Where did humans first find dilithium crystals?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Duane, Jan 13, 2011.

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  1. Duane

    Duane Captain Captain

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    I don't think it was every mentioned in any ST episode from any of the series, but does anyone recall where humans first found dilithium crystals? I seem to recall from an early ST novel (non canon) that it was found on one of Jupiter's moons. Is this right and was the moon named?
     
  2. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    There's no canon mention of this. Novels have followed two leads: John M. Ford's Final Reflection as well as the FASA RPG material of the day suggested dilithium was first identified in the early 23rd century (that is, a couple of decades before TOS) on Deneva, the colony mentioned in TOS "Operation: Annihilate", and that starships before that time did exist but were inferior in almost every respect because they couldn't use antimatter powerplants. A competing reference is found in the Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual, an early cooperation of later Trek "big names" Mandel, Drexler and Fredrickson: it says dilithium was found in 2049 on Jupiter V, which might be an oddball way of referring to the fifth moon of that planet.

    Now, Jupiter currently has dozens of small companion rocks called "moons", and just a couple of large spherical ones. Currently, the fifth acknowledged moon is the innermost spherical one, Io. That volcanic hellhole is a likely candidate for finding exotic minerals all right, at least in the scifi sense...

    Both the novel references could be "true" in the sense that dilithium might have been discovered in 2049 in the Sol system (among other places) but its properties only first understood in the 2230s at Deneva. However, the Final Reflection reference must now be considered "untrue" because ENT shows that the properties of dilithium are already well understood by mankind in the 2150s already.

    If one wanted to createnovel continuity where none really exists, one might say that John M. Ford's novel refers to the first-ever discovery of natural dilithium crystal lumps, the sort that are being mined in "Mudd's Women", while the earlier use of dilithium was of an "industrial" variant, of microscopic crystals that are embedded in a paddle-like matrix as in "Alternative Factor"...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  3. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm sure that Memory Prime also makes reference to the fact that a number of museums and private individuals became rich overnight when it was discovered that many samples of lithium were actually dilithium.
     
  4. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The idea of dilithium being first found and only later identified makes good sense in the interpretation where star-bound humans basically invent everything by themselves and then found and lead the UFP thanks to being such a splendid race of inventors. That interpretation never was all that appealing, though: TOS already made it clear that there were starfaring civilizations older and more advanced than Earth's, and even if none of those were later to become UFP members or other Earth allies, exposure to the real nature of dilithium could have come from Earth enemies as well. And now ENT has established that Earth in the 21st century entered an interstellar community where most of the other players were technologically more advanced; Earth probably learned of dilithium from aliens, then. Certainly it was in full "classic" use in the 2150s already.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  5. Duane

    Duane Captain Captain

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    Thanks for the considered replies.
     
  6. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    Okay, all you creative retconning types: What's the in-universe explanation for "lithium" crystals in "Mudd's Women" suddenly becoming "dilithium" later in TOS?
     
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  7. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Kang, now with ridges Premium Member

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    Slang. Some folks drop the first syllable.
     
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  8. Gary7

    Gary7 Vice Admiral Admiral

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  9. Timewalker

    Timewalker Cat-lovin', Star Trekkin' Time Lady Premium Member

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    Sorry to nitpick, but this is incorrect on a couple of points. According to NASA (see http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Display=Moons&Object=Jupiter), the moon that would have carried the designation "V" would be Amalthea, which is definitely not one of the large Galilean satellites. And speaking of those, there are four "large spherical ones" - discovered over 400 years ago by Galileo: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
     
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  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Okay, I should learn not to use "a couple" in the sense of "a few".

    Almathea used to be (but no longer is) "V" in the sense that it was the fifth one found - but Trek nomenclature on planets seems to be that I is innermost, II is the second, and in that sense Io would be the fifth, or V.

    We don't know the canonical Trek nomenclature for moons, admittedly. In "The Host", designations "alpha" and "beta" are used, but we don't know if that's UFP practice, or local practice translated.

    It would be rather logical to have, say, Io be "Sol Ve" or "Sol V Epsilon". On the other hand, Ceti Alpha by that convention ought to be the first moon of the only planet of the star Ceti, leaving us to wonder what Ceti Alpha Five would be - the fifth moon of the first moon? :devil:

    Browsing through Memory Beta, I found a second reference to that "Jupiter V" story - the TAS novelization for "Time Trap". In that one, IIRC, Foster makes it explicit that Jupiter V and Almathea are the same thing...

