A Mile Deep Inside Solid Iron

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by Wingsley, Jan 28, 2016.

  1. Wingsley

    Wingsley Commodore Commodore

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    Quoting from the subspace teleconference between the Bridge crew of the Starship Enterprise and Commander Hansen of Earth Outpost 4 in "Balance of Terror":

    This quote has always fascinated me.

    It seems to imply that Earth Outpost 4 is very heavily, though naturally, fortified; it seems that Hansen is saying his command post, and perhaps most or all of the Outpost facilities, are deeply subterranean. But if the Command Post is naturally fortified by being so deep beneath the asteroid's surface (and, by implication, completely isolated), then how did Earth of the 2160s manage to construct the post? How did they get so far underground if the post's construction site is completely isolated?

    It seems to be a geological quandary.

    IIRC, one of the TOS novels from the 80s had a story once where Kirk and Spock used portable transporters to beam into isolated open pockets inside solid rock within an asteroid or planetoid, beaming from pocket to pocket until they reached an underground facility. (I can't be sure, but it could've been Memory Prime by Gar and Judith Reeves-Stevens.) That's about the only manner I could think of to use Star Trek technology to build a completely isolated underground facility.

    Any ideas on this or any other technique?
     
  2. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral In Memoriam

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    Tunnels.
     
  3. Wingsley

    Wingsley Commodore Commodore

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    But using tunnels would mean the command post wouldn't be isolated.
     
  4. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral In Memoriam

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    Fill the tunnel in after the base is built.
     
  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I'd think the only thing keeping 22nd century starships from drilling holes deep into the cores of iron asteroids would be a shortage of time - i.e. somebody firing back at them.

    After the war, swords-to-plowshares application of the technology would allow for the fortresses to be constructed at will. No need to completely block the holes afterwards, not in canon terms anyway. But of course that could be done; perhaps even the early transporter tech of the time would allow for a "landline" transporter whose well-protected cabling would get the crews past the solid walls.

    The fortresses would probably have plenty of features close to the surface - say, the guns with which they fire back to stop the Romulans from repeating the drilling feat. The big mystery is how this "plasma cloud" did physical damage to the command post a mile deep. I can understand it frying all the systems through secondary effects and ultimately roasting or suffocating poor Hansen, but how did the second shot pulverize the asteroid?

    Or did it? The outpost being disintegrated need not mean the asteroid housing it would be disintegrated, too. Perhaps Hansen's cave was blown to bits by "secondary effects" after all. By Trek precedent, all the man-made bits would be vulnerable to standard starship weapons if not protected by either the physical bulk of iron or by the established invulnerable deflector/shield technology. And possibly this fancy plasma could "seep in" through tunnels and conduits to do its thing, bypassing the iron.

    (If that happened, then there could well be "debris" deep inside the asteroid that Spock would choose to beam out through the transporter landlines, sturdy and "dumb" structures that would be likely to survive if the iron asteroid itself did.)

    Hansen himself certainly seems to think that deflectors would make all the difference, and with them gone, the mile of iron in his expert opinion won't help any... That is, sure the iron is impressive - but Hansen is far more impressed by the first shot taking out the deflectors, and convinced that the second one will finish him off. Yet once again, this need not mean that the (in real world terms) great feat of vaporizing all that iron actually took place.

    (Also, nothing really connects the cast rhodinium "shield" with the probably forcefield-type "deflectors" as such. In addition to those two words being distinct from each other, the rhodinium shield is in singular, setting it apart from every mention of the starship protection system.)

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  6. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    I've imagined the Romulan weapon to be a similar to the "Doctor" weapon from Ender's Game. It's effectiveness dwindles rapidly after launch. The shots fired at the asteroid were at rather short range, and were able to propagate considerably before petering out, requiring a second shot to finish the deed. But even that merely "pulverized" the asteroid rather than vaporizing it. But the fragile cast rodinium is evidence of how the Romulan weapon works, by somehow uncoupling the atomic* structure of its target.

