That may seem less dangerous on an intellectual level, but it's a bit more fun to watch. The bad guys' fire is relatively accurate, AND it hurts like hell, and if it suits you we can restate in throwaway lines that if it wasn't for your shields it would have vaporized you... meanwhile, your redshirts are getting blown across the room like crash test dummies. You don't have to KILL them to place them in very serious risk of injury or death.
     
  15. mupps

    mupps Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    mmmm, Contemporary Argo like battlewagons rarely have windscreens either :cool:

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    I'm in your ___, ___ing your ___
    ^ That's because shattered glass is a really nasty thing to have spraying into your lap in the middle of a combat situation; if you can't make the glass armored, you don't want it anywhere near you when you're under fire.

    Starfleet has transparent aluminum, which -- I should hope -- won't shatter into a spray of tiny sharp particles if the Argo crashes into something.
     
  17. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    ...Nor do they have useful payload areas or practical means of loading or offloading, or ways to keep water out during fording or swimming, it seems.

    Why not? It's not as if we should expect 24th century powerplants or motors to be so clumsy as to take up as much room as a diesel or gasoline engine and transmission today. A future windshield wouldn't get scraped and clogged by dust, either. And why doesn't the suspension work better in the future?

    Okay, we can argue that the Argo has a windshield and weather cover, but it is based on the technology of the TAS life support fields. Picard would obviously not deploy that, as he wants to feel the wind tugging on his ha... uh, face. Nor would he deploy it when the locals attack, because TAS fields don't stop weapons fire.

    The other shortcomings remain inexplicable, though. Why isn't Worf's gun stabilized? Why is there no proper forcefield generator aboard, a perfectly regular shuttlecraft one, capable of stopping artillery shells and hand disruptors? I mean, if the vehicle were configured for "civilian" missions, the generator could well be omitted - but why would the gun be present in that case?

    I don't want to evaluate the Argo as the cutting edge of Starfleet surface combat vehicle development, because obviously that's not what it is. I don't know what it is for, but that's not a big problem. But even as a general all-terrain vehicle, it fails on practicability grounds, as it will be really wet while fording and is difficult to climb into, or to load.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  18. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    I'm in your ___, ___ing your ___
    It also seems to be severely lacking in built-in sensor equipment, considering a platoon of pre-warp natives were able to totally ambush them without any warning at all.
     
  19. mupps

    mupps Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    So do we;)
    http://www.ohgizmo.com/2012/05/09/did-you-know-that-transparent-aluminum-exists/
     
  20. mupps

    mupps Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2011
    Or perhaps in a surprising twist for Starfleet, it was decided that the Argo should be just a simple bare bones GMV you could pretty much repir with a rock and some twine if needed?.