How did the Phoenix Warp with No Dilithium¿

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by KamenRiderBlade, Aug 29, 2021.

  1. KamenRiderBlade

    KamenRiderBlade Commodore Commodore

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    He brings up a good point, how did the Phoenix get to Warp with No Dilithium at that time?

    Assuming things like Nuclear Fission or Fusion was good enough; how fast, on the Warp scale, can you get with Nuclear Fission or Fusion?
     
  2. valkyrie013

    valkyrie013 Commodore Commodore

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    Always thought it was a fusion generator he used.

    Shuttles use batterys so maybe it was a capacitor that had enough charge to do a warp 1 flight for a few minutes.
     
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  3. KamenRiderBlade

    KamenRiderBlade Commodore Commodore

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    I'm thinking it was a mini Fusion Reactor of that era that allowed him to barely make Warp 1.

    Given how little volume he had to work with, Zefram Cochrane barely got to Warp 1.

    Then they used their era's Warp Reactors and scaled it up to power Test Vessels capable of Warp 2 before they ran into a wall in terms of Reactor Size & Output since it kept getting larger & larger.

    Then StarFleet or the UFP learns of M/A-M reactors using Dilithium Crystals as a reaction control element.

    That scales the M/A-M reactors back down to a reasonable size.
     
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  4. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    In the years since seeing First Contact, I tend to view the Phoenix as not even being the same kind of warp drive as those used in even the NX Program.
     
  5. Dr. Kravaal

    Dr. Kravaal Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The nacelles certainly look similar…but that could easily have been the case
     
  6. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    We already know you don't really need dilithium for warp: paralithium will do, trilithium may result, and it all may get called 'lithium for brevity, especially in rugged multifuel frontier starships that often make do with substitutes. So perhaps Cochrane had a fairly regular antimatter annihilator at the core of his warp drive, and just used an inferior sort of lithium crystal for harnessing the energies?

    "Intermix" gets a mention in the movie, and while it might be deuterium and tritium being mixed for fusion, or oxygen and gasoline for combustion, I see no showstoppers with the mixing of matter and antimatter, either. Perhaps in lieu of crystals, you can use forcefields (but it takes "Vox Sola" to invent those!) or gravity manipulation (which is old news in 1996 already) or just really, really good aiming?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  7. Alpha C

    Alpha C Ensign Red Shirt

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    What evidence do we even have that dilithium wasn't available to Cochrane? Even still, there might be other materials that can do the job (though probably not as efficiently), or his reactor just worked differently altogether (e.g. using magnetic fields to direct ionized reactants).

    I've always liked the idea of fusion reactors powering early warp drives, too. Antimatter mustn't have been as readily available back then, and fusion seems like a plausible first step. Even if we insist that M/AM has to be involved somehow - well, antimatter-catalyzed fusion could be used, which involves small amounts of antimatter to 'boost' the plasma temperature.

    As for how fast you can go, that's anyone's guess, really. Warp physics is complete magic anyway and I don't think we even have order of magnitude estimates of how much energy is involved (either from on screen info or the tech manuals). Aside from the warp plasma, one probably also has to factor in the warp coil materials and how 'pure' they are. Though clearly it is possible even for a compact and primitive warp drive like the Phoenix's to (barely) exceed lightspeed.
     
  8. KennyBoo

    KennyBoo I have spoken............ Moderator

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    Screen Shot 2021-08-30 at 15.20.55.png

    Yeah I have always assumed fusion......and I never lost any sleep.
     
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  9. Boris Skrbic

    Boris Skrbic Commodore Commodore

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    Since “all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again”, I took the liberty of looking up Rick Sternbach’s answers from shortly after the film was released:

    Cochrane probably *did* have matter and antimatter in some type of reaction chamber, since standard fusion wouldn't cut it in terms of energy output. Dilithium regulates current M/A reactions, but Cochrane might have controlled the reaction with some other system.

    Rick

    Well, the dilithium might not be needed if Cochrane's warp propulsion system produced enough energy to crack the lightspeed barrier in a different manner. We use dilthium on most starships because it's the system we're used to. As was mentioned by someone else, the Romulans use a different system employing a quantum black hole to make the require energy; most likely they don't need dilthium.

    Rick

    I believe we've established that the energy required to crack lightspeed is only available with M/A reactions, which are a million times more energetic than fusion (which is a real calc), so that seems to preclude using fusion for plasma heating for warp. Impulse engines are laser- or electron beam-initiated fusion, and emit terribly feeble orange glows on our models, compared to the hot blue-white from those jagunda warp nacelles <g>.

