Why do torpedos "charge up" ?

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by OpenMaw, Aug 25, 2015.

  1. OpenMaw

    OpenMaw Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    In The Motion Picture we see the Klingon torpedo tube "open up" and charge before firing it's initial salvo. We see something similar in TWOK when the Enterprise fires on Reliant. The torpedo seems to hang in the tube before going to "critical mass" and firing off.

    Anyone care to speculate as to why the torpedoes do this or what the productions thinking was behind it? It's always perked my curiosity because it's very "striking" dramatically. It makes the K'tingas look particularly menacing, and beastly.
     
  2. Ithekro

    Ithekro Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Getting that antimatter all hot and ready. Or just building up the energy field that surrounds the torpedo casing in flight.

    Also it looks really cool.
     
  3. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I doubt there's any connect between "why torps do this" and "production thinking", but that shouldn't stop us from having fun with it.

    Charging antimatter into the warhead sounds like a very delicate process. I'd be worried if there were "spill light" involved there! But the glow might come from forcefields that make sure that there is no spill. Some fields do glow, at least when in heavy use.

    Then again, warp fields decidedly glow when in heavy use. Perhaps the in-flight glow from torpedoes comes from a warp field that is all heavy use, constantly doing its worst, and not concerned in the least with radiation safety. Sort of like torpedoes in the real world (used to) cavitate like mad, even though conceptually identical propulsion machinery in big ships avoids cavitation like plague.

    The Klingon glow would then be their torp revving up while still inside the tube, while Federation weapons would have somewhat smoother action and would require less time and effort to achieve the same.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  4. JES

    JES Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I think they could also be the magnetic rail system warming up. I doubt it's anti-matter, since that is in the warhead.
     
  5. Patrin-Zero

    Patrin-Zero Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    There also might be a safety measure of a limited-range/endurance 'containment' field that encases the torpedo when it loads and is launched, however unlikely of such a mishap, a fully armed torp detonating prematurely inside a ship would be catastrophic.

    Said containment field originating from the ship and not a component of the torp itself.
     
  6. martok2112

    martok2112 Commodore Commodore

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    Well, we noticed that the K't'inga torpedo bays light up as the ship prepares to use torps in battle... which to me seems similar to when a submarine opens and floods her tubes when she prepares to fire torps underwater. By contrast. we never really saw the Enterprise's tubes light up/open/flood the way K't'inga tubes did.

    I think in the case of both the Klingon and Enterprise torpedo tubes "flaring up" before the torpedo is launched, that could likely be simply the ignition flash of the torpedoes' thrusters filling up the launch tube before it finally bursts forward. Sort of a gun flash.

    That's always been my take on it. Your M/AM may vary. :)
     
  7. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Captain Captain

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    I think the glow buildup is the torpedo shield turning on. I like to think torpedo shields are overcharged to a self destructive level, because who cares if the shield will burn itself out in a minute, it's a one shot weapon which won't last more than a few seconds.

    Also, I don't think the tube opens, at least after the captain says "Standby on torpedoes" then the shot changes to outside and we see the light fill the tube. Then the shot changes to the bridge again, he says to fire, and it changes outside again so we see the tube fire. The thing is, the tube doesn't get any darker once the torpedo fires, the tube actually gets brighter as the torpedo emerges, and the tube has obvious lights around the center, but the torpedoes emerge from the very center of the opening.

    I think a likely alternative for the Klingon tube is the lights are actually fire control sensors. We know navigational deflectors glow, and they have a sensor element, though it is usually the non-glowing part but not always, tricorders can have glowy sensory looking bits too, so maybe the red glow of the active Klingon torpedo tube is generated by 8 or so active sensors.

    Another alternative is the glow is actually an airlock shield, similarly overcharged like the torpedoes, or simply glowing brightly for no other reason than the charged and ready torpedoes behind it.

    Finally, maybe the launchers of those ships are firing plasma torpedoes, not physical torpedoes, and the tube glow is plasma being built up behind a magnetic window.
     
  8. martok2112

    martok2112 Commodore Commodore

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    Nice. :)

    Aye, I should've been clearer. I didn't really mean literally opening. The tube is open by design. I just likened the effect of the tube lighting up to a submarine "opening up its torpedo tubes". :)

    That was the one thing that threw me off was, what are those lights in the center of the photon tube? At first I thought maybe they were torpedoes readied in a cylindrical rack. (Like in a revolver pistol.)

    Sort of a bore-sight. Interesting. I did notice there is a notch just above the torpedo bay, that I always took to be the targeting sensor...but your theory carries just as much weight, as the only tech stuff I've ever seen on the K't'inga (that wasn't Jackill...which, while neat, I've never accepted) was the magazine that comes with The Official Starships Collection. The technical point outs are pretty bare bones, and it mentions nothing about targeting sensors. So those lights could very well, as you suggest, be the targeting sensors.

