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Trek Tech

Frequent viewers of Star Trek (in all its forms) know of the various inconsistencies in the technology that sometimes arose from episode to episode. This section serves to clear up how we're handling the various technologies in this comic, at least as they come up in context.

  • Replicators
  • The abilities of the replicators in the series varied considerably. In most of the early appearances, replicators could produce almost anything at all. But later on, numerous freighters would appear in the series (why would freight be necessary if replicators exist?), as well as materials that were described as "non-replicatable." Mining operations still apparently existed as well, and then we heard about "industrial replicators," and how some things (like food) weren't "as good" when made by a replicator.

        In Federation Star Defense, we're sticking with the later limitations. On top of that, though replicators make fabrication VERY quick in many circumstances, the power required to use a replicator dwarfs time and energy to produce the same good by conventional means. Thus, it is FAR less expensive to produce fibers and turn them into a shirt by hand or with a machine than it is to replicate the same shirt out of "base matter." The overall result of this is that replicators are very quick and handy... but expensive and not always practical.
        Most standard replicators can only handle molecular composition, and mostly only with organic matter.
        Only an industrial replicator can manipulate materials on the atomic level, and the power requirements are even larger. (Organic manipulation, by carbon chain alteration, IS relatively cheap, and is why replicators are used extensively in food preparation.)
        Finally, the data storage for a replicator "recipe" also affects the final product. Most recipes are compressed to save on data storage requirements, using calculations to fill in missing pieces in final construction. This is why replicator food recipes are often considered lackluster when compared with the real thing. Very dedicated chefs may commit an entire server bank to store uncompressed copies of their recipes to compensate, but anyplace with an extensive menu (even a starship) can't afford to give up that much just for a small improvement in food taste.

  • Phasers (and the like)
  • Using solid objects to protect one-self from phaser and disruptor bolts is a common scene in Star Trek. But why do the phaser shots never vaporize the objects being used as cover? This question, never addressed in the shows, is explained by power. A hand phaser is a powerful weapon, but not nearly as powerful as a starship's phaser banks. And on top of that, it basically runs off a battery.

        What this effectively comes down to is efficiency in a combat setting. How often can a phaser be fired on its maximum setting vs. its minimum setting? Though also never discussed in canon, this is a simple logic problem. The more powerful setting will drain the battery faster. Thus, phasers are rarely used on the "vaporize" setting in combat because the power pack will be drained VERY quickly, and vaporize is simply more powerful than it needs to be.
        But can a hand phaser vaporize a non-organic object? The answer is... it depends. Most metallic objects are too dense for a hand phaser to significantly damage without prolonged contact, or the application of multiple phasers. Metal also does not easily reach a gaseous state, and thus tends to "melt" rather than vaporize.

  • Photon Torpedoes
  • Up until Wrath of Khan, the show and movies treated photon torpedoes like they were just balls of energy and not a physical object (one of the creators is also quoted as such). It wasn't until rather later that the writer of one of the technical manuals decided they utilized a matter/antimatter warhead. Which sounds great... until you think about it too much. Antimatter requires EXTREME safety measures and continuous power being applied to a containment field. If said field collapses, antimatter will instantly react (explosively) with any nearby matter. 1 gram (.03 oz) is enough antimatter to create a Hiroshima-sized explosion, and each torpedo supposedly carries up to 1.5 KILOgrams.
         So each and every torpedo requires, at the minimum, a continuous power source. But, unlike a nuclear warhead, a precise detonation is not required to trigger antimatter. Any damage to the containment would do it. So... imagine you have 100 photon torpedoes in storage, and an errant phaser blast damages just one. The one exploding will detonate ALL the others. Like hitting the powder magazine in a sailing ship... except more like a small nova.
        That simply isn't an acceptable level of safety in a starship. Yes, they use antimatter in the warp core, but:
    1) Nothing else provides sufficient power.
    2) It is constantly monitored and the antimatter pods (storage tanks) are separate from the core. All components are rigged to jettison very quickly if a problem is detected.
        There is also the fact that rarely in the show do photon torpedoes do the level of damage that 1.5 kilograms of antimatter should.
        Given this situation, it is far more plausible that a photon torpedo, on its own, is a conventional warhead with additional special systems, including an antimatter injection port (and containment system). During firing, if a "bigger boom" is warranted, antimatter can be injected through the port from the antimatter pods. This requires that the torpedo's containment unit only be active for a very short period of time, and the torpedoes themselves are not a constant horrific safety hazard. It also allows for the massive variation the in levels of damage we see from them during the shows. The amount of antimatter on board a vessel is always limited, so the amount available for the torpedoes will vary heavily based on combat requirements and supply.

  • Shields (Or, why do consoles explode?)
  • Whenever a ship is hit, various panels and controls (especially on the bridge) are known to start sparking and even explode in the faces of their poor operators. Though many have questioned why circuit breakers aren't simply installed, the answer is tied to the ship's shields.

        Shields prevent or reduce damage to the ship's hull by dispersing the energy output of an attack across the shield grid. But the shield grid is an energy field produced by the ship's power reactors. When the shields absorb energy, that energy has to go somewhere, and there is no way to ground out in space. To prevent damage to the reactor, the damage is spread throughout the ship, which mostly means harmless amounts of electricity flowing mainly through the hull. But, if the damage is high enough, some systems may overload from the sudden burst of power, which can arc past circuit breaks due to the extreme amounts of power, not unlike a lightning bolt striking an object and randomly bursting to others before it grounds out.

  • Warp Drive
  • What exactly IS a warp drive? Though it has been used to do any number of sci-fi sort of things in many episodes, science marches on and warp drive has become more and more a real, physical possibility. Thus, in Federation Star Defense, we intend to make our warp as realistic as possible.

        Warp Drive creates a "bubble" in space-time, whereby the ship itself exists in normal space, but the "angle" of gravity around the ship is bent. By creating a force of positive gravity in front of the ship, and a positive behind, the ship effectively "slides" down a gravitational slope without technically acclerating. Not unlike the way a black hole is effectively "faster" than light (by preventing it from escaping), warp exceeds light speed only by technicality: the ship isn't trying to go faster, it isn't really moving at all... the universe is moving around it.
        The "Warp Factor" refers to the degree to which space-time is being warped. If we imagine the Warp bubble as creating a slope, then this would be the degree of said slope. In later Trek, Warp 10 was "maximum warp," that is, the speed at which the angle would become a straight line. At this speed, the ship travels instantly, but also erratically. It effectively occupies all points in space simultaneously. Stopping at any desired point is effectively impossible.
        The problem with the Warp 10 scale, though, is that it is far too small. Warp 9.99 isn't even fast enough to cross the void between galaxies in a single lifetime, but Warp 10 is instantaneous travel? In Federation Star Defense, the Federation never changed from The Original Series' Warp Scale. Thus, Warp Speeds above 10 can and do exist. They're fast... but they're definitely not instant-fast.

    Federation Star Defense, copyright © 2020 by Travers & Rioux Jordan

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