    Rick
    He also made a comment right here in 2014:
    Then there is this bit from Memory Alpha:

    At one point during the writing of First Contact, the writers of the film considered what might power the matter-antimatter reaction chamber aboard the Phoenix, in lieu of dilithium crystals. Co-writer Ronald D. Moore later recalled, "We had talked about it being from something modified from the thermonuclear warhead – that somehow setting off the fission reaction was what kicked it off." (Star Trek Monthly issue 45, p. 46)​
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2021
  10. Albertese

    Albertese Commodore Commodore

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    It's been a while since I read it, but if I recall correctly, the novel Federation (which depicts a very different set of circumstances around the first warp flight than does the film First Contact) describes that he did have dilithium, In the novel, Dilithium is described as superficially similar to quartz and, after the unique properties of dilithium were discovered, several samples of dilithium were already available on Earth having been misidentified as quartz.

    It's an interesting alternative, though I'm happy with the idea that all you need to run a warp drive is enough electricity and whatever reactor you're using to get all that juice is not relevant. M/AM is best, but not really manditory.

    --Alex
     
  11. KennyBoo

    KennyBoo I have spoken............ Moderator

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    Since it was supposed to be built from Titan missile that would track well........
     
  12. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Canonically,we have no idea whether Cochrane used Dilithium or M/AM reactions?
     
  13. KennyBoo

    KennyBoo I have spoken............ Moderator

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    BINGO----but when did that ever stop a good Trek fight?
     
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  14. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    We might well argue that the presence of dilithium in one's home system is an absolute prerequisite for one having any future in the interstellar scene. Klingons are Klingons because Praxis was 50% dilithium. Romulans are Romulans because Remus is 1% dilithium. And Hoo-mans only ever went interstellar because they found a bit of dilithium at Iapetus or whatever. Everybody who lacks the resource needs to start out by hitchhiking on the warpships of others, and that never gets an interstellar empire to a good start!

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  15. Boris Skrbic

    Boris Skrbic Commodore Commodore

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    But what if Cochrane never could’ve engaged without Barclay slipping in the right ingredients? It’s… it’s a closed loop!
     
  16. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Or an open-ended one, with a beginning (Cochrane's contraption doesn't work) and an end (it does); the Borg just need to con or coerce future engineers to gradually help out Cochrane, initially by giving him a warp engine, then merely by "repairing" an increasingly less "broken" one.

    Cochrane getting an entire warp engine from the stars may result in a Star Empire of some Earth-featuring sort, but not the innovative Federation yet. The more it begins to seem that Cochrane's engine is indigenous, the higher Earth climbs in the totem pole, until eventually becoming the de facto leader of the early Federation and maximizing the inventiveness and output of assimilables...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  17. Deks

    Deks Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Two possibilities I can think of:

    1. Cochrane used a fusion reactor powerful enough for a short Warp 1 flight test. Proof of concept.
    You test the engine, gather the data from in-flight and then make a better engine with a better power source (no doubt the flight itself may have provided insights into creation of M/AM power cores.

    However, the development of Warp drive seems to be dependent on a civilization being able to use anti-matter in some fashion... which leads to the next possibility:

    2. The Phoenix could have used a primitive M/AM generator which didn't have dilithium.
    Nothing says you cannot use M/AM as a power source without dilithium (especially in real life)... it just means that within Trek, it would be very inefficient and erratic without it (but still more powerful than a fusion reactor - or powerful enough to supply a short Warp 1 flight).

    Dilithium is used to 'regulate' M/AM reactions (in essence gives you better control over them so you can use it as a long term power source).
    A short M/AM power up in the Pheonix (which would run long enough for the Warp flight) would likely be safe enough if it doesn't run too long.

    Humanity figured out they would need a substance to better control and regulate M/AM reactions... enter dilithium (which was probably already discovered as an element and someone had a patent on it - but as Earth started to get its act together, I imagine most of the patented technology would be released into the public domain - aka open sourced to speed up refinement of Warp technology as part of the 'greater good' and Earth's overall reform).

    Humanity might have also gotten a whiff of Dilithium from the Vulcans. Nothing may have been officially divulged, but if the Vulcans gave some scientists tours of their First Contact ship and just provided basic info without going into too much details, it would have provided Humanity with a confirmation that there IS a substance which can control M/AM reactions for long periods of time.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2021
  18. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I like the old novels' explanation: That dilithium WAS on earth, but we thought most of it was quartz. Museums became rich overnight.
     
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  19. Ronald Held

    Ronald Held Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I am unconvinced that humans had knowledge of Dilithium before FC. Maybe there was some in the solar system, but was unrecognized.
     
  20. matthunter

    matthunter Admiral Admiral

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    In the TNG ep "Force of Nature", the Enterprise crew "field saturate" the nacelles ahead of initiating a warp pulse that accelerates them to warp and keeps them there for about 2 minutes. This is done because an active warp drive inside the subspace rift they need to enter to save a science ship's crew will expand the rift and disable the warp engines.

    We aren't given details, but the saturation of the nacelles takes about 30 minutes, so at the least we know that power can be supplied to nacelles gradually. It could be therefore that you COULD slowly charge up for a short warp jump using a less powerful energy source than antimatter.