    When fired at the Enterprise, Kirk orders the "run away" maneuver, which gives the weapon bolt time to lose its disruptive mojo and cause only heavy conventional damage, rather than ferrous-asteroid-shattering damage.

    Regard the depth of the outpost within the asteroid, nothing in the episode suggest that the facility is totally isolated from the exterior. We can assume that the majority of the base, the habitation, generators, computers, et cetera, are clustered together at some core location a mile from the nearest surface, but we could also assume that there are clusters of sensors, scanners, and comms equipment scattered around the exterior of the asteroid with narrow tunnels connecting this equipment to the core facility itself. I can imagine also a turbolift running up to a hangar facility near the surface, which may or may not be camouflaged from the Romulans.

    As for the technology to drill through rock, that already exists today. The world's deepest hole is something like eight miles down. I see no limitation for that, especially seeing as how drilling on asteroids is certainly going to be a common industry by the 2150s. Presumably, the outposts were built according to treaty which the beaten Romulans had litttle choice but to agree to. I would further assume that the locations of the bases are also established in the treaty, and the Romulans would have full knowledge of their existance and locations. The fact that they are dug so deep is merely a defensive precaution against a nation which has demonstrated aggressive policies, and perhaps at the time, a mile of nearly solid iron was a more reliable defense than any energy shield available. Don't forget that the war thay had just fought was done so using "primitive atomic weaponry."

    --Alex
    ____________
    *atomic/molecular/whatever. The matter's ability to hold itself together is weakened and disrupted by the effect of the weapon.
     
  7. Kemaiku

    Kemaiku Admiral Admiral

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    In the Romulan War novels, the Vulcan fleet was scuttled and used to create those outposts, so the Vulcans were using the technology to drill in. Since they seem to "dig in" a lot for their cities after the atomic horror in Surak's era they likely became quite good at it.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Returning to the cast rhodinium shield, Spock actually managed to find an intact piece of it. Made brittle by the weapon, but nevertheless intact, retaining its shape. Spock's demonstration was supposed to highlight how impressive the Romulan weapon was - but in fact it just demonstrated that Spock's bare fists could do better! :eek:

    The rhodinium armor may of course have been the final inner layer of defense, pierced in places and damaged at the edges of that piercing after the plasma weapon removed all the iron from around it (and, before that, the deflector field from around the iron). But this requires us to assume that the Romulan weapon hit the Goldilocks zone smack in the middle: the second shot was just barely enough to kill Hansen in his deep cave without actually completely destroying that cave and its rhodinium walls. Which is somewhat improbable finesse from a weapon that can remove a mile of iron.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. Wingsley

    Wingsley Commodore Commodore

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    I'd like to think that no actual tunnels or substantial drill holes would be necessary. Perhaps the best approach would be on the "micro" level.

    First, an "outer" base (or bases) would be constructed on the asteroid's surface. These outer bases would be exposed, but could contain weapons crews, security guards for screening visitors, etc. These surface installations would contain external weapons, sensors, deep space communications, and deflector shields to envelop either the base(s) or the entire asteroid.

    Since the Command Post is deep beneath the surface, and Hansen clearly says its under "a mile of almost solid iron", it's clear it is completely isolated and has no exposure and perceived vulnerability whatsoever. How did Earth do this in the 22nd century? Well, in TNG's "Evolution", nanites were seen consuming raw materials for food. Why couldn't simpler mini/micro-robots be used to "eat" a tiny, inconsequential bore hole down through the iron? A small transporter mechanism chamber could be hollowed out at regular intervals in the subterranean layers, to allow ingress/egress even if something happened to the surface installation. It would also completely isolate the Command Post.

    This is what I got from Hansen's demise and Spock's cast rhodinium demonstration: the Romulan weapon was so powerful that it could destroy the Earth outposts, surface installations, Command Posts and all. Maybe even most or all of the asteroids they were built on. Apparently, that would be quite a trick when combined with a cloaking device. One that the Federation hadn't planned on after not having any direct contact with the Romulans for over 100 years...
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I don' get it. NORAD sits under half a mile of almost solid bedrock. Nothing about this suggests in the slightest that Cheyenne Mountain wouldn't have a front door.