    Good points.

    Something I always thought was neat was when we cut back to the gunners' stations on the bridge, and the order is given "Standby on torpedoes!" we see the gunners move their hands to what seems to be a key-encoded safety release....like finger print based. I always liked that. It gave me a "use of tactical nukes is authorized" kinda vibe. :)
     
  9. Patrickivan

    Patrickivan Fleet Captain Newbie

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    I've always just assumed they Photorps were just being armed with the A/M. I mean, it would be silly to keep a belly full of these things primed to go off.

    It's always bugged me that people seem to expect everything to be instantaneous in ST because of the power involved. But because of the power involved, it's always seemed reasonable that power allocation is very important.

    Need torpedoes? Well A/M needs to be allocated to it. That's part of your fuel source. Need transporters? Highly sensitive and energy hogs for many hypothetical reasons.
    Need warp shields? Well, got to balance energy allocation from say firing off torpedoes fasters.

    Anything used is a system requirement and these ships are supposed to be able to travel at silly speeds over silly distances and keep people alive for a silly amount of time. Power has to be utilized carefully because fuel is still needed.

    The Star Trek ship combat game was a fun way to use those ideas. You couldn't do just everything because there were power costs.
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I guess it all depends on whether any other system really is a match for warp drive in consuming power. If there is a gap five orders of magnitude wide between warp drive and shields in that respect, there's no point in worrying about power allocation in the slightest.

    There are many pitfalls in Trek writing where the writers may quite accidentally establish that a system consumes little or no main power, by having it keep on running in times of scarcity or downright blackout. So far, we have ruled out holodecks, transporters, cloaks and FTL sensors being high energy systems - although surprisingly enough, holodecks are the ones that come closest to being a power allocation concern, in "Booby Trap" and VOY. But even that is probably a matter of computing power rather than the raw wattage sort.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. Deks

    Deks Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The charging up period might account for putting an appropriate amount of anti-matter into the torpedo.
    If the TM is taken into consideration, then it stands to reason that anti-matter is usually stored, and torpedoes are void of anti-matter - though it seems that since TNG onward, torpedoes seem to contain their own anti-matter from the get go, unless they are using dedicated transporter systems to transfer it from storage to the torpedoes (which would minimize 'charging up' times).
     
  12. Ithekro

    Ithekro Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I still consider cloaking to be high energy. Just that they can lock the diverted energy so that it won't fail as quickly from drops in engine performance, and if you are trying to hide in plain sight, you want to be damn sure the cloaking device doesn't fail until the last possible moment. Meaning it will fail right before the power consumption gets to the point life support starts to fail.
     
  13. Unicron

    Unicron Boss Monster Mod Moderator

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    FWIW, the author of the TUC novelization suggested the idea that the Enterprise's torpedo system generated a neutrino surge in reference to the scene when Spock mentions it to Kirk. I've always rather liked this suggestion since it infers the idea that the saboteurs actually had a way to access the torpedo bays. It also gives better context to Chekov's comment that the neutrino field had to be generated by a cloaked ship because it was so large.
     
  14. SeerSGB

    SeerSGB Admiral Admiral

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    Don't know where I read this theory (someone?): Basically the sparkler effect / glow is a by-product the torp getting ready to cook off. Once the AM is pumped into warhead, the various containment fields are struggling to keep it from going boom in the tube and the glow is the fields flaring. While it's in the tube ship's power assists and gives is a mag-launch out the tube. From there the torp's on dwindling battery power and the fields are failing.

    It's theory, a lot of holes, but it's a theory.
     
  15. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Captain Captain

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    The thing about the glow being antimatter is it doesn't make sense. There's no reason visible light would be released unless the antimatter is already reacting with matter, and that would mean there is no casing in place anymore to contain the energy, or that the casing itself is already reacting, and then we have no ship.

    Pre-reacting the antimatter doesn't make sense because nothing as small as a torpedo would have the energy to contain the reaction any appreciably amount of time. Better to release the antimatter inside a sphere of liquid hydrogen, which is inside a uranium shell, in order to both increase the chance of contact, to increase the chance for complete annihilation, and to get the added benefit of a fusion reaction. The uranium shell captures more particles and converts them into more useful particles, while also adding a nice fission reaction, although that last stage would make the reaction dirty, so it may be undesirable.

    Besides, I think dilithium is the magic which makes Trek stuff super powerful. So, antimatter inside a hydrogen sphere, inside a dilithium shell makes the most sense.

    Containing antimatter is not all that energetic an undertaking. While it makes sense to fill the torpedo warhead only once it is in the launcher, or just before, that process itself would not take much power either.

    If antimatter light just leaks out all the time, then ship bellies would have glowing like the sun.
     
  16. Ithekro

    Ithekro Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Force fields to contain the lenses flares?
     
  17. Deks

    Deks Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Wasn't it mentioned that dilithium crystals are able to control/direct/channel anti-matter reactions, hence why they are used?

    As for torpedoes glowing... considering that SF uses technology based heavily on subspace, there might be interactions between a torpedo when launched and normal space.

    It also might be more an after-effect of subspace force-fields interacting with each other (we've seen personal subspace forcefields which do glow)... unless the entire torpedo casings material reacts with the fields and produces the glow.

    Realistically, considering the speeds these things are fired at (can be fired at FTL), we shouldn't really be seeing anything except a minor flash at a torpedo tube and another flash when a torpedo hits its target less than a second later - hence why tracking might be seldom used on torpedoes (you wouldn't really need it when no ship would technically be able to evade them in time - though it only stands to reason that torpedoes CAN track their targets if they are fired with an intent to sustain sublight velocities).
     
  18. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    This was a backstage rationalization that was probably first sketched out for ST:TMP, then used as an assumption in TNG, but first got an onscreen mention in the final season of ENT only...

    However, dilithium is not how they contain antimatter. That bit is explicated in TNG "Contagion" with its technobabble about "magnetic seals", an active system that can at least theoretically be turned off (to disastrous effect), rather than a passive material.

    The whole chapter and verse about antimatter containment in the TNG Tech Manual is never quoted on screen, but onscreen Trek made after the writing of that manual conforms to what is written there, and thus tends to support the idea that forcefields (possibly called "magnetic fields" even if the truth is more complex) keep annihilation at bay. And forcefields do exhibit a glow when at work.

    How torpedoes contain their antimatter (the presence of which only became canon fact in late TNG) is never made completely clear, but DS9 "Tribunal" shows that the warheads achieving this are a highly sought-after commodity, and something your basic food replicator can never hope to manufacture (or else the Maquis would have had no reason to steal the things). Yet the food replicator can manufacture things as complex as working phasers ("Civil Defense"), probability-altering alien devices ("Rivals"), and living tissue ("Emanations"), not to mention food that tastes all right. So the mojo of the torpedo warhead is nothing to be sneered at!

    But we shouldn't be seeing starships at warp, either. So it might be a good idea to assume that space combat is shown in extreme slow motion, via a camera capable of capturing FTL phenomena.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  19. Go-Captain

    Go-Captain Captain Captain

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    Dilithium is mentioned in TOS as a power source and power regulator. They re-amplify their crystals at one point, I guess that means they recharged them, although amplify is pretty specific and does fit with my thinking that dilithium increases the amount of power produced by the antimatter reaction.
    The camera can still track a ship since it can move at an arbitrary speed, but it's the ship and camera together relative another ship or torpedo which matters. Unless you are implying matters of blue and red shifted light when moving at near light speed.

    I think slow motion does not fit either, the ranges are generally too too low at just a kilometer or so. We have occasional dialog which goes with 100,000 km and greater ranges, but for what ever reason it is very rare for that to actually happen. I figure it must be a matter of ECM, so if two ships have very advanced electronic warfare packages they have to fight close up, but if one is more advanced than the other then they can fight outside visual range.

    Slow motion would make more sense if the passes took longer, like knights lining up and running down a course in jousting. Except, in this case they're 1,000,000 km apart, they run at each other full speed, and in less than 1.5 seconds they're point blank and firing. That would actually fit pretty well with the TOS episode where the Klingon ship was strafing the Enterprise, who's warp drive was down. The Enterprise was described as a lumbering whale without warp.
     
  20. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    And, if we wish, every case of the former usage can be re-interpreted as a case of the latter usage, to make dilithium work the same way in every incarnation of Trek.

    Say, when they "re-amplify" the crystals in that infamous episode, this would imply that the power for the ship comes from elsewhere and can merely be stored in the crystals. Or then that the power comes from elsewhere and can be used to do a trick to the crystals that makes them better at serving as "transistors" or power regulators.

    Exactly - and since we do see two ships at slightly different states of FTL motion in some episodes or movies, it seems like a good idea to me to assume that the camera they use to serve the audience is capable of the same magic as the camera they use to feed their main viewscreen. That is, it can combine imagery from objects moving at different speeds and at different distances into an intuitively comprehensible whole... The "naked truth" would be different, showing (or failing to show!) ships as distant dots misplaced by the timelag involved.

    The slow motion bit would be a combination of this "tactical truth" display mode that shrinks immense distances and creates the illusion of slow passage from A to B, and the occasional use of "dramatic" slow motion purely for the benefit of the audience...

    Timo Saloniemi