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. siskokid888

    siskokid888 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Excuse my faulty memory, but I recall, I think, something from one of the novels that a whole secondary table of elements existed in Trek time - all prefaced by "di" - e.g. Di-Lithium, Di-Carbon, Di-Xenon, etc. Something to do with antimatter and its residue, if I remember right.
     
  12. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yup, I think several tech books have tried that explanation for size.

    I don't see how it would be superior to sticking to current chemical jargon. We know canonically that substances dilithium, trilithium and paralithium exist in connection with warp power generation. All could simply refer to a chemical compound that has, respectively, two, three, and two-in-para-configuration Li atoms in addition to all the other junk. And all these could collectively be called "lithium crystals", especially when everybody realizes that there wouldn't be a crystalline form of the element lithium alone.

    Dilithium is "high octane fuel" of sorts. Paralithium is "low octane fuel". Trilithium is a waste product that has fusion-damping qualities. Industrial plants also exist that either crack something to produce lithium (or these lithium-containing compounds), or then crack something with the help of lithium (or these lithium-containing compounds), as in "Where No Man Has Gone before", but we don't know if they have anything to do with warp propulsion or the various lithium-related crystals used there.

    IMHO, this sort of mumbo-jumbo is better than the "second layer of periodic table" mumbo-jumbo, because it leaves more options. In the "real jargon" explanation, we know nothing about the structure or composition of dilithium besides it being a crystal and holding two Li per unit cell; we can assign all sorts of properties to the rest of the crystal. In the "second layer" explanation, we're left wondering where paralithium fits in, and why nobody speaks of dichromium or tricopper or quadrohelium (although tricobalt does pop up), and how lithium of any "level" can be crystalline.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  13. SonicRanger

    SonicRanger Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, they weren't lithium crystals -- they were 'lithium crystals.
     
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  14. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    Not to mention tri-ox compound, trimagnesite, and quadrotriticale. :)
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    According to Sternbach & Okuda's TNG Tech Manual, "dilithium" is actually dilithium diallosilicate heptoferranide, a crystalline compound rather than an element. Which makes sense, because it would be silly for chemists to use di- as an elemental prefix when it's already in use to denote a compound of two atoms of a given element. (There is a real substance called dilithium, a gas whose molecules consist of two lithium atoms each. It would be redundant to give a transuranic element the same name.)

    And who says it was humans who discovered dilithium? They may have learned about them from the Vulcans or Andorians, say. Or the Coridanites. ENT showed Earth making contact with Coridan in 2151, and Coridan is known for its rich dilithium reserves.


    It was quartz, not lithium. After all, lithium is a metal. It doesn't look anything like "dilithium crystals."
     
  16. The Laughing Vulcan

    The Laughing Vulcan Admiral Admiral

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    I prefer the explanation in How Much For Just The Planet.

    That's the crystal that exists in 4 dimensions rather than three. It may be the hardest substance known, but if you want to cleave it, you have to lightly tap it today, last week, and next week, and it will fracture. It's also a dead ringer for quartz, but unless you know about warp physics, and have the FTL technology to back it up, you can't tell the difference.

    I also prefer the second level of the periodic table explanation to the chemical compound in the TNG tech manual, as it feels more science fictiony rather than made up bullshit.
     
  17. Destructor

    Destructor Commodore Commodore

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    It's not clear whether the Pheonix is running on an antimatter-powered Warp Drive or not, and if it was, whether the antimatter flow was regulated by dilithium or some other, less efficient means.

    I believe Memory Prime also referenced the fact that dilithium had a fourth-dimensional property which was called 'slow time' or something similar.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    There was a cutaway poster of the Phoenix indicating its warp reactor was fusion-powered.


    The original claim was from John M. Ford's How Much for Just the Planet?, a comedy novel. There was a chapter presented as the transcript of an "educational filmstrip" called Dilithium and You, which included the assertion that dilithium extended into the fourth dimension, so that in order to break a dilithium crystal, "you don't just have to hit [it] hard, you have to hit it hard last month, now, and a week from Tuesday, so to speak." This was clearly intended as a joke, but oddly enough, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens chose to take it seriously and mentioned the "four-dimensional structure" of dilithium in their Trek novels including Memory Prime and Prime Directive (and I think it was alluded to in an issue they wrote for DC's TNG comic).
     
  19. siskokid888

    siskokid888 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ^Hey Chris, is that you in the avatar? And where is that?
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's me standing in front of the original 11-foot Enterprise miniature on display in the gift shop of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.
     
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