    In any case, a simple bend in the big corridor leading from the docking pier to Hansen's command cave would suffice in putting that mile of almost solid iron between him and the Romulan threat. Sealing oneself in? Sounds like utter madness - fortresses are such passive elements in fighting that further adding to that passivity would never occur to the military man. If anything, the fortress would be enhanced by extensive escape systems and sallying gates.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    Sorry, Wingsley, I gotta back up Timo on this one. I think you're reading a lot into a fairly casual line. All Hansen says is that his post in protected by about a mile of iron. The fact that he qualifies it with "almost" could refer to natural hollows or inclusions of non-ferrous material, or could be referring to access tunnels. Or he could just be close to panic and exaggerating his position and disbelief that he was vulnerable to this unknown weapon.

    --Alex
     
  12. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Maybe access tunnels to the surface, or none but transported save guides?
     
  13. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    If there are no transporter field guides in place, it would be quite a feat for Spock to recover that shield debris from next to Hansen's charred remains, as elsewhere in the show a mile or so of ordinary rock already presents problems for transporters.

    In that case, we must accept either that the entire asteroid really was blown to pieces, or at least split conveniently open all the way down to the rhodinium-shielded command center - or that the shield was on the outer surface of the asteroid. But both of these are a bit problematic: how did that piece of shield stay intact in those circumstances? If it was blown to a safe distance from the main devastation, it's a bit unlikely Spock would recover it...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  14. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Look at one of Mars captured moon/asteroids.
    Tidal forces seem to be tearing it apart.

    That allows cracks--access points. Just tow something like it to the 'Zone.

    There are your tunnels to dig into--and for the plasma weapon to open up.

    Problem solved
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Fact Trekker Premium Member

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    I fail to see the issue here. There's no reason they couldn't have tunneled down almost a mile into a asteroid. That's not hard to do. Nor would it be difficult to secure the tunnel to make it not a weak spot: you just create a bunch of airlocks made of something even harder than iron. We know the Romulan weapon forced "an implosion" and "pulverized" the asteroids. No mystery to solve.
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Well, plenty of minor "mysteries" there, regarding what the Romulan weapon really achieved. Did Hansen sit one mile deep within an iron asteroid two miles in diameter, or perhaps 500 miles? Did an implosion equal a collapse of the cave network, and if not, what did it mean? What was the real role of the rhodium shield, which Hansen didn't even deem worth mentioning alongside the iron and the deflectors?

    And were the asteroids of Outposts 2 and 3 made of iron, too? Or did the Romulans plan their trial so that they'd assuredly pulverize a couple of soft targets before trying their luck with the harder ones? Why was the sequence of destruction OP 2->3->8->4 (or perhaps OP 2->8->3->4) rather than something like 2->3->4? For the surprise factor (which I can't see much mattering to such a superior attacker)?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Captain Captain

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    Years ago I read the brittle nature of the rhodium sample is explainable by exposure to intense heat. Metal which is exposed to extreme heat and allowed to cool slowly becomes extremely hard but brittle. That is why metal for tools is quenched, suddenly cooled, after heat treatment in order to preserve a more resilient, bendable, microscopic structure.

    Spock purposefully breaking the sample tells us rodinium should not break under such a test. Since heat is the simplest explanation for brittleness, that is the most likely source. Since the weapon is described as a plasma weapon, and real plasma works by heat and x-ray bremsstrahlung radiation that further supports basic, but extreme heating as the culprit. I do not recall for certain, but x-rays may also cause metal brittleness.

    As for making a base a mile deep in an asteroid there are three possibilities: lasers, phasers, and beaming. Lasers are an obvious option, but we know phasers can be used for drilling and they are cleaner than lasers, with no explosions. A strong enough transport might be able to just beam chunks out of an asteroid. The quote says nothing about the base being fully sealed with anything more than an airlock, but it could work if the only way in and out is by transporter. In any case, starships have been shown to have more than enough power for such